Late 1920s Trojan All-Americans included tackle Jesse Hibbs (1927-28), quarterback Don Williams (1928), and end Francis Tapaan (2929).
Hibbs also played basketball, and was team captain. He played for the Bears in 1931, and eventually became a movie director.
Tappaan, who came out of Los Angeles High School, later coached at USC before becoming a judge and then a top executive at Rockwell, a major defense industry contractor.
The 1930 Trojans, in addition to pasting UCLA, 52-0, took the fight out of California. The 74-0 whipping was payback for the slights about academics and the accusations of cheating. It was revenge, a dish best served cold. The score carried with it an inherent message, which was that USC had declared themselves a dynasty and wanted Cal to stop pretending they were in their league. The 82,000 who witnessed it at the Coliseum (with the exception of the Cal rooters who always made the trip) relished every second of it. Unfortunately, the Trojans had let their guard down against Washington State at Pullman, losing 7-6. In the history of Washington State football, the 1930 squad was probably the best they ever had, at least until Mike Price and quarterback led Ryan Leaf led the Cougars to the 1998 Rose Bowl.
In the season finale at home, Knute Rockne coached what proved to be his last game. He died in a tragic plane crash in a Kansas corn field the following spring. He was warned of impending weather, but hated to fail on a commitment he had made. It was a blowout, 27-0 over USC before 73,967 at the Coliseum.
"Rockne used great psychology with all the newspapermen," USC's star tackle, Ernie Smith recalled. "He told them they had nothing with <fullback Joe> Savoldi out of the lineup." Savoldi had been kicked off the team…for getting married???
USC believed what they read in the newspapers, which was that Notre Dame had very little and were unbeatable.
"I don't feel that we were ready for them that day, though, not taking away from Notre Dame," continued Smith. "I don' think our team consciously let down, but they didn't subconsciously build themselves up for that game like we did for the others."
The rest of the 1930 season stands out as a very odd on in the Howard Jones era. In their eight victories, Southern California dominated in a manner rarely seen in the annals of college football. They did not go to the Rose Bowl or win the national championship, but on eight Saturdays that year, the Trojans may have bean Jones's best team. On the other two, they were ordinary, especially on offense.
USC beat Utah State, 65-0; Hawaii, 52-0; and Washington, 32-0. Further blowouts came over Oregon State, Stanford and Denver.
Aside from the loss to Notre Dame, 1930 was a year of upheaval. The enormous victory over Cal had given everybody the impression that USC was a professional team overmatching their opposition. One USC player had to be kicked off the squad for falsifying his entrance information.
In addition, the 1930 season was played under the cloud of the Carnegie Report, which after visiting 130 campuses found enormous corruption in the practice of awarding scholarships.
The genie was out of the bottle, however. Neither USC or any other college had any intention of stopping the recruitment of big-time football players, who helped attract enormous crowds and create big revenues that ultimately would build law schools, medical schools, and all the other accoutrements of academe.
As if to snub their nose at the Carnegie Report, Southern Cal commissioned sculptor Roger Noble to erect a statue in the center of campus. "Tommy Trojan" was said to be modeled after Russ Saunders.
It had been 11 years since Elmer "Gloomy Gus" Henderson had taken over at USC, thus taking the Trojan program from that of a glorified "club team" to a big-time program in a new, big-time sport. The 1920s had seen enormous growth; the building of the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum, with huge crowds to fill them. There was the firing of a coach with an .865 winning percentage because he could not beat rival Cal, and the hiring of a man who led the Trojan empire over the old Cal dynasty in the manner of Caesar humiliating Pompey. A national championship, the spectacular Notre Dame games. But in 1931…
In 1931, all the previous highlights of USC football paled in comparison with the spectacular, dramatic events of that season. It is possible that the game played between SC and Notre Dame that year is to this day the most significant in school history.
Gus Shaver, Garrett Arbelbide, Johnny Baker, Erny Pinckert, Stan Williamson, Ernie Smith and Robert Hall, all Trojan legends, made up that team's incredible roster. A first-year player, Aaron Rosenberg would make All-American.
