LOS ANGELES -- An estimated 3,000 cardinal-and-gold faithful convened at Cromwell Field for Salute To Troy, a dinner and program that introduced the 2012 USC football team, paid tribute to the 1962 national champions and 1987 team, and saluted the Trojans national championship men’s water polo and tennis teams.
The evening began with fans lining up for player autographs and pictures with the USC Song Girls and Traveler, the Trojans' famed white horse. Obviously a major attraction was getting an autograph and picture with Trojans starting quarterback Matt Barkley, who was flanked by security. The line to get Barkley’s autograph, along with wide receiver Robert Woods, safety T.J. McDonald and tailback Silas Redd, seemed to stretch forever.
Dr. Art Bartner’s full Trojans Marching Band provided traditional Trojans music throughout the program, which began with an opening introduction by USC president Max Nikias, who asked for a moment of silence on the day’s passing of astronaut Neil Armstrong, a Trojans alumnus who was the first man to walk on the moon and whose picture hangs inside the new John McKay Center.
Nikias then welcomed athletic director Pat Haden to the podium, and Haden, the former Trojans quarterback, treated fans with some his famed dry humor. Flanked by his grandchildren, Will and Ben, Haden then introduced the Trojans national championship men’s water polo and tennis teams.
After recognizing former Trojans head football coach John Robinson for receiving the Marv Goux Award and announcing that Trojans punter Kyle Negrete was the recipient of the John Wayne Award that translated into a $10,000 grant, Haden turned his attention to Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin.
Haden threw out a zinger at Kiffin by reminding the Trojans third-year head coach, “We’re all about winning national championships, Lane.” The comment drew a large response of laughter from the audience.
In his assessment of the 2012 Trojans football team, Haden said this team had a chance to be very special, had a superior coaching staff and a great play-caller in Kiffin, and exceptional team leadership.
The 1962 national championships team was then introduced, and there was a fine turnout of players. Some of the notables included quarterback Bill Nelsen, Hall of Fame receiver Hal Bedsole, lineman Bill Fisk and tailback Willie Brown. Bedsole spoke on behalf of the team and gave a brief thank you.
The 1987 team was very limited in numbers and was represented by the likes of linebacker Keith Davis, quarterback Shane Foley, lineman Mark Sager, and running back Ryan Knight. Davis represented the 1987 club at the podium.
Haden then turned the podium over to Kiffin, who was dressed in an impressive suit and tie. Kiffin thanked the fans, mentioned that this year’s team had the highest grade point average of the past 12 years, and then introduced each position coach to speak about his unit.
Highlights of the position coaches included defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, speaking his in his deep and intimidating Louisiana drawl, that his unit would perform at a high level or else. Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu referred to fullback Soma Vainuku as “The Tongan Tank” and promised the offense would “score a lot of points” this season.
Offensive line coach James Cregg commented that starting left offensive tackle Aundrey Walker had slimmed down so much that he could wear a pinstripe suit. Secondary coach Marvin Sanders revealed that he had coached at a lot of places, but nothing compared to coaching at USC.
The program concluded with the announcement of the Trojans 2012 captains. To the surprise of few, the four captains named were Barkley -- the Trojans' first-ever three-time captain -- McDonald, cornerback Nickell Robey and center Khaled Holmes, who spoke on behalf of the team and called the captain honor the highlight of his life.
Following the naming of the captains, the Trojans Marching Band struck up “Conquest” and fireworks exploded for several minutes before fans headed out into the comfortable Southern California night.