Trojan contingent set to battle in NFL Playoffs
The playoff field is set, and with it comes a familiar group of faces united beneath an interlocking logo. Southern California, as it has in previous years, finds itself well represented in the NFL postseason. The numbers provide more evidence of a football factory churning product in bulk. And the brand is a testament to coaching and conditioning in a system that properly prepares athletes to excel at the next level.
The 2011 coterie features some of the league’s brightest stars, which includes three Super Bowl champions. Among them are those still thirsting for the cup, as well as others making first-time appearances.
- Bengals- LB Keith Rivers, DE Frostee Rucker, LB Rey Maualuga, S Taylor Mays
- Texans- LB Brian Cushing, DE Shaun Cody
- Saints- OT Charles Brown, DT Sedrick Ellis†
- Lions- DE Lawrence Jackson, CB Eric Wright*
- Steelers- S Troy Polamalu†
- Packers- LB Clay Matthews†
- Falcons- OT Sam Baker
- Niners- OG Chilo Rachal
The Wildcard Bengals carry the bulk of the Trojan load, as it faces a Texans team making its first ever playoff appearance. The game will reunite two of the three linebackers appearing on the 2009 cover of Sports Illustrated (above), with the third looking to power his Green Bay Packers to a second consecutive crown.
Houston and Cincinnati is linked by conference, then connected again by national champions . Shaun Cody (Texans) and Frostee Rucker (Bengals) were teammates on the USC National Championship teams of 2003 and 2004. Keith Rivers (Bengals) also saw a significant amount of playing time in ’04, and is another possessor of the ring. Both Brian Cushing (Texans) and Rey Maualuga (Bengals) joined the program a year later, where they would eventually play and lose to Texas in the 2005 title game. The duo, along with Clay Matthews, were also members of the 2008 Trojan defensive unit, which is arguably one of the best in school history.
Defense was a staple of Pete Carroll coached teams, and it’s reflective today in playoff participants. 14 Trojans will appear on NFL playoff rosters, with 11 performing on the defensive side. Of the three offensive players in this year’s group, all are positioned on the line. Unlike the abundance of skill position players displayed in 2010, Trojan quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs are absent from the current session.
Clay Matthews was a Super Bowl champion a year ago, with Sedrick Ellis and Troy Polamalu crowned in the two years prior.
USC owns an active streak of 4 consecutive years with a player present on a Super Bowl champion’s roster, with Trojans also appearing with 9 of the last 11 Lombardi winners. With 14 participants representing eight playoff teams, the probability of extending the streak is high. But it should also be noted that one Super Bowl favorite, the New England Patriots, is without a former Trojan on the roster, with the Broncos, Giants, and Ravens also void of players representing the program.
+ Super Bowl Champion
*Eric Wright was a member of the 2004 USC National Championship team. He later transferred to UNLV.