The season opener was a scheduled blowout of St. Mary's at the Coliseum before 70,000 on hand for round one of the coronation. Taps were blown for the death of Rockne
"This may have been an expectant championship year for the Trojans, but they looked anything else but," wrote Paul Lowry in the Times.
St. Mary's had good teams and would continue to field excellent ones for more than 20 years after that season. However, their 13-7 victory over SC may be the biggest upset the Trojans have ever suffered, especially considering that 70,000 fans, flush with expectation, were on hand at the Coliseum.
From there, however, USC went on a winning streak. Oregon State, Washington State, Oregon, Cal, Stanford and Montana fell like Italy, Austria and Poland under Napoleon. After the St. Mary's game, USC won six straight, five by shutout (Washington State lost, 38-6). On November 21, the Monster lay in wait. The Siegfried Line. The Atlantic Wall. Hannibal staring at the Alps.
"Notre Dame is so good that <new coach> Hunk Anderson could lick any team he has played, Northwestern excepted, with his second string," USC scout Aubrey Devine told the reporters. "It is impossible to set a fool-proof defense for the Irish because they are such a versatile squad. Just when you think you have them stopped, they break out in another direction."
Notre Dame had beaten USC four out of the first five times they had met. Jones amped up his practice sessions, and did it in secret.
"There is every reason to believe that the team we buck up against Saturday is much stronger than the one which trounced us 27-0 last year," Jones said. "On the better hand, there is nothing to indicate that my boys are any better than they were that day Kunte Rockne's eleven made us look bad."
L.A. Examiner: "ABOARD THE TROJAN SPECIAL, Bound For Heaven Knows What," by Maxwell Stiles (November 17, 1931):
That big noise you heard down there at the Southern Pacific depot was not a bedlam of Southern California rooters cheering a Trojan victory over Notre Dame. The noble 600 hundred were merely seeing the gang off. Everybody seemed to be taking a good, long look at most of us. As if they never expected to see us again - after Notre Dame's team, those on Notre Dame, and perhaps one of those Midwestern blizzards got through with us.
A special section of the Golden State Limited pulled out of downtown L.A. at night, carrying the team and a small group of die-hard rooters who would be there to withstand the roars of a capacity crowd at the new Notre Dame Stadium. It was SC's first trip to South Bend proper, and of course the first game in this new arena…
The big push starts tonight. El Trojan of Southern California starts eastward in quest of victory over Notre Dame, generally recognized throughout the Middle West and East as the greatest American football team of the generation. Quite a mouthful to bite.
Notre Dame was indeed the "greatest American football team of the generation" under Rockne, but USC was right on its tail. If USC had beaten the Irish four of five instead of vice versa, the Trojans' record would have put that "title" on them. If the teams had "split," 3-2 or 2-3 either way, the "greatest" description may well have been a split decision. But the Irish had earned the moniker and USC knew it.
The train pulled into Tucson, Arizona. USC held a practice there in the airid desert. Johnny Baker, recovering from a bum knee, had a mental lapse on his defensive assignments. Jones came down on him hard.
"I remember quite distinctly the bawling out which Howard gave Baker," said Braven Dyer, who seemingly was covering the Trojans, on and off the field, day and night, in those years. ""Johnny was quite mad about it. Later he told me that he came within a whisker of quitting the team right then and there and heading back to Los Angeles."
(Dyer indeed seemed to be "everywhere" throughout his career with the Los Angeles Times. In 1964, while traveling with the Los Angeles Angels, he got into a drunken fight with playboy pitcher Bo Belinsky at four in the morning at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Belinsky punched the then-elderly sportswriter, knocking him out. Despite the fact he was a star at the time, Belinsky found himself traded to Philadelphia faster than he could say, "Braven Dyer.")
The newspapers in South Bend were much more provincial than the Chicago papers. They gave USC very little respect, despite their fabulous record over the past years, and the pounding they had given opponents since the St. Mary's game. Notre Dame was the big time, and when it came to that test, 1-4 said it all! Certainly, playing at South Bend would prove to be an atmosphere that, combined with the talents of the Irish, could not be overcome. The Irish were riding a 26-game winning streak. USC entering the 2005 season with two straight national titles and the imprimatur of invincibility only had a 22-game streak at the time.
55,000 (a capacity audience, 50,731 were considered paid attendance) let USC know what they were in for from the moment they took the field. The Trojans were intimidated by the surroundings. The Irish had them off-balance early when Steve Banas finished off a drive with a four-yard touchdown run. 7-0, Irish.
USC stiffened on defense but could not push the ball at all. They felt lucky to be trailing only by seven at the half, but all seemed lost when the great quarterback Marchy Schwartz took it in from three out in the third quarter to make it 14-0.
"The score looked as big as the population of China," wrote Dyer. "In fact it looked a darn sight larger than that, if possible, because of the consummate ease with which the Irish scored those touchdowns.
"In other words the Irish were in command of the situation, and everybody, apparently, but the Trojans knew it. Schwartz had been whizzing around his own right end repeatedly for long gains. Banas, on a twisting, 32-yard run which ended up on Troy's three-yard line, had made the Trojans look positively silly. And the ease with which Schwartz went over for the touchdown presaged others to come."
USC fullback Jim Musick broke his nose. Orv Mohler replaced him at the position, and it was a Godsend for the Trojans. He and Gus Shaver started making gains in the fourth quarter. Jones's hard practices and conditioning in the California heat began to pay off in the chill of an Indiana November. USC got it to the one, where Shaver bulled in. At that point, a tie seemed the best they could hope for, but when Baker missed the extra point, a 14-6 deficit in the fourth still looked insurmountable.
But USC held Notre Dame, got the ball back, went to the air, and when the Irish were called for pass interference (a brave call from an official in South Bend), they had a first-and-10 on the Irish 24. Shaver and Mohler, fighting for every yard, pushed it to the nine. Mohler lateralled to Shaver, and he went around the left end to score. Baker made the conversion, and at 14-13 the crowd was silenced, the USC cheers rising above their silence. Momentum was in USC's favor, and all that was left was the famed "luck of the Irish." It was not to be.
"The fury of Troy's attack in the second half astounded evrybody," wrote Dyer. "No man, unless it be Gus Shaver, stood out. Morley's choice of plays was almost perfect, and the way the 162-pound Orv rammed into the Irish line inspired his mates immensely."
Possessions were exchanged and the clock, Notre Dame's only remaining ally, wound down to four minutes. USC had the ball on its own 27 with time left for one dramatic drive.
Two plays failed, but Shaver made a daring pass after being forced to retreat from Notre Dame tacklers, spotting and hitting Ray Sparling with a diving grab for a first down at the Notre Dame 40 (Dwayne Jarrett, anyone?). This gave life to the Trojans and created a sense of foreboding in the Irish rooters, who by this time were counting on Baker's inconsistency if he lined up for a field goal.
Bob Hall caught a pass and got the ball down to the 18. A penalty moved it to the 13, and Sparling ran into the middle, putting the team into good field goal position while the clock wound down. Some confusion reigned when Jones sent Homer Griffith into the fray with instructions to go for the kick, but Mohler waved him back.
"Cold sweat broke out on his <Jones'> brow, and his assistant coach groaned in anguish," read one report.
(Again, the "confusion" near the goal line in '31 eerily pre-cursors what happened in '05.
But Mohler did call for a field goal. The team caught Notre Dame off guard and lined up for the kick, but it was Baker, he of the missed conversion who had come "within a whisker" of quitting in Tucson, who stood at the ready.
It was in God's hands now.
Baker was straight and true from 23 yards out, and now it was 16-14, Trojans. USC celebrated as if it was Armistice Day in 1918. With a minute and three seconds left, they would have been wise to consider the magic of Notre Dame. USC kicked off, but they were so enthused and Notre Dame so shocked that they simply smothered the Irish on their side of the field until the cannon roared.
"Great. Boy, great! But why did you do it?" Jones yelled at Mohler.
