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O/NSO: The USC Mount Rushmore series – The Wide Receviers

The Obvious: There was a time in USC football history that when you mentioned the Trojans, you immediately thought of Tailback U., a time period where the Men of Troy churned out all-star tailbacks like McDonald’s turns out hamburgers. Well, times have changed, and the Trojans are now producing quarterbacks like they once produced tailbacks. However, while the Trojans in this century have been synonymous with future NFL throwers, those signal-callers have also had an array of glorious all-star receivers to enhance their fame.   

The Not So Obvious: It’s not like the Trojans haven’t had great receivers in the past, but these last 20 years have put the previous generations of split ends on notice. Picking the O/NSO’s Mount Rushmore of receivers was a dicey issue. Picking just four was more than a challenge. Times have changed at Troy from a once powerful running offense to today’s wide-open passing attack. When you leave off All-Americans like Lynn Swann, Johnny Morton, Erik Affholter, Curtis Conway, and more recently the likes of a Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Nelson Aghlor, and Robert Woods, you know the competition is mindblowing. Nonetheless, picking just four receivers for our Mount Rushmore of receivers was a dirty business, but somebody had to do it.                         

As always, feel free to dissent from our selections and tell us 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.

So, let’s now continue with our four wide receivers for the O/NSO’s USC football Mount Rushmore.

The Obvious: Harold Jay “Hal” Bedsole (1961-63), a transfer from Pierce Community College, Bedsole was USC’s first big wide receiver, measuring 6-feet-5, 221 pounds.   

The Not So Obvious: Bedsole – who actually arrived from junior college as a quarterback but begrudgingly converted to a wide receiver by head coach John McKay – helped lead the Men of Troy in 1962 to McKay’s first of four national championship. Hal was a two-time, first-team All-AAWU Conference selection, and the first Trojan to have 200 receiving yards in a single game.

The first really big receiver for the Trojans was late All-American Hal Bedsole (photo above).

Bedsole, a graduate of Reseda (Calif.) High who was the 1959 Los Angeles City Player of the Year, caught 82 passes for 1,717 yards and 20 touchdowns from 1961-63 as a Trojan, all school records at the time. Bedsole’s 20.9 career average per reception remains a school record (minimum 30 catches).

Nicknamed “Prince Hal” because of his self-assured, outspoken ways, Bedsole led the Trojans in receiving and scoring in 1961 (27 catches, 38 points) and 1962 (33 catches, 68 points). He was the first Trojan to have 200 receiving yards in a game (201 yards against California in 1962, a school record that stood for 21 years).

Bedsole, who wore No. 19, was drafted and played for the Minnesota Vikings between 1964 and 1966. After his football career ended due to knee injuries, Hal worked in sales and marketing at KNX-FM, a groundbreaking soft rock radio station in Los Angeles.

Bedsole is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame (2012) and the USC Athletic Hall of Fame (2001).  

Below are two videos of Hal Bedsole. In the first video, Hal explains at the College Football Hall of Fame his dream of being a USC quarterback instead of a wide receiver, and the second video showcases Bedsole (No.19) with a big second half catch-and-run touchdown score in the 1963 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.  

The Obvious: Joseph Keyshawn Johnson (1995-1996) dream was to play college football for the University of Southern California Trojans, a dream that started very young and culminated in a storybook ending in Pasadena. A personality larger than life, Johnson had an incredible will to win and finished his career as a man among boys.

The Not So Obvious: After playing football for two years at West Los Angeles Community College, the former USC ball boy transferred to Troy, where he played for head coach John Robinson in 1994 and 1995. In 1994, “Key” finished with 66 catches for 1,362 yards and 9 touchdowns. In 1995, he finished with 102 catches for 1,434 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Once a Trojans football ball boy, Keyshawn Johnson (photo above) grew up to become one of the Cardinal and Gold’s best-receivers ever.

As a Trojan, Johnson (6-4, 210) was twice recognized as a consensus first-team All-America selection. After the 1994 season, No. 3 helped lead the Trojans to a big win in the 1995 Cotton Bowl Classic, where he was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

In his final season as a Trojan, Keyshawn played in the 1996 Rose Bowl Game, where he  caught 12 passes for a Rose Bowl record 216 yards and one touchdown in the Trojans’ 41–32 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats. He was named the Rose Bowl Player of the Game.

After his playing days at USC, the New York Jets drafted Johnson with the top overall selection in the 1996 NFL Draft. After his NFL days, the gregarious Johnson became a popular media voice in both radio and television.

