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Fullback Kirtman Takes Pride in Leadership Role

Times Staff Writer

In a backfield with more star power than any other in college football, USC quarterback Matt Leinart and running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White command the attention of the media and defensive coordinators.

Meanwhile, outside the spotlight, fullback David Kirtman resolutely goes about his business.

“David just keeps banging away, day after day,” Coach Pete Carroll said.

Today, as the top-ranked Trojans begin preparations for Saturday’s opener at Hawaii, Kirtman will continue his yeoman-like work. If Bush, White or a lineman needs a push, verbal or otherwise, Kirtman supplies it.

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“I think guys look at me as a guy that’s going to try to do stuff right all the time,” said Kirtman, a fifth-year senior who is pursuing a master’s degree in communications management. “I’m just going to lead by example.”

The 6-foot, 230-pound Kirtman started four games last season while sharing playing time with Lee Webb. He caught 19 passes for 161 yards and scored his first touchdown.

Kirtman’s durability, blocking and pass-catching ability, especially in clutch situations, have elevated him to the top of the depth chart. He will share snaps with junior Brandon Hancock, who is faster but has been more susceptible to injury.

Kirtman also plays on special teams.

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“Whatever they ask me to do, I’ll do it,” Kirtman said.

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USC’s season-opening trip will serve as a Hawaiian homecoming for freshman linebacker Kaluka Maiava, who played at Baldwin High in Wailuku on Maui.

Maiava said former offensive coordinator Norm Chow, a Hawaiian native, used the trip in his recruiting pitches to lure Maiava to USC. A week after Maiava signed a letter of intent, Chow took a job with the Tennessee Titans. “I’ve got to talk to that guy about that,” Maiava said, laughing.

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Maiava, 6-0 and 220 pounds, is the grandson of former pro wrestler Neff Maiava and the nephew of former pro wrestler and actor Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, who played football at Miami.

Maiava said he was not recruited by Hawaii.

“I really wanted to get out of the islands,” he said. “It would have been nice to be recruited, but I think they got the word that I wanted to leave. So I think they didn’t even waste time.”

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USC will depart for Hawaii on Thursday night.... Punter Tom Malone, who has been nursing a hip injury, is scheduled to kick in team drills for the first time today.... Reserve linebacker Ryan Powdrell probably will miss the first two games because of the penalty the NCAA required for restoring a year of his eligibility, Carroll said. Powdrell, now classified as a junior, played briefly on special teams in last season’s opener against Virginia Tech, but didn’t appear in any other games.


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