USC Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Fame inductee Marcus Allen was gracious in talking to me for an hour about the USC Trojans and college football.
This is the second in a series of four articles where Marcus explains why he picked USC, the reasons it remains the best decision he has made and why so many other great athletes select USC.
The next two articles will discuss Allen's thoughts on Lane Kiffin as coach of the Trojans, tailback by committee, benching players who fumble, NCAA sanctions and reasons college players take money.
Here is what Marcus had to say about what it means to be a Trojan.
USC coach John Robinson helped Marcus Allen with decisions to become successful
Marcus Allen believed that USC was the best football program from an early age. He was an easy recruit.
He played quarterback and safety in high school and wanted to play defensive back at USC. However, the USC coaches changed his position several times and it helped make him into the running back legend that he became.
Allen began following USC when he was eight years old in San Diego on his family’s black and white Magnavox TV. He loved the football program and knew it was the best place for him. Allen told me:
“I didn’t watch Mike Garrett play, but watching O.J. [Simpson] and the games they played in and the way he played made it natural for me to be attracted to USC. From that point on I always wanted to go there. I was one of the easiest USC recruits.”
He did make some other trips, but none of the other schools had a chance.
Allen was recruited as a defensive back by the Trojans. However, there were a lot of injured running backs so Coach John Robinson asked him to play tailback. Marcus said:
“I wasn’t going to play as a defensive back my freshman year so John asked me to come over and I said ‘sure’. It was as fortuitous as it can get or maybe it was meant to be. I played sparingly my freshman year and made some exciting plays, especially against Michigan State.
During that period I was focusing on special teams and making an impact there. A couple of times I was special teams player of the week which was good to keep you motivated and going.”
Marcus was also asked to change positions in his sophomore year to fullback. There aren’t too many 200 pound fullbacks so Marcus could have easily declined that change.
However, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie White was the tailback so he wasn’t going to play much at that position. Here is how Allen discussed the change:
“John Robinson asked me if I would mind playing fullback. I said ‘sure, I just want to play.’
I didn’t know that it was going to be as physically challenging as it was. In retrospect it was probably the best thing that ever happened in terms of being able to play every aspect of the game.
Blocking, pass protection, lead blocking, catching the ball and it was a physical challenge and study in survival because I wasn’t the biggest guy. So, I had to become the smart guy too even though I thought that I was tough and learn the nuances against the linebackers.”
USC football players have entered the Los Angeles Coliseum since it was built in 1923
One of the best decisions Allen made was choosing to play football at USC.
The great coaches, tradition, culture, opportunities to play different positions, discipline, quality of players to practice against and preparation to be the best on and off the field were some of the reasons he discussed with me.
Allen told me the reasons he believes so many great athletes select USC to play football:
“I think it is the tradition; being part of one of the greatest traditions in my opinion in college football. When I look at Heisman Trophy winners, NFL Hall of Famers, NFL players; when I look at our wins, the places we go and the impact that we had on college football.
I look back at the games that we played that were some of the most exciting down to the wire games and our ability to win those games. USC has such a tradition of great players, toughness and culture; a philosophy that we had that I think draws a lot of kids.
Today is a little different. It is unfortunate. I wouldn’t select a school on how many jerseys they were able to pull out.
I would want to go to the best program that turns out the best players that plays in the best games that prepares me the best for on and off the field, and I felt that was USC. I think that is why most guys hopefully go there.”
Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen at the 2007 Rose Bowl to cheer on USC to another victory
Allen clearly believes that USC is the best place to play football. He attributes the coaching, practicing, friendships and things he learned in making him successful.
He also shared his personal experiences at USC:
“My overall experience has been great. My experience since I left USC and staying involved with the school has been great. I mean it has been one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
I don’t know where I would be if I had gone to some other school. It all seemed to work out so well when I made that choice to go there. The people that I have met and the things that I have learned have been so valuable.
It was a tremendous leap in confidence on and off the field from my experience there. It was a seismic shift in the things that I learned and the challenges that I had to face on the field that I apply to everything that I do now.”
Allen also felt that the USC coaching staff helped him in more ways than he could list:
“When I look back at the coaching staff, those guys are some of my best friends and the things that I have learned from them and I can’t even begin to tell you.
John Robinson, in particular, and John Jackson, Hudson Houck, Norv Turner and I could go on and on. It was such a great experience for me."
Allen also felt that practice was a key benefit of playing at USC:
“I had great coaching and I learned how to practice. I feel like I practiced the best. I always went to the most superior linebacker for pass catching drills. I never went to a guy that I was better than because that wouldn’t help me. I always tried to go against the best in practice. So that is what I think really helped me.”
At USC, Allen became the first player in NCAA history to rush for over 2,000 yards while rushing for 2,342 yards and a total of 2,683 offensive yards. He shares the NCAA record for most 200-yard rushing games with Ricky Williams and Ron Dayne at 12.
Stay tuned to Bleacher Report during the next week for Marcus Allen’s thoughts on Lane Kiffin, NCAA sanctions and reasons players take money.