- Garry Paskwietz, Publisher, WeAreSC.com
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When it comes to coaching trees, the former players from the University of Southern California are well represented at all levels of football across the country.
In the NFL, there are a pair of Trojans as head coaches in Jeff Fisher (Rams) and Jack Del Rio (Raiders).
Fisher has 20 years experience as a head coach with Tennessee and St. Louis, and came within inches of a Super Bowl victory with the Titans. A defensive back at USC from 1977-80, Fisher played alongside Ronnie Lott, Dennis Smith and Joey Browner in the secondary and was part of a national title team in 1978. Fisher is also known for deflecting a pass against UCLA in 1980 that was caught by Freeman McNeil for the game-winning Bruins score. He played five years in the NFL with the Chicago Bears.
Del Rio was an All-America linebacker for the Trojans (1981-84) and was named the MVP of the 1985 Rose Bowl victory over Ohio State. After an 11-year playing career in the NFL, Del Rio started out as an assistant strength and conditioning coach, was eventually a nine-year head coach with Jacksonville, and is now entering his first year in charge of the Oakland Raiders. There was a lot of speculation in recent years, prior to the hirings of Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, that Del Rio was a candidate for the USC head job and he was known to interview with Pat Haden prior to Sarkisian getting the job.
There are also multiple coordinators in the league right now including Dennis Thurman (Bills), Joe Barry (Redskins) and Kris Richard (Seahawks).
Thurman was a two-time All-America defensive back at USC who was part of the 1974 national title team. He never missed a game during a nine-year NFL career that was primarily spent with the Dallas Cowboys. His coaching career has included stops with four different NFL teams, along with an eight-year stint coaching the defensive backs for the Trojans from 1993-2000. His brother Junior also played defensive back at USC.
Barry is a football lifer, his father is noted line coach Mike Barry and his father-in-law is one-time Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli. Joe Barry started his playing career as a linebacker at Michigan before transferring to USC in 1990. His dad joined the staff under John Robinson when Joe was a senior. Barry began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Trojans, and also had a one-year turn as linebackers coach under Kiffin in 2010, but the majority of his recent work has been in the NFL, most recently with the Chargers and now starting his first year in Washington.
Richard is also entering his first year as a coordinator at the relatively young age of 35. Richard is remembered by USC fans for returning a game-winning touchdown against Arizona in Pete Carroll's first year as Trojans head coach, a play that Carroll credited as being critical to changing the mind-set of the program. After a five-year playing career in the NFL, Richard was hired by Carroll as a graduate assistant at USC in 2008. He is now in his fourth year with him at Seattle, the previous three as the position coach for the “Legion of Boom."
Other assistant coaches in the NFL right now include Tim McDonald, a two-time USC All-American who is now DB coach of the Bills; Mark Carrier, the 1989 Thorpe Award winner who is now DB coach with the Bengals; and Daylon McCutcheon, the assistant DB coach with the New York Jets. And Carroll’s staff with Seattle also features Rocky Seto, a one-time walk-on at USC who has spent 14 years coaching with Carroll and is currently the assistant head coach/defense for the Seahawks, along with Lofa Tatupu (assistant linebackers coach), Chris Cash (assistant defensive backs coach) and Chad Morton (assistant special-teams coach). USC is also represented on the administrative side of the league with former tight end Dale Thompson, who has spent the past four seasons in the scouting department of the Tennessee Titans.
There are not as many Trojans spread out at the college coaching level. In fact, one of the more notable USC players turned coaches is now working at UCLA in Kennedy Polamalu. Not only did Polamalu play fullback for USC from 1982-85 (where he never lost a yard carrying the ball), but he also served as a longtime running backs coach in two stints with the Trojans, and brought his nephew to USC as well -- some kid named Troy Polamalu. USC does have a former All-America football player currently on the staff in Kenechi Udeze, an assistant strength and conditioning coach who was a first-round draft choice by the Vikings before having to give up the game due to a battle with leukemia.
At the high school level, the range of former Trojans runs the gamut from Bruce Rollinson, who has won a pair of national titles in a 25-year run at powerhouse Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, to Mike Williams, who dazzled in two brief years at USC before a limited NFL career and now takes over in his first-ever coaching job at Los Angeles Locke. There is even a USC presence on the local 7-on-7 passing league circuit with former first-round draft choices Keyshawn Johnson and Chris Claiborne coaching area teams.