For "What It Means to be a Trojan," author Steven Travers interviewed dozens of former USC football players – from unknown kickers to Heisman-winning quarterbacks, from the 1930s to the late 2000s.
We spoke to him about the project. To read what 12 of the players remembered from their time as Trojans, click on the slideshow to the right.
Q. A lot of the players in this project went on to bigger stages, fame and fortune. Why do these four years resonate with so many of them?
A. If you're a 49er fan and you see Joe Montana at a signing session, you go up and get his autograph and the relationship is really fan and superstar -- and it's not a close one. Whereas if you're a Notre Dame guy and see him at a Notre Dame event, you might have gone to the same class as him, shared the same experiences and professors. When it's all said and done, Matt Leinart is going to think of himself as a Trojan more than a Cardinal.
Q. How did you get such broad participation on this project?
A. This is my fourth or fifth USC book, and I've also written a book on college football history involving USC. One you get into the network, you're able to maneuver about and find people. One of the things about being a sports historian as opposed to being a beat writer is when you're a beat writer you cover the current athletes and they tend to be distracted. The old-timers, they love to talk... sometimes to set the record straight. They're out of the spotlight and they miss it.
Q. You talked to guys from the 30s and guys from the 00s. How do the eras differ in what it means to be a Trojan?
A. My favorite guys to talk to were the players in the 1940s. You had a number of people who came to USC specifically to train as (military) officers. The Navy and the Marines allowed them to play football while they were in training, so they had a different view of life and what football means. It was certainly a much different group than later players who were on full-ride scholarships during a time of great celebrity.
Q. What has stayed the same?
A. USC people really like to help each other. They feel there is something exceptional or unique tot hem. It's a little different politically, socially, it tends to not go in the same flow. I think they're proud of that fact that they're a little bit different.
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Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism