15 min Read

O/NSO: The USC Mount Rushmore series – The Tight Ends

The Obvious: If you look at all the national championship teams in the glorious history of USC football, they all seem to have a common bond – great tight ends. Even those teams that didn’t quite elevate to the national title level but were conference champions had that elite talent at the tight end position. Selecting a four-man tight end grouping for the O/NSO Mount Rushmore was a reminder of the type of TE talent that has walked the campus.   

The Not So Obvious: Maybe it just seems that the great USC tight ends are a thing of the past because the Trojans either haven’t recruited well enough or the style of play doesn’t warrant a tight end. Maybe that will change in 2020 – if there is a 2020, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the history of USC tight ends, which should be a benchmark for future offenses.

The O/NSO would like to call attention to those talented tight ends from yesteryear that didn’t quite reach our Mount Rushmore level but were outstanding in their own right. Let’s pause of a moment of reflection for the following: John Allred, Mark Boyer, Hoby Brenner, Dominique Byrd, Fred Cornwell, Rhett Ellison, Scott Galbraith, Paul Green, Xavier Grimble, Alex Holmes, James Hunter, Anthony McCoy, Erik McKee, Bob Miller, Dave Moton, Anthony McCoy, Jim Oradovich, and Randall Telfer.

Former Trojan Scott Galbraith (photo above) is from a long line of outstanding USC tight ends that have made their mark over the years..

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 now presents our four tight ends for the O/NSO’s USC Football Mount Rushmore.

The Obvious: Marlin Thomas McKeever (1958-1960) was a two-time All-America tight end.

Marlin McKeever (photo above) was a two-time All- America tight end, who started three seasons for the Trojans.

The Not So Obvious: Marlin McKeever (6-1, 230) was probably as physical a tight end that has played at USC. He arrived at Troy after a great high school career at Los Angeles Mount Carmel.

A three-year letterman, not only was Marlin a two-time All-American but a three-year AAWU All-Conference first team performer (1958-60). Playing in basically a running offense, he still managed to make his presence felt.

As a junior in 1959, Marlin led the Trojans in receiving with nine catches and led the team in receptions.

As a senior in 1960, Marlin had 16 receptions for 218 yards (14.5 avg.) and a touchdown. To show his career versatility, he also led the Trojans in punting in 1958 and 1960. Marlin averaged 36.4 per punt.

For his playing career in cardinal and gold, Marlin had 30 receptions for 430 yards (14.3 avg.) and two touchdowns.

During Marlin’s career, his Trojans teams were 16-13-1, which made his individual honors even more impressive. Also impressive was the fact that Marlin was a 1959 Academic All-American first teamer.

In 1960, Marlin was selected the Trojans Lineman of the Year. That same season, he was named the Player of the Game against UCLA. Following his USC career, he also played in the 1960 East-West Shrine Game and 1961 College All-Star Game and Hula Bowl.

Marlin and his twin brother, Mike, have the honor of being the first USC football players to be named to the Playboy Preseason All-American team (1960). FYI, Mike, was also a 1959 post-season All-American linebacker.

Following his USC career, Marlin was selected in the first round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams and also by the AFL Chargers in the third round. Marlin chose to play for the Rams.

In 1995, Marlin McKeever, who was also on the 1959 USC track team (shot put and discus) was inducted into the USC Trojans Athletic Hall of Fame.

Below is a video of Marlin (No. 86) helping upset UCLA in the 1960 rivalry game, where he was later selected the Trojans Player of the Game against the Bruins.

The Obvious: Robert Owen “Bob” Klein (1966-68) was a 1968 All-Pac-8 selection, an outstanding combination of blocker and pass receiver.  

After a standout career with the Trojans, tight end Bob Klein (photo above) had a great career in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Not So Obvious: Bob (6-5, 238), who came to the Trojans via Santa Monica (Calif.) St. Monica’s High, was a three-year starting tight end and was a major contributor as a junior for coach John McKay’s second national championship team, which was basically a ground-oriented club.

During Bob’s three seasons in cardinal and gold, the Trojans’ record was 26-6-1.

In his 1966 sophomore season for the Trojans, Bob had 12 receptions for 179 yards (14.9 avg.) and one touchdown.

During his junior season with the 1967 national champions, Bob had seven receptions for 66 yards (9.4 avg.) and two touchdowns, but his primary duty was to block for All-America tailback O.J. Simpson.

In his 1968 senior season, Bob had 23 receptions for 237 yards (10.3 avg.), and 2 touchdowns.

For his career, Bob finished with 42 receptions for 482 yards (11.5 avg.), and 5 touchdowns.  

Bob played in three Rose Bowl games (1967,68,69), which included a 14-3 victory over Indiana in the 1968 Rose Bowl Game, which gave the Trojans their sixth national championship.  

A little known fact is that while at USC, Bob played four sports: football, basketball, track, and rugby. 

Bob Klein (photo above on left) also played on the 1965 USC freshmen basketball team. The above photo shows Bob chasing a loose ball with UCLA center Lew Alcindor (photo above on right), who became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Following his USC career, Bob was drafted 21st overall in the 1969 NFL draft by the hometown Los Angeles Rams.

In the NFL, Bob’s receptions numbers increased impressively. He was later honored as the tight end on the Los Angeles Rams 40th Anniversary Team.  

In the video below, here is the first half of the 1968 Rose Bowl Game with Bob Klein (No. 84) helping lead the blocking for O.J. Simpson.

The Obvious: Charles Edward Young (1970-1972) was a consensus 1972 first-team All-American and the starting tight end on the 1972 USC National Champions.

Charles Young (photo above) is considered by many the greatest tight end in the glorious history of USC football.

The Not So Obvious: An elite athlete out of Fresno (Calif.) Edison High, many regard Charles Young (6-4, 235) as the greatest combination of pass catching and run blocking in the history of USC football. So tall, graceful, and powerful, he earned the nickname “Tree” during his cardinal and gold career.

During his time at Troy, the Cardinal and Gold had a record of 24-8-2.

In 1972, the Trojans were both National and Pac-8 Champions.

In the 1973 Rose Bowl Game, the Trojans earned their seventh national championship by crushing No. 3 Ohio State 42-17.

A 1972 unanimous first-team All-American, Charles also appeared in the post-season Hula Bowl and College All-Star Game. The “Tree” was named USC’s Lineman of the Year in 1972, and he set a school record for receptions by a tight end with 62.

In three seasons, Charles had a career 68 receptions for 1090 yards (16.1 avg.) and 10 touchdowns. During his 1972 senior season, he had 29 receptions for 470 yards (16.2 avg.) and three touchdowns.

Following graduation, Charles was a first round/6th pick in the 1973 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1973. He went on to play for 13 seasons in the NFL with four different teams. Charles played in the Pro Bowl in 1973, 1974 and 1975, and he played in Super Bowl XIV with the Los Angeles Rams in 1979 and won Super Bowl XVI with the San Francisco 49’ers in 1981.

In 2004, Charles was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

In 2007, Charles was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2015 was named to the Pac-12 All-Century Team.

In the first video below, go to 35:55 on the counter for an interview with head coach John McKay speaking about his 1972 National Champions, which included Charles Young (No. 89), who speaks and is shown in action. In the second video, we see Charles in the 1973 Rose Bowl Game against Ohio State. At the end of the video, the Trojans introduce themselves, and you can see Charles up close and verbally.  

The Obvious: Frederick Martin “Fred” Davis (2004 -2007) was a first-team USC All-American tight end and the Trojans only winner of the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s best tight end.

Tight end Fred Davis (photo above) is the only Trojans to be named a Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end.

The Not So Obvious: Fred (6-4, 250), from Toledo (Ohio) Rogers High, was a prized out-of-state recruit during the Pete Carroll era.  

During his four seasons at USC, Fred’s teams went 47-5.

During his 2004 freshman year, Fred contributed as a reserve with another USC National Championship team, playing in nine games.

In his 2005 sophomore season, Fred caught 13 passes in 13 games for 146 yards (11.2 avg.), including two receptions in the Rose Bowl.

During his 2006 junior season, Fred started ten games and caught 38 passes for 352 yards (9.3 avg.) and three touchdowns.

In his 2007 senior regular season, Fred had a breakout year with 62 receptions for 881 yards (14.2 avg.) and eight touchdowns, including a long gain of 63 yards.

Fred’s standout senior season resulted in being selected to the All-Pac-10 Conference first team by league coaches and became the first USC player to win the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end. Besides being named a 2007 All-American, he was also the Trojans’ Co-MVP.

Fred played in the 2005 Orange Bowl and the 2006, 2007, and the 2008 Rose Bowls. After the 2007 season, he also played in the 2008 Senior Bowl.

Following his playing days at Troy, Fred was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

In the video below, Fred Davis (No. 83) performs in the 2008 Rose Bowl Game. It’s a game that Fred considers his best as a Trojan.

The Obvious: And finally, you might not agree with our four selections at tight end, but that isn’t a bad thing given the large amount of tight end candidates to draw from.  

The Not So Obvious: Next Friday, we’ll begin our look at the O/NSO defensive Mount Rushmore, and we’ll begin with those nasty defensive tackles.

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/

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