Joe Danelo surveyed the scene as USC players ran from one drill to the next during practice on Sunday, the flurry of activity stirring fond, cathartic memories for the father of late Trojans kicker Mario Danelo.
“This is just where Mario used to be,” Joe said. “Part of his memory is out here. It’s good to be out here with the kids.”
Mario Danelo, who would have been a senior in the fall, died in January, his body discovered at the bottom of a cliff not far from his family’s home in San Pedro. The Los Angeles County Dept. of Coroner said in a February autopsy report that Danelo was under the influence of alcohol and that the manner of death was undetermined.
On Sunday, Coach Pete Carroll, several players, other players’ parents and Trojans fans greeted and embraced Joe and Emily Danelo, who visited practice for the first time since their youngest son’s death.
Joe Danelo said the outpouring of support from the USC community had been, “overwhelming.”
Trojans players said the Danelos’ presence reminded them of their former teammate, who set NCAA records for extra-points attempted and made in 2005 and also was among college football’s most consistent field-goal kickers the last two seasons.
“It was hard to see them and good to see them at the same time,” said snapper Will Collins, who attached No. “19" stickers to teammates’ helmets at the start of spring practice in memory of Danelo.
With Collins not practicing while recovering from knee surgery, and punter Greg Woidneck training to back up Michael McDonald as the holder, kicker David Buehler has thus far struggled to match Danelo’s consistency in practice.
Buehler said he missed the friendly competition with Danelo. “Mario taught me so much about kicking -- mentally and physically,” Buehler said. “It’s hard not to have someone like Mario there. We think about him all the time.”
Former Trojans receiver Dwayne Jarrett visited practice and said he was looking forward to Wednesday’s pro day at USC when he will run a 40-yard dash that could determine whether he is selected early in the first round of the NFL draft.
Jarrett, who appeared bigger and stronger than he was at the end of the season, said he did not have a specific time in mind but vowed to “shock a lot of people” with his results in the 40.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I just want to get it over with.”
USC practiced in full pads for the first time, but the Trojans are not expected to scrimmage for another week and will work out in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts for most of the remaining 11 spring workouts.... Running back Stafon Johnson, who is not practicing while recovering from shoulder surgery, was absent from meetings and practice to attend a family member’s christening, Carroll said.