"Baker and I have been practicing that play all year," said Mohler. "I knew if it failed I'd be the goat and we would be licked, but old 'Bake' doesn't miss on those short ones. I knew he wouldn't fail me. Wasn't it a beat?"
Jones restrained himself from punishing Mohler for winning the biggest game of his career; indeed in USC annals and certainly in football history up to that point!
"Notre Dame was far from the Fighting Irish type when Howard Jones' Trojans got hitting on all 11 cylinders in the last period of play," wrote Tom Thorpe of the New York Evening Journal. "No one would have thought it possible for any team to tally at a greater rate of speed than a point a minute against a Notre Dame squad. This Southern California did without much trouble.
"Notre Dame has no excuses. The Trojans simply outplayed them during the last 15 minutes in a manner that left no room for alibis. 'Old Rock,' looking down from up above, must have wept with tears of genuine sorrow when he saw his former Irish playmates being pushed around. It has been seven years since any team has been able to manhandle the Irish as Southern California did."
Of course, assuming 'Old Rock" is with the Lord, it does not seem likely he "wept" over the loss of an earthly game.
Dyer seemingly lost much of his "journalistic integrity," morphing from colorful sentimentalist to wordy fan in his game story.
"Noah Webster's diction book does not contain enough adjectives to describe the way the Trojans refused to be licked," he wrote. "Until the Trojans get home, you can paste this in your hat for future reference. Nobody ever saw a gamer battle than that which the Southern California players staged against supposedly insurmountable odds this afternoon. It did not seem humanly possible for them to win, but thanks to the indomitable fight of a great gang of kids, plus the cool nerve and steady hoof of Johnny Baker, the Trojans today achieved the greatest athletic triumph in Southern California history.
"Yours truly has run out of paper, his typewriter has broken down completely, and it's getting late. You'll have to wait until tomorrow for more about the stunning achievement of a bunch of boys who were rated no better than a two-to-five bet to upset the mighty Irish."
Dyer's further commentary included the following gem:
NOTRE DAME STADIUM (South Bend, Ind.), November 21
(Exclusive) - When Howard Jones is old and a darn sight grayer than now he will tell his grandchildren about the heroic fight his 1931 Trojans made against the undefeated Irish of Notre Dame. He will tell them how his boys, with the odds hopelessly against them and with a sound thumping staring them in the face, came back to do the impossible and score sixteen points in the last quarter to bring to an end the sensational winning streak of the greatest team in Irish history. (Braven Dyer, L.A. Times).
In addition, the game was broadcast nationally by Ted Husing on radio. Millions of Americans could recall for years afterwards being huddled around their radios, listening to the wild descriptions of this event.
Tears of sadness were shed in the Notre Dame locker room; tears of sadness on the USC side. Gordon Clark held the game ball for all it was worth.
"I knew they couldn't stop us," Pinckert shouted. "I've waited for two years for this day - but boy, what revenge."
Indeed, it may have been revenge, but the atmosphere was totally different from the cold calculus of Total Victory that had enveloped the 74-0 thrashing of the "poor sport" Cal Bears. A sense of mutual respect pervaded. After losing three times by a point, USC now had the respect of the Notre Dame fans, players and allies in the sporting press. They were looking at an open road towards Howard Jones's second national title in four years, and were sitting firmly on top of the college football mountain.
USC alumni actually crashed into the locker room to congratulate Baker - in the shower! Trojan fans dance with the naked, dripping Baker.
Jones was beside himself, disheveled and totally beyond his normal reserved persona. He just went about shaking hands and declared that he was too "flabbergasted" to be eloquent.
"But I'll tell you that it was the greatest team in the world," he stated of his club.
Jones had a little time to compose himself when the team boarded the train, but he continued to stay out of character, acting like a "kid let out of school," according to Jack James of the L.A. Herald. "The strain and worry of past weeks all fell away from him like a discarded garment the moment the gun ended that game on the Notre Dame greensward Saturday afternoon. From that moment he 'unlaxed' as the saying goes…"
At stops, Jones was seen throwing snowballs at the athletic director and his assistants. He brought snow into the train, committing acts of hi-jinks in order to "get" various players, sneaking into their compartments amid great laughter.
