Still, the glory of the number one ranking was one worn proudly by the Trojans. One of those stars was Nate Barrager, who who would go on to a film career with John Wayne and pro football, too.
Barrager's hard tackling earned him a spot on Walter Eckersall's All-America team for 1929. Also on the team was the great Minnesota running back, Bronco Nagurski. Barrager was Jones's seventh All-American and one of two in 1929. Coming out of San Fernando High School, Barrager had earned a scholarship to USC after turning down other offers. Under Jones, Barrager blossomed.
"He was an outstanding fundamental coach who taught young men how to handle themselves," he said. "He was a taskmaster, a strictly dedicated football coach. Personality-wise, he wasn't a man who had a lot of things to say. He was just very quiet and very dedicated to his work. There was nothing funny about Jones. He was serious as anything. Chewing gum sometimes bothered him."
Jones switched Barrager from fullback, where he had starred in high school and on the SC freshman team.
"But they needed a center in my sophomore year, and they made me a center," said Barrager. Jones was innovative, and had Barrager backing the line on defense, which made Barrager one of the first linebackers.
Barrager starred in the 10-0 win over Stanford in 1928, and in his senior year Jones turned him into a running guard, defensive fullback and team captain.
"Being captain of the team and playing defensive fullback, you are into an awful lot of things," said Barrager. "You have to be a leader. All the boys on the team are pretty smart, but you have to keep after them."
In the 1930 Rose Bowl game against Pitt, Barrager and Russ Saunders put the clamps on the Panthers' All-American halfback, Tony Uansa, which made the difference in Troy's lopsided 47-14 victory. The score was exceptional, for in those days strong teams usually played defensive struggles.
"We won, and on that particular day we could have beaten anybody," said Barrager.
His final game was one of the few times that Barrager was able to "laugh and enjoy" football under the taskmaster Jones. With Southern Cal winning handily, Jones was ready to bring in his second team, but Barrager was having too much fun. He and guard Clark Galloway purposely knocked a Pitt player into Jones's lap as he sat on the bench. Jones, impressed, told his subs to sit down because, "If anyone can play like that, they're on my team."
The Pitt team that had their hats handed to them had five All-Americans on it. This was an obvious example not necessarily of "East Coast bias," but rather because the concentration of media was congregated in this part of the country. USC's plastering of them made up for Cal's embarrassing "wrong way" loss of 1929. Along with SC's beating of Pop Warner and Stanford, along with Knute Rockne's Irish in 1928, it played a big part in further cementing the Trojans' place in the football hierarchy.
Barrager played professional football, eventually ending up with the fabled Green Bay Packers. He was able to add three NFL titles to his national championship at USC. Barrager was a teammate of the great Don Hutson, who had starred (alongside teammate Bear Bryant) at the University of Alabama.
Barrager also parlayed his football career into acting. He befriended Paramount contract star Richard Arlen whil filming Salute, which lead to Arlen inviting Barrager to be a part of his New York stage show. They were scheduled for an appearance after a Packers' game against the New York Giants. After winning a close one, Barrager, along with teammates Russ Saunders and Marge Apsit (former Trojans), had to herd Arlen out of the Polo Grounds and into a cab - without changing from their game clothes. The show was a big success and, despite being Packers, the uniformed players were given a big ovation.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism