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Former Trojans players transition to cardinal and gold assistants

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

LOS ANGELES – During the hiring process of his 2016 staff, there was some nervousness and handwringing that first-year USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton might not have a former cardinal and gold football player on his staff.

However, when Helton finally put the finishing touches on his staff, former Trojans All-America defensive end Kenechi Udeze (photo above) and former member of the 2003 national champions was named the new defensive line coach.

For a segment of the Trojans fan population and football alumni, there was a sense of great relief that a former player would be able to pass on the tradition to the 2016 Trojans of what it means to be a USC football player.

Aside from Udeze, here are 10 other notable former Trojans players than were able to transition to coaching for their alma mater. Their coaching years with the Men of Troy are in parenthesis.

C Jeff Cravath (1924-26): A three-year letterman center and captain of the 1926 Trojans, Cravath, who would eventually become the Trojans head football coach for nine seasons (1952-50), returned to his alma mater as an assistant in 1933 and remained an assistant until 1940. He was on staffs that led the Trojans to the 1928 and 1939 national championships.

C/LB Marv Goux (1957-82): Probably the greatest assistant coach and player combination in USC football history. Goux was a three starter (1952, 1954-55) and was twice named team’s most inspirational player. Goux was a Trojans assistant for 26 years (1957-82) and during his time produced legendary defensive lines like the 1969 Wild Bunch. He also mentored 11 All-Americans including the likes of George Achica, Gary Jeter, John Grant, Charlie Weaver, Jimmy Gunn, Tim Rossovich, Damon Bane, Ron Mix, and the late Mike McKeever.

TB/WR/DB Willie Brown (1968-75): Brown was the Trojans original I-formation tailback, three-year letterman, and a two-time All-Conference first team performer (1962-63). One of the Trojans first Afro-American assistants, he was an assistant under his college coach, the legendary John McKay, for eight seasons (1968-75), which included being a part of the 1972 and 1974 national champions.

OC Hudson Houck (1976-82): Arguably the greatest offensive line coach in USC history and one of the best ever. A former reserve center for John McKay’s 1962 national champions, Houck coached Trojans offensive linemen to three Rose Bowls and the 1978 national championship.  He is credited with developing NFL Hall of Fame mainstays Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews and such dominating linemen as College Football Fall of Famers Marvin Powell, Brad Budde (the 1979 Lombardi Award winner), and Pat Howell.

QB Craig Fertig (1965-73, 1975): As a USC quarterback in the early 60s, Fertig will be forever know as the 1964 quarterback who threw a 15-yard winning touchdown pass to Rod Sherman in the last final two minutes to upset previously undefeated and top-ranked Notre Dame, 17-14. He was a member of USC’s 1962 national championship team. Fertig served as a Trojan assistant coach to John McKay from 1965 to 1973, as USC won two national titles (1972 and 1974) and made six Rose Bowl appearances.

LB/S Sammy Knight (2010-11): An intense competitor, Knight lettered all four years at USC. In his senior year, he received All-Pac 10 honors and was the team’s MVP and co-captain. In 2010 he returned as a grad assistant for former Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin. Knight was the Trojans secondary coach working with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffen and received high marks from the players he mentored.

FB Kennedy Polamalu (2000-03, 2010-12): A former tough USC fullback who was a main blocking cog for those tailback oriented offenses of John Robinson and Larry Smith, Polamalu blocked and ran with authority. He was part of two separate assistant coaching stints at USC. Among the players he tutored at USC were Justin Fargas, Malaefou MacKenzie, LenDale White, Reggie Bush, Allen Bradford, and Curtis McNeal.

CB Kris Richard (2008-09): Richard lettered four years (1998-2001) at Troy, starting his final three seasons. Richard became a valuable graduate assistant coach at his alma mater and had a hand in the development in All-America safety Taylor Mays, safety Kevin Ellison who made his second consecutive All-Pac-10 first team, and NFL cornerback draft pick Cary Harris. On a side note, Richard is currently the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.

DB Dennis Thurman (1993-2000): A two-time Trojans All-America safety (consensus in 1976 and unanimous in 1977), his Trojans teams went 37-10-1 in his playing career. He coached defensive backs during his coaching days at Troy and produced such standouts as safety David Gibson, corner Daylon McCutcheon, and safety Rashard Cook, all named All-Pac-10 first team.

TB Charles White (1993-97): USC’s third Heisman Trophy winner, nobody argues that he is one of the greatest tailbacks in Trojans history. An intense, hard-nose player who was a unanimous two-time All-America selection. Upon his return to USC as an assistant coach for head coach John Robinson, Robinson said, “Somehow, I always feel better with Charlie White standing next to me. He was the toughest, most intense running back I’ve ever coached.”

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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