The Trojans got a treat Tuesday afternoon when former NFL All-Pro Ray Lewis addressed the team before practice, and nobody was more moved by what the two-time Super Bowl champion had to say than senior tailback Silas Redd.
"I don't think I blinked once while he was talking," said Redd, who grew up idolizing the legendary Ravens linebacker.
Lewis gave an eye-opening speech, with one quotation, in particular, standing out to Redd.
"'Effort is between you and you,'" Redd said, echoing the words of Lewis, now an ESPN NFL analyst. "It's not about anybody else."
It's a message Redd embodied with a gritty performance during USC's 38-31 victory over Arizona last week.
The Penn State transfer led the Trojans with 905 yards on the ground in 2012 but missed the first five games of the current campaign after tearing his meniscus in the spring and then undergoing two surgical procedures. Having returned to practice full time in the week leading up to USC's clash with the Wildcats, he wound up playing a much bigger role in the contest than he might have imagined.
With the Trojans leading by seven points late in the fourth quarter and starter Tre Madden sidelined with a hamstring injury, USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton leaned on Redd heavily, and he more than came through. Redd carried the ball on seven consecutive plays and picked up three first downs -- the last of which came on a clutch third-and-8 play that allowed the Trojans to run out the clock.
"I wasn't expecting it, but I was ready for it," Redd said of the extended fourth-quarter opportunity. "I think it sent a message that I can be trusted in that situation. You know, I'm the senior back, so my name was called and I was able to deliver."
He ultimately finished with a team-best 80 rushing yards on 19 carries. It was a remarkable outing for someone who hadn't played a down in a live game since USC's 21-7 Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech.
Thanks to extensive rehab work, time spent in the film room and countless mental reps, however, Redd was prepared for the chance that came his way, and his performance has provided a boost of confidence as he gears up for the rest of the season.
"It's definitely something that I can build off of, and this week's practice has been great so far," Redd said. "I feel like each day my knee is getting stronger, and my wind is getting back. I'm just trying to stay focused."
That's welcome news for USC interim coach Ed Orgeron's offensive coaches. The veteran Redd adds a unique dimension to a talent-laden tailback unit that also includes Madden, Justin Davis, Javorius Allen and Ty Isaac. Against the Wildcats, each of the five backs made a significant contribution as the Trojans amassed 249 total rushing yards.
"We're a confident group right now," Redd said. "We know that each one of us can play this game, and we know that when we get out there, it's our individual time to deliver for our team. I think that we take pride in that."
USC is No. 39 nationally in rushing, averaging 200.3 yards per game, but the Trojans face a big test this coming weekend when they go up against intersectional rival Notre Dame. Spearheaded by a stout defensive line that features Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III and Sheldon Day, the Fighting Irish defense currently ranks No. 23 against the run, allowing just 122.3 yards per game.
For Redd, it's a challenge he's looking forward to.
"It'll be my first time [going to South Bend], and I'm excited," Redd said. "They're huge, and it's going to be tough getting those guys off the ball, but we have some things up our sleeve."
And with Madden's status for Saturday's matchup still up in the air, there's reason to believe the USC offense will be calling on Redd with great frequency once again.
"This is what I came here for," Redd said. "I'm ready to contribute again, and whenever my name is called, I'll be ready for it."