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Coming On Fast : Injuries Have Sidelined USC’s Ed Hervey, but Now He’s Ready for Stretch Run

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Through no fault of his own, USC fans probably haven’t seen the best of the Trojans’ fastest football player, Ed Hervey.

There was a glimpse last Saturday, at Washington State.

Just a glimpse.

In the fourth quarter of a victory over the Cougars, the Trojans had third and 11 at their 36. Quarterback Rob Johnson lofted a pass high over the middle and the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Hervey went airborne.

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He made what might have been USC’s catch of the season on the 44-yard play, a two-handed reception while sailing parallel to the artificial surface.

Four plays later, USC’s Cole Ford kicked a 37-yard field goal, sealing the Trojans’ 23-10 victory.

That kept USC in the Rose Bowl race with another big game Saturday against Arizona at

the Coliseum.

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“Those are the kind of plays Ed can make,” said Mike Sanford, who coaches the Trojan wide receivers. “He’s had some tough luck with injuries here, and people haven’t seen yet what he can really do. He’s healthy now; maybe they soon will.”

When the 1994 season began, Hervey, a senior, was viewed as USC’s main wide receiver.

But newcomer Keyshawn Johnson, developing more quickly than expected, became a big-time receiver. And Hervey, for the second consecutive season, was set back by an injury.

So again, it has been his lot to play in the shadow of a headliner. Last year, while Johnnie Morton became USC’s all-time reception leader, Hervey caught 22 passes for 219 yards.

He sat out two games because of a sprained left ankle, an injury that slowed him the rest of the season.

“It was the same sprain Rob (Johnson) has this year, high on the ankle,” he said of the senior quarterback, who has sat out the equivalent of four games.

But Hervey’s bad luck hadn’t run out yet.

This season, in the opener against Washington, tailback Shawn Walters fell on top of him, leaving him with a strained knee.

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He has played in only three games this year and has only 10 receptions. And he got half of those at Pullman last Saturday, gaining 70 yards.

In the meantime, Keyshawn Johnson, a junior, has caught 36 passes for 742 yards, second best in the Pacific 10 Conference.

Until transferring to USC from Pasadena City College, Hervey said he had never missed a game because of injury.

Hervey’s principal asset is speed. He ran a 20.65-second 200 meters and a 46.02 400 last spring with the USC track team.

He’s the Trojans’ fastest player.

”. . . For flat-out speed, Ed is one of the fastest guys in college football,” Sanford says. “He’s also a very tough, strong kid who’s fearless at going over the middle.”

Hervey, from Compton High, is playing wide receiver for only the second season. At Pasadena CC, he was a quarterback who took the Lancers to a 10-1 season in 1992, passing for 919 yards and running for 791.

“That 10-1 team was my best team in eight years here and Ed ran the show,” PCC Coach Dennis Gossard said.

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“I love Ed Hervey. He’s got a great attitude, great intensity and he’s got every intangible any coach could want.”

Hervey became a high-profile junior college player in the mud.

“He was a backup his first year here and in our last game at Mt. SAC, when he got his chance, he won a game in rain and mud,” Gossard said.

“He took the team 80 yards with 1:30 to go and got it done.”

Three schools, Hervey said, recruited him as a quarterback.

“Kansas, UTEP and Washington State talked to me about playing quarterback, but I didn’t like the situations there,” he said, “I had my heart set on SC all along, and I wanted to play wide receiver.

“I enjoyed playing quarterback at Pasadena, I liked handling the ball on every play. But I’d like a shot at pro ball, and my best chance is at wide receiver.”

He said he’ll probably skip the track team this spring.

“I need to polish my route running for the NFL scout combines,” he said.

“I admit I’m not a great route runner. I have the speed to play in the NFL, but I need to run better routes. Johnnie Morton was the best route runner I ever saw--he could run every part of a route at top speed.”

Hervey is delighted by the emergence of his running mate, Keyshawn Johnson, he said.

“Thank God we have an arsenal, that we had someone who could step up when I got hurt,” he said. “Thank God we had (Brad) Otton when Rob went down.

“I could see early in training camp what a great athlete Keyshawn was, that he had to be on the field for us all the time. But I felt that way about me, too. I felt we could both make big plays.

“The coaches love matching Keyshawn with short cornerbacks--they can’t win that battle. Keyshawn is a great natural receiver. I’m a little different. I use my speed more than he does.”

With USC’s schedule down to Arizona and then UCLA and Notre Dame, a revitalized Hervey at last gives USC a potent double threat at wide receiver.

“Ed still hasn’t played his best game yet for SC,” Sanford said. “I really think he can come into his own over these last three games.”


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