With Reggie Bush and LenDale White helping lead the way to multiple National Championships, the two would always follow one player when they got the ball. We caught up with that player, former USC fullback David Kirtman, and asked him about the importance of the fullback’s role as well as what he is doing now that he has hung up his cleats.
KW: What was your best memory of playing at USC?
DK: I don't think people realize but after our triple-overtime Cal loss in 2003 during my sophomore year, we didn’t lose a single game until Texas in the national championship game in 2006. Every Monday morning for almost three years every man on that team had a smile on his face -- you forget what losing feels like. For a team, winning is what you strive to do, there is no better feeling.
KW: How much are you able to follow the team these days?
DK: Living in Tokyo makes it almost impossible to watch games; unfortunately I only get to read articles and follow on the internet. Each year, the USC and Notre Dame Alumni club gets together and watches the game -- always a great event. Last year, we played our 2005 highlight tape at halftime to rub it in a little.
KW: Do you keep in touch with former teammates?
KW: Talk about your job and what you are up to these days?
DK: After 4 years in the NFL, I was proposed a job in the finance industry in Tokyo. My cousin Khahlil spent 10 years in Tokyo working with Goldman Sachs and had number of positive things to say about the city and the job. I had a hard time sticking with one team in the NFL, so thought it was time to try my skills in the corporate world and traded on Merrill Lynch Japan Securities Prop desk for a year. After the 3/11 Northern Japan quake I moved over to the sell side of Merrill Lynch and now I am a sales trader for Japanese equities.
KW: What was your major at USC and do you apply that to your current work?
DK: Major was business with a marketing emphasis. I think being a business major is probably the most useful major in college. I want to urge more SC football players to strive to get their business degree.
KW: What did you feel your role was during the ‘04 and ‘05 seasons?
DK: I am a firm believer in the two-back running game. I think as a fullback, along with the linemen, we make the two-back running game successful. In front of every good RB there is a fullback with a sore neck. Our offense was also built on spreading the field and spreading the ball, whether it was in the flats or through play action. I was able to give our high-powered offense one more option out of the backfield that defenders had to account for.
KW: With you and Stanley Havili both being lighter and more athletic fullbacks, do you think your style of play is better suited for this offense than say a bigger, bulkier, downhill hill type of fullback?
DK: I think the value of a fullback is sometimes mistaken. Lots of offenses will just stick a TE/LB or sometimes even a DE at the fullback spot and give him an assignment. I think the position deserves much more respect than that. In our offense, our fullbacks would line up out with the receivers, motion in, and run power, or motion out from the backfield and run a fade route, or run a slant or hitch.
I believe a fullback should be expected to beat linebackers in every route they run, create mismatches and make holes for the tailbacks. If you have a fullback that can beat a linebacker on a wheel route, your offense just opened up a whole world of opportunities. I don't think you can just stick anyone in the position and call them a fullback. A guy like Stanley that can do everything is invaluable -- you must have a guy like that on your team.
KW: Could you briefly explain what it was like getting that phone call by the Seattle Seahawks and what how it felt knowing that you were going to play football back home?
DK: It sounds cliché but it was a dream. Not just Seattle but to get a chance to play in the NFL. My career at SC didn’t start out on the fast track. I was on practice team for two years, guys were recruited to play over me, but I put my head down and worked, didn’t think beyond the next play, the next day, the next game. When the chance presented itself to play in the league, I couldn’t believe the opportunity was there. I had some amazing coaches along the way. Started with Coach [Kennedy] Pola[malu] then T-Mac [Todd McNair], these guys told me to play to my strengths and held me accountable to everything that wasn’t perfect. Great Men.
KW: From all of the years of playing ball, what were you able to take away and use in your life now that you are done playing?
DK: Sacrifice, to be great you have to sacrifice aspects of your life to get what you are striving for. A quote that SC sent me while recruiting me in HS was placed on my wall by my father and I will never forget it. “Don’t sacrifice what you want most, for what you want at the moment!”