15 min Read

O/NSO: The USC Mount Rushmore series – The Outside Linebackers

The Obvious: Because USC football has long been a successful football program with exceptional talent over the generations, most of the positions on the offensive and defensive sides of the line of scrimmage have been the proverbial embarrassment of riches, which applies to this week’s release of the O/NSO’s four-man Mount Rushmore of outside linebackers.  

The Not So Obvious: Picking this group took a combination of a lot of research and the O/NSO’s own memories of watching candidates from 1962 to the present. To be honest, it was a labor of love to recall so many great outside linebackers that have performed for the cardinal and gold.  

As we release our four-man O/NSO Mount Rushmore of outside linebackers, we’d like to recognize an exceptional group of outside linebackers who are not part of our “final four” but are definitely deserving of mention: Willie Hall, Duane Bickett, Brian Cushing, Marcus Cotton, Lawrence Jackson, Su’a Cravens, and Uchenna Nwosu.  

Duane Bickett (photo above) was one of the most athletic outside linebackers in USC football history..

Again, 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 now presents our four outside linebackers for the O/NSO’s USC Football Mount Rushmore.

The Obvious: William “Chip” Banks (1978-81)was a USC 1981 All-America outside linebacker.

Chip Banks (photo above) was a heralded prep linebacker from Augusta, Georgia, who more than lived up to the hype.

The Not So Obvious: Chip (6-5, 230) was a highly decorated prep recruit out of Laney High School in Augusta, Georgia. A Parade High School All-American, he was the eye of an intense recruiting battle in the South.

During Chip’s four-year Trojans’ career, his teams combined for a 40-6-2 record. He was a team captain on the 1981 Trojans.

The Georgia native was a two-time All-Pac-10 first team selection, who played in two Rose Bowls (1979 and 1980) and the 1982 Fiesta Bowl.

In his career, Chip recorded 365 tackles (33 for losses), 22 deflected passes, 8 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries and 1 touchdown.

In 1980, Chip was named USC’s Player of the Game against Notre Dame.

Chip Banks (photo above) was a super intense outside linebacker, who played with reckless abandon and showed it against Ohio State in the 1980 Rose Bowl Game.

In 1981, this Trojans outside linebacker was named a preseason Playboy Magazine All-American.  

Following his senior season, Chip was selected to play in the 1982 Hula Bowl.

Chip was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round (third overall pick) of the 1982 NFL Draft.  

In the two videos below, Chip Banks (No. 51) helps lead the 1981Trojans to victories over (1) Oklahoma and (2) UCLA.

The Obvious: Jack Louis Del Rio Jr. (1981-84) was a 1984 USC All-America outside linebacker.

Outside linebacker Jack Del Rio (photo above) was a tremendous combination of physical and mental abilities.

The Not So Obvious: Jack (6-4, 235) was recruited out of Hayward (Calif.) High, where he was a three-sport star in football, basketball, and baseball.  

Jack’s four football teams at USC were a combined 30-15-1.

During his four-season Trojans career, Jack appeared in the 1985 Rose Bowl Game, where he was named the game’s Co-MVP. He also played in the 1982 Fiesta Bowl.  

In his career, Jack recorded 340 tackles (58 for losses), 7 pass deflections, 5 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception.

After the 1983 season, Jack, who also played on the USC baseball team as a catcher, was named USC’s Defensive Player of the Year.  

Prior to both the 1983 and 1984 seasons, Jack was named to the Playboy Preseason All-America team.

After the 1984 season, the former Hayward native was named a runnerup for the prestigious Lombardi Award.  

During his playing time at Troy, no outside linebacker was more feared than Jack Del Rio (photo above).

Following the 1984 season, Jack played in the 1984 East-West Shrine Game and in 1985 competed in the Japan Bowl.  

At the conclusion of his USC career, Jack was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the 1985 NFL Draft.

In 2015, Jack Del Rio was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.

In the first video below, Jack Del Rio (No. 52) helps lead the Trojans to a dramatic 20-17 victory over Ohio State, and the second video is a press conference for Jack’s induction into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Obvious: Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau Jr. (1988-89) was a consensus 1989 All-America outside linebacker.

One of the legendary football players in USC annals was relentless outside linebacker Junior Seau (photo above).

The Not So Obvious: Junior (6-3, 245) arrived at Troy from Oceanside (Calif.) High, where he was a prep legend.  

During his two-year USC career, Junior’s Trojans teams were a combined 37-10-1, and he played in two Rose Bowls (1989-1990).

In 1989, Junior was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as well as a first team All-Pac-10 selection.  

For his Trojans career, Junior accounted for 107 tackles (33 for losses), 14 deflections, 2 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception.

Junior Seau (photo above) remains a nationally recognized USC football icon, who was an All-American in every sense of the word and was the force behind No. 55 becoming a legendary defensive jersey number..

Not only a team captain in 1989, Junior was also the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year, as well as USC’s Most Valuable Player.

Deciding to leave USC early, Junior was selected in the first round (third pick) by the San Diego Chargers in the 1990 NFL Draft. During his NFL career, he played in two Super Bowls (XXIX and XL11).

In 2009, Junior was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.

In 2015, Junior was selected to the All-Pac-12 All-Century Team and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In the two videos below, Junior Seau (No. 55) helps the Trojans to a 17-10 victory over Michigan in the 1990 Rose Bowl Game, and the second video is a USC Athletic Department tribute to Junior after his unexpected passing at the age of 43 years-old.

The Obvious: Matthew Arthur “Matt” Grootegoed (2001-04)was a 2004 consensus All-American outside linebacker and was a member of two USC National Championship teams (2003 and 2004).

Despite being undersized, All-America outside linebacker Matt Grootegoed (photo above) is deservedly recognized by the O/NSO as one of USC’s all-time greats.

The Not So Obvious: Matt (5-11, 215), was a consensus Prep All-America product out of Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High, where he also played running back and some quarterback. Matt is arguably the greatest high school football player in the history of Orange County (Calif.).

During his four seasons at USC, Matt’s USC teams were a combined 42-9.

Despite his relatively small size for a linebacker, Matt was still a two-time All-Pac-10 selection (2002 and 2004). This USC great was a 2004 Butkus Award finalist and USC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2004, Matt was named a USC team captain.  

In his four-season career, Matt accounted for 222 tackles (41 tackles for losses), 11 deflections, 6 interceptions, and 5 fumble recoveries.

With tremendous passion for the game and the physical ability to tackle like a man twice his size, few Trojans defensive players could separate the football from a ball carrier than Matt Grootegoed (photo above).

While at Troy, No. 6 appeared in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl, 2003 Orange Bowl, 2004 Rose Bowl, and 2005 Orange Bowl.

Following his USC career, Matt played in the 2005 Hula Bowl.

Once his USC career was over, Matt played briefly in the NFL (Detroit Lions) and Canadian Football League.

The two videos below show Matt (No. 6) in the 2005 Orange Bowl, and the second video is a tribute to Matt’s legendary game as a blue-chip recruit at Mater Dei High.

The Obvious: And finally, selecting a four-man Mount Rushmore for the outside linebacker positions was a labor of love. Obviously, a number of nominees could have replaced those the O/NSO selected. But again, the outside linebackers we named certainly deserved to be on our Mount Rushmore.  

The Not So Obvious: Next Friday, we’ll release our four-man Mount Rushmore safeties, and that is certainly thought provoking.

Below are the 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/

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

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

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

The standup defensive ends: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-standup-defensive-ends/

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

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.

More Articles By Greg