Fight On: The Story of USC's Ricky Rosas

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Fight On: The Story of USC's Ricky Rosas
Ricky Rosas
Ricky Rosas (center) at the University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium before USC's October 27th game.  (photo courtesy of PeteCarroll.com)

"Sir, I don't know how to tell this story." -Joe Galloway, We Were Soldiers

It's hard to do it justice—telling the story of Ricky Rosas, that is. It isn't the easiest thing in the world to do.

I interviewed him over the phone a few weeks ago and have since played back our recorded conversation several times—I just can't get comfortable with a perfect way to convey his story.

See, Ricky's a guy that makes an impact on you, even if just speaking with him over the phone.   

No, he doesn't have the perfect voice found in radio deejays and public speakers. He doesn't blow you away with incomprehensible nine-syllable words. And no, he doesn't tell his stories with the eloquence of flowing poetry.

He's just a normal guy who seems to have that special characteristic that doesn't allow you forget about him.

Being a normal guy means following sports, and Ricky is no different—his favorite team is the USC Trojan Football team. 

Ricky's a diehard Trojan fan. His heart broke when USC shockingly lost to Stanford, he rejoiced when the Trojans claimed a Rose Bowl victory over Illinois, and he held his breath when the NFL's Falcons were courting USC's head coach, Pete Carroll.

He even admits that his favorite NFL team is the Arizona Cardinals because they have former USC star quarterback Matt Leinart on their roster.

"I actually became a Cardinals fan because they got Leinart," he says, "...just because they got Leinart."

"He's just a normal guy that seems to have that special characteristic that doesn't allow you to forget about him."

I know what you might be thinking—you might be thinking that Ricky is a USC bandwagon fan. We've all come across them—they guy who started claiming the Trojans as their favorite team right about the same time they started becoming virtually unbeatable.

But Ricky's not a bandwagon fan. He's anything but.

While he is still ecstatic about the Trojan's 49-17 blowout Rose Bowl win over Illinois, you get the feeling that Ricky would give it all up for a chance to see USC actually get tested in their bowl game instead.  

He reminds you of a competitive driver who pushes his car to the limits—willing to risk an overheated engine—just to see how powerful that engine truly is, saying "I wanted to see USC and Georgia in the Rose Bowl...that would've been one good game."

Not convinced?

Ask Ricky about backup quarterback Mitch Mustain—who transferred to USC from Arkansas—and he can talk for hours as he breaks down every little detail of Mustain's game, even going as far as speaking of Mustain's composure in tough environments.  "He played in the SEC, so he knows how to handle the crowds...there are so many tough stadiums."

Point is, Ricky's no bandwagon USC fan—he knows the ins and outs of his Trojan team.

Ricky knows everything there is to know about USC Football. And that's because he is the Special Assistant to Pete Carroll.

When asked what his job entails, he'll give you the rundown:

"I hand out water, I go get food for the coaches, I shred old papers that they have...pretty much, I'm their go-to-guy."

Ricky realizes that there are several perks to his job too. He realizes that very few people have access like he has, "I get to run out into The Coliseum and hear all the speeches from the coaches and players. I get to talk to the players on a one-on-one basis every day."

I admitted to Ricky that his job made me quite jealous, despite not even being a USC fan at all, which prompted him to tell me a story of one of his former high school teachers repeatedly begging to trade jobs with him. 

"I think it's amazing that people would want to do what I do," Ricky explained.

All perks aside, what makes Ricky's story so great is that he's virtually a walk-on to the USC staff. He visited practice one day and fell in love with the atmosphere. 

"...Ricky is a perfect example of USC's 'Fight On' spirit—a constant reminder to the Trojan players to never give up."

And Coach Carroll fell in love with Ricky, too. 

Maybe it was because despite Ricky's 4'9" stature, he somehow fit in perfectly with players who towered over him at 6'4" and taller.  

Maybe it was because Ricky formed instant bonds with some of college football's biggest stars.

Or maybe it was because Coach Carroll found that characteristic in Ricky that I did—the one that makes him impossible to forget.

Regardless, Ricky is a perfect example of USC's "Fight On" spirit—a constant reminder to the Trojan players to never give up.

Ricky battled and beat cancer at the age of one. And although he admits that he doesn't remember much, Ricky will be the first to tell you that the experience made him a stronger person.

Even now, Ricky's road isn't always easy—literally.

Just getting to the USC practice field takes him an hour and a half by bus. Regardless, Ricky shows up every day, does his job, and travels the long road back home.

It's kind of ironic how USC's season seemed to be at such a low point following the shocking loss to Stanford. Yet, they continued to fight on and battled their way to the Rose Bowl. One could even argue that the Trojans looked to be one of the strongest—if not the strongest—team in the country at the end of the season.

It's hard to imagine that Coach Carroll and the USC team didn't take some inspiration from Ricky once their season looked as if it would disappoint. 

Everyday, regardless of the situation, Ricky is there. He fought back and continues to fight on now. His outlook fits perfectly with the "Fight On" mantra that USC proudly displays, and his story just seems too perfect of a fit for USC's 2007 season. 

But, Coach Carroll and the Trojan players aren't the only ones who have taken notice to Ricky's glass-half-full attitude. This past Christmas, USC fans held a Ricky Rosas Family Holiday Drive and donated clothing, televisions, furniture, and more to Ricky's family.

One might even dare to say Ricky is somewhat of a USC celebrity—a modern-day Rudy if you will. 

When I asked Ricky if he'd take a million dollars in exchange for his job at USC, he replied, "I wouldn't take the money because I have people that I can always go to. USC is a big part of my family...they're like brothers."

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