The "special train" was "a regular madhouse" for the three-day, three-night trip back to Los Angeles. Jack James admitted that he preferred "sanity," but if he thought he would find it in the City of Angels, he was wrong.
300,000 fans met the "…men of Troy, conquering football heroes," said the Examiner. The cheering came from the rooftops and all about.
"I never saw anything like it in my life," said Ernie Smith. The team all wore bowlers, a style of the day, which was purchased for them in Chicago. Dressed in their best finery with the bowlers, the team was loaded into waiting cars, two per car, for a ride down Fifth Street to Main, then on to city hall.
"There seemed to be a half-million people lining the streets," said Smith. "When we left city hall and started down toward the school, ticker tape came flying out at us. We rode down Spring Street, I remember, and people had torn up telephone books, and they were throwing all this paper out of windows. It was a real thrill - it was unbelievable. For a football team to get this type of reception, I mean it was REALLY something."
In the mist of the Great Depression, Los Angelenos had found escape in the exploits of their beloved Trojans. On this day, USC became a tradition in the city. Perhaps the Dodgers would equal the intensity of fan enthusiasm and loyalty a few decades later, but other than that, in the history of Southern California, no team - not UCLA, the Angels, Rams, Raiders, or Angels - would establish greater tradition than what USC started, and over the years proudly continued to live up to!
"I think Ted Husing's national radio broadcast of the game had a lot to do with that welcome," recalled Al Wesson. "He had built up the last quarter to such a dramatic extent that Los Angeles people were running out into the streets during the game and screaming.
"It was the wildest sports demonstration that the city of Los Angeles ever had. 300,00? I don't know, there were at least 200,000 in the line of march to see the Trojans riding in their cars. Everyone got a helluva cheer."
The team rode "fancy touring cars," open on a mild L.A. November day. People leaned out of office buildings. Streamers and confetti were hurled out of the sky. It was a ticker tape parade that observers said could compare to the one Charles Lindbergh had received on Broadway in New York City after his trans-Atlantic flight in 1927.
"A reception never before equaled for athletic stars turned downtown Los Angeles into a half holiday as the triumphant Trojans rode through the city at the head of a three-mile parade beneath a barrage of confetti and flowers," the Examiner went on. "At the first cry of 'Here they come' and the first notes of Harold Roberts' Trojan band, playing 'Fight On!' men and women poured from every building on Spring and Broadway and Hill….
"…Bankers and laborers…industrial kings and clerks…merchants and typists…For a day USC was the adopted alma mater of the city. Through the jammed lanes of humanity, the Trojan warriors who fought the Battle of Notre Dame rode as heroes ride. Police sirens screamed to clear the congested traffic."
The paper went on to state that the team had left as college students and returned as heroes. The cheers of the populace were only the beginning. The student body received them like Caesar returning from victory over Gaul. An "arch of triumph" was fashioned out of chrysanthemums and poppies in Cardinal and Gold colors. Flowers, serpentine, blossoms and confetti reigned.
Mayor John C. Porter presided over a city hall welcome with 40,000 filling the area in front of the building, made famous in the 1950s TV police series, Dragnet. Bishop John J. Cantwell of the Roman Catholic diocese of L.A. and San Diego certainly seemed to favor the locals over Notre Dame despite the religious conflict. Howard Jones stood before a cheering crowd that would not let him speak for several minutes.
The applause could be heard for many, many blocks.
In Los Angeles, writers who had not made the trip got many further recollections, such as captain Stan Williamson saying that Jones had kissed him in the locker room. Williamson kissed the man right back before he realized "it was the 'Head Man' himself."
Garrett Arbelbide had been sidelined and was in the locker room. All he heard was "racket" when the team came in. A movie camera had captured the game, and it was replayed as a full-length feature in L.A. by M-G-M for a long while, with Dyer providing narration.
It played at Loew's State Theater, the top downtown movie house at the time. It began as the first of a double-bill, but was so popular it ran over and over, breaking all the house records at Loew's.
A strange twist became public when it was revealed that third-string center William Hawkins had been imprisoned, allegedly for leaking team secrets to Notre Dame. Hawkins had missed some practice time, and upon his return inquired of the plays the team was practicing in his absence. Assistant coach Gordon Campbell suspected that something was amiss. Apparently Hawkins had friends at Notre Dame, and this fact concerned the coaches. After being "grilled" by the rest of the staff, he was placed under the custody of detectives, and spent the week of the game at a mountain lodge in Topanga Canyon, away from his team and his classmates. He missed a week of school and did not even hear the game on radio.
A subsequent investigation exonerated him. His home was searched, he was shadowed, and his Notre Dame friends questioned. In the end, he was found innocent, prompting a genuine apology from Jones to Hawkins and his enraged parents.
USC had gone from football players to movie stars, but it did not go to their heads. Washington fell, 44-7 and when they beat Georgia, 60-0, it stamped the team and the West as the kingpins of the game. It most certainly did not improve the image of the South as it related to gridiron prowess. Alabama's back-to-back national titles and Georgia Tech's "wrong way run" win over Cal two years later (following the 1928 season) had elevated Dixie.
Georgia guard "Red" Mattox got into it with Baker on the field, but the thrashing wore him out.
"All I want to know," Maddox told Baker in those Prohibition days, "is where can a guy get a gallon of corn liquor after the game?"
USC went on to play another Southern school, Tulane, in the Rose Bowl. The Green Wave was a very tough challenge, very well coached and the best team in their region at 11-0. Jones's brother, TAD, predicted a close contest. Their end, Jerry Dalrymple, was acclaimed to be the best in the nation.
An overzealous L.A. sports editor misquoted Dalrymple, headlining a story with, "Dalrymple say's he'll stop Trojan attack." The article was great bulletin board fodder for the Trojans, who did not know the Tulane man had not said it. The player was distraught, as was coach Bernie Bierman.
The Southern sportswriters had heard tales of the Notre Dame drama, Grantland Rice's 1920s exclamation that California produced "supermen," scientific theories that the sun, the weather and maybe the gene pool of settlers and Hollywood hopefuls further created "perfect" football players. They expected he-men, brutes, animals, but were surprised at what they found.
"You never saw such quiet, boyish looking chaps…polished gentlemen all," wrote Bill Keefe of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "Williamson, a great big kid with a baby face, looks as if his feelings could be hurt with a frown. We expected to see gangs of ferocious, cruel, and twin-headed monsters, but find only a band of fine young chaps. No university ever boasted a more gentlemanly or clean-cut set of boys. Barring Pinckert, Shaver, and Williamson, they are not much bigger or tougher-looking than Tulane."
A great deal of film obviously existed of USC, however, and the more Bierman observed it, the more he realized his team was overmatched. He predicted a four-touchdown USC win. Six Trojans made All-American. Pinckert was named for the second time, and honors went also to Shaver, Mohler, Williamson, Baker, Rosenberg, and Smith.
The Associated Press declared USC the "outstanding sports team of the year" over the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Rose Bowl parade had a distinctly international theme, and with the Olympics scheduled for that summer, there was a distinct feeling in the air that Los Angeles was now the "sports capitol of the world." Radio broadcasts of the game delivered it across the Fruited Plain.
Once the game began, Pinckert took charge, sweeping through Dalrymple to score from 30 and 23 yards out. USC led by 21-0. Tulane rallied but it was too little, too late.
"Southern California had more power than any team I ever saw," said Bierman after the 21-12 defeat before 84,000.
"These players accomplished more throughout the season than any team I ever coached," stated Jones. USC was an undisputed national champion, and the new Knute Rockne Trophy was awarded to the "Head Man" and his team.
Indeed, despite the observation by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, USC had a powerful team of 200-pounders-plus. Pop Warner made note of this, assessing that the Trojans had no weak spot and were as strong as any club he had ever seen, which was saying something. Players of that era, when questioned in the 1970s, when the game had modernized in terms of player size and equipment, were still convinced that they could have adapted; diet, weight training, equipment.
"The guys I played with had good athletic ability - and guts," said Gene Clarke.
Chief among those was Pinckert, who often played the full 60 minutes and was given the Douglas Fairbanks trophy as the nation's most valuable player.
Clarke also offered an amusing anecdote, describing some near-fisticuffs involving Tom Mallory and an opposing player in a game USC was winning by five touchdowns.
"What's the matter with you guys," the referee says to them, "don't you know how to play football?"
"Don't we know how to play football?" Mallory retorted. "For Christ sakes, look at the scoreboard, buddy."
Greatness also followed the Trojan players in the years after the 1931 season. Ernie Smith went from All-American to All-Pro and then the NFL Hall of Fame. Without his USC teammates, however, "I never would have achieved what I did," he said.
He and Aaron Rosenberg were the great off-tackle blocking combination that fueled The Thundering Herd. Smith also had the utmost respect for Jones.
"He was called the 'Head Man' and he was that in all respects," said Smith.
Smith, who hailed from Gardena, a small community a few miles south of the USC campus, was an all-around person who played the trombone. He had grown up a USC fan, attending Trojan games, and had seen the Four Horsemen play in the 1925 Rose Bowl when his Gardena High band played at the game. At USC he performed in dance orchestrations. Smith was a good example of why Cal's "professionalism" charges had no merit. He had come to school on a music scholarship!
Once in, Smith worked many jobs to make ends meet, further negating the myth. He did get work through his football connections, however. Smith was a football player, cowboy and singer in 55 movies.
"I worked in all of Will Rogers' pictures through that era," he recalled. "I was a waiter in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times."
In 1932, a movie was made called The Spirit of Notre Dame. It was filmed at Loyola College in Los Angeles, and the football sequences were shot using Trojan and Loyola players.
That fall, defending national champion USC played Loyola, and despite their great reputation, the game was a close one, 6-0 Troy. It turned out that the close proximity of the players on the movie had made USC familiar to Loyola; they knew their plays and techniques, and lost their intimidation of them.
In Smith's 1930-32 career, USC won two national titles, two Rose Bowls, averaged 30 points a game to four for the opposition, shut out 16 teams, and compiled a 28-3 record.
Smith was also one of those gentlemen that the New Orleans writer had made note of; a true credit to the Trojans and an example of the sense of elan, esprit de corps and happiness that often marked Trojan football over the years.
A tradition at USC in his day was the "haircut." A player would take to the barber's chair, the barber would give him the "works," a shave, hot towel, and haircut. His teammates would stand around an give all manner of advice to the barber. One day, a USC man was in the chair, his face covered by a towel, with Trojans surrounding him. Smith arrived to give his teammate the once-over. Rubbing his hands together, Smith gave the man a lunge against the solar plexus, then proceeded with a full body massage making extremely rough use of his huge hands and fingers that no doubt was leaving black-and-blue marks on the poor guy. Shampoo tonic ensued, followed by a hand massage through the towel on the man's face, with the affect that the guy had trouble breathing through the hot, wet towel. As much to get air as to discover his tormentor, Smith's teammate rose and pulled the towel off his face.
"There was a sudden emptiness of people in that shop of the former occupants who had been standing along the sidelines," recalled Orv Mohler. "The man in the chair was Coach Howard Jones."
Smith, who had of course thought it a teammate worthy of a prank and not the "Head Man," was left literally holding the towel. His great on-field abilities saved him from the perils such adventures might otherwise have cost him.
Smith seriously considered a musical career, but his graduation came in the middle of the Depression. Pro football was steady work, so he went on to star for the Green Bay Packers. Later, he was the player-coach of a pro team in L.A. called the Hollywood Stars until his insurance business developed. His clients would include Bing Crosby.
In 1970, Smith was inducted into the College Hall of Fame along with the great Notre Dame coach, Frank Leahy. His work with the Tournament of Roses Committee led to the foundation memorializing Howard Jones. Out of that grew sholarships for deserving USC students, leading to a number of football players going on to dental and law school.
"There's a tendency to shove the greats of the past into the past," said Smith, but not on this author's watch.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism