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O/NSO: The USC Mount Rushmore series – The Centers

The Obvious: Of all the offensive positions in the O/NSO’s four-man Mount Rushmore Hall of Fame, the least conspicuous or least anticipated has to be our center position, but nothing happens until that position hikes the ball to begin the 11-on-11 predesigned action and reaction of both the offense and defense. Centers are like good umpires in baseball or skilled basketball referees; if you don’t notice them or talk about them, they’re doing their job. A bad snap, a bad line call, a missed block, and suddenly they get the unwanted attention usually reserved for a Heisman Trophy candidate.    

The Not So Obvious: In all likelihood, most USC Trojans fans would be hard-pressed to name four all-time centers, but there were a number of centers that did make a difference for their offense. Whether it was handling a monster nose tackle, cutting off a middle linebacker, or picking up a blitz, they got the job done.

First, the O/NSO would like to recognize some of those unknown soldiers that may not have made the four-man O/NSO Mount Rushmore center cut, but they’re certainly noteworthy: Nate Barragar, Stan Williamson, Lou Welsh, George Timberlake, Paul Johnson, Gary Bethel, Chris Foote, Norm Katnik, Kris O’Dowd, Khaled Holmes, Marcus Martin, and the late Max Tuerk.

Trojans fans won’t forget the play of former center Kris O’Dowd (photo above), who battled through injuries, but when healthy was pretty darn good. You might not recognize the youngster to the left in the photo, but it’s future Trojans center and snapper Jake Olson.

As usual, feel free to differ from our selections and inform us of your own selections on the Garry P. WeAreSC message board. A reminder, our selections are not ranked in order of greatness but as a group and not by what they accomplished after their playing days at USC.

The O/NSO presents our four centers for the O/NSO’s USC Football Mount Rushmore.

The Obvious: Dave Brown (1969-72) was a three-year starter at USC and became an All-Pac-8 center on the Trojans’ 1972 undefeated national championship team.

Dave Brown (photo above) was a real anchor at center for the 1972 national champions.

The Not So Obvious: Sometimes a center is more than just a physical presence but a spiritual leader, whose value can’t be measured solely by his stellar performance on the field of play.

Before the 1972 Trojans went on their historic national championship run, the 1971 Men of Troy were a modest 6-4-1. Senior Dave Brown (6-0, 229), a graduate of Los Angeles Eagle Rock High School, sensed his 1972 teammates needed more than just physical talent, and he organized a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. With the backing of the coaching staff, faith seemed to galvanize his teammates for their extraordinary run to a perfect 12-0 record and a national title.

Dave was obviously a standout center as illustrated by his first team All-Pac-8 honors that senior season, but his leadership skills were recognized by being named the Trojans 1972 Most Inspirational Player.

Following his USC career, Dave played two seasons in the World Football League and eventually became a head high school football coach in Oregon and then Southern California.

In 2008, Dave was elected into the Eagle Rock High School Sports Hall of Fame.

In the video below, the No. 1 Trojans played Ohio State in the 1973 Rose Bowl to seal a national championship. We pick up the action in the second half as the Trojans pull away, and you can watch center Dave Brown in action (No. 57).

The Obvious: Anthony Tyrone “Tony” Slaton (1980-1983) was a consensus 1983 first-team All-American.

No argument that Tony Slaton (photo above) is one of the greatest centers in USC football history.

The Not So Obvious: Tony Slaton (6-4, 260), the pride of Merced (Calif.) High, was a three-time All-Pac-10 performer, as well a consensus All-American. During his time at Troy, his teams combined for a 21-12-1 record. He was one of the Trojan’s team captains in 1983.

In 1983, Tony was voted USC’s Offensive Player of the Year. He played in the 1984 Hula and Japan Bowls. He was also a 1983 preseason Playboy All-American.   

Tony was drafted in the sixth round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. Although he did not make the team’s opening day roster, he eventually signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1985 and later in his career played for the Dallas Cowboys. 

In the video below, here is a documentary on Tony’s career at Merced (Calif.) High, USC, and the NFL. The documentary was shown when Tony was selected to the Merced Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Obvious: Brad Leggett (1987-1989), who was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, was part of three consecutive USC Rose Bowl teams (1988, 1989, 1990).

Brad Leggett (photo above) was part of three consecutive Rose Bowl teams in the late 1980s.

The Not So Obvious: After playing football at Fountain Valley (Calif.) High, Brad came to USC as an offensive tackle but was later moved to center.

In 1989, Brad (6-5, 270), who played under USC head coach Larry Smith, was named 1989 All-Pac-10 first team and was an All-American honorable mention. That season, he was also awarded the Elmer C. “Gloomy Gus” Award, which went to the player that played the greatest number of minutes during the season.

Brad was the center for two USC quarterback legends, Rodney Peete and Todd Marinovich.

As mentioned above, Brad played in three consecutive Rose Bowls. In the 1990 Rose Bowl Game, the Trojans beat Michigan, 17-10, in a game that saw the Trojans drive 75 yards in 11 plays with under six minutes remaining for the eventual winning score. The Trojans finished the season 9-2-1.

During his three seasons as a Trojans football player, Brad’s teams went a combined 27-8-1. In his junior season, the Trojans were undefeated only to lose to Notre Dame in the Coliseum in the last game of the regular season. That USC team finished 10-2.

Brad also played in the 1989 Senior Bowl, a showcase for top NFL prospects.

Upon the conclusion of his USC football career, Brad was originally an 8th round selection (219th overall pick) by the Denver Broncos in the 1990 NFL Draft. He eventually played for the New Orleans Saints (1990–1991, 1993) and the Detroit Lions (1992). His professional career ended due to back injuries.

Brad is the son of former NFL player and coach Earl Leggett, and they were the first father and son to play for the New Orleans Saints.

Below are two videos with Brad Leggett (No. 63): The first video is the 1989 Trojans overwhelming Ohio State in the Coliseum, and the second video is the exciting 1990 Rose Bowl Game and the dramatic finish with Brad at center.

The Obvious: Ryan Joseph Kalil (2003 -2006) is arguably the best center in the history of USC football and was a first-team All-American in 2006.

Ryan Kalil (photo above – No. 67) is all smiles after another big USC victory. Many believe Ryan is the greatest center in USC football history.

A two-time first team All-Pac-10 selection, Ryan was a member of the Trojans’ 2003 and 2004 national champions. The former Anaheim (Calif.) Servite High stud played in the 2005 Orange Bowl, and 2004, 2006, and 2007 Rose Bowl games. During his time at Troy, the Trojans had a record of 48-4.   

In 2006, Ryan (6-3, 285) was a finalist for the Rimington Award, given to the top center in the country, and he was also on the Watch List for the Outland Award for best college lineman.

In 2006, Ryan won the Morris Trophy, which is awarded to the conference’s best offensive lineman. No. 67 played in the Senior Bowl prior to the 2007 NFL Draft.

Ryan was selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft with the 59th pick by the Carolina Panthers. He was the first center selected in that draft. In 2007, Ryan started three games at center for the Panthers.

In his NFL career, Ryan was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was twice named first-team All-Pro. He played in Super Bowl 50.  

In the two videos below, Ryan Kalil does some interviewing on the Trojans lifting program when he was a USC player, and in the second video, watch Ryan (No. 67) in the 2007 Rose Bowl against Michigan.

The Obvious: And finally, you might not agree with our four selections at center, but at least we called attention to a position that doesn’t really get the attention it deserves.  

The Not So Obvious: Next Friday, we’ll complete our offensive selections and reveal our four-man tight ends selections for our Mount Rushmore.

Previous O/NSO USC Football Mount Rushmore position selections:

The head coach: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-football-mount-rushmore-series-edition-presenting-the-immortal-head-coaches/ 

The quarterbacks: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-quarterbacks/  

The running backs: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-tailbacks/  

The wide receivers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-wide-receviers/

The fullbacks: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-fullbacks/

The offensive tackles: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-offensive-tackles/

The offensive guards: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-offensive-guards/

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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