Key was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2008 and was named to the Pac-12 All-Century team in 2015.

Below is a Keyshawn Johnson Cotton Bowl highlights video:

The Obvious: Mike Williams (2002-03) was an extraordinary talent who was unstoppable as yet another big wide receiver (6-5, 230), who combined size, strength, toughness, and underrated speed to become one of Troy’s all-time greats.

Because of his size, strength, and intensity, Mike Williams (photo above) was unstoppable at the collegiate level. Although he played just two seasons before turning pro, he still warrants being on the O/NSO Mount Rushmore.

The Not So Obvious: Recruited out of Tampa, Florida, Mike Williams played for Trojans head coach Pete Carroll. Before attending USC, Williams was offered scholarships to Florida State and Florida, but neither school saw him as a wide receiver. Mike played wide receiver during most of his games for USC. Williams played in all 26 games during his freshman and sophomore years at Troy, starting 15 of those games. For the record, he wore jersey No. 1.

His freshman USC season, Mike had 81 receptions for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns. These statistics are all USC and Pac-10 Conference freshman records. Mike was a first-team Freshman All-American selection by The Sporting News and Scripps/Football Writers. Selected as the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Williams was also named to the All-Pac-10 second team, All-American honorable mention, The Sporting News Freshman All-Pac-10 first team, and The Sporting News All-Pac-10 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.

In his final season as a sophomore, Big Mike started all 13 games at wide receiver and led the Trojans in receiving yards and touchdowns, which resulted in 95 catches leading to 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns. Williams was a finalist for the 2003 Biletnikoff Award (nation’s top receiver) while finishing eighth in Heisman Trophy voting. He also earned first-team All-American and was also a 2003 All-Pac-10 First Team selection.

In his final season at Troy, Mike also completed two pass attempts for 38 yards and one touchdown against Michigan in the Rose Bowl and blocked a field goal.

Williams stunned the Trojans community when he announced he was entering the NFL draft after his sophomore season, showing distain for the legal ruling that only juniors were eligible for the NFL draft. The courts came to a decision regarding another sophomore, Ohio State running back Maruice Clarett, who wanted to play after his sophomore season. The courts agreed with Clarett, who was cleared to be eligible for the NFL draft.

To make a long story short, Williams, having completed his sophomore year and only two years removed from high school, made the decision to declare for the 2004 NFL Draft as well after hearing the federal judge’s ruling. Williams hired an agent and moved forward presenting himself as a legitimate first round pick. By declaring his intent to enter the draft, hiring an agent to represent his interests, and filing the NFL paperwork necessary to enter the draft, he made himself ineligible for NCAA reinstatement.

Before the 2004 NFL Draft, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the Federal Judge’s decision allowing Clarett to enter the Draft. Additionally, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a final appeal. Clarett and Williams were both ineligible for the 2004 NFL Draft.

As Williams was ineligible for NCAA reinstatement, he was required to sit out the entire 2004 football season and was not allowed to practice with the Trojans, as well.

Despite sitting out an entire season, Williams was still selected 10th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. After a brief NFL career, Mike has turned to high school and middle school coaching back in Tampa.

The Obvious: Marqise Lee (2011-13) was a magnificent athlete, who became one of the Trojans most electrifying receivers in school history.

When you talk about great athletes that have played football at USC, it’s hard to argue that wide receiver Marqise Lee (photo above) isn’t in the mix of conversation.

The Not So Obvious: As a true freshman in 2011, Marqise (6-0, 195) earned a starting job at wide receiver across from his former high school teammate Robert Woods. Marqise finished the season with 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns but due to sanctions, the 10-2 Trojans were prohibited from playing in either the inaugural Pac-12 Conference Championship Game or a bowl game. Lee, however, was named the 2011 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Co-Player of the Year and was chosen for All-Pac-12 second team.

In the 2012 season, Lee, who attended Gardena (Calif.) Serra High, set the Pac-12 Conference record for receiving yards in a game with 16 receptions for 345 yards and two touchdowns. The next week, Marqise had 251 return yards against Oregon, setting another conference record. He finished the season with 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns and was named the 2012 Pac-12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Marqise won the 2012 Fred Biletnikoff Award as the top wide receiver in the nation, becoming the first Trojan to win the award. Needless to say, he was also a unanimous All-American.

As a junior in 2013, Lee played in 11 games, recording 57 receptions for 791 yards and four touchdowns.

On January 3, 2014, Marqise Lee announced his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. During his three-year career with the Trojans, No. 9 had 248 receptions for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Deciding to leave school early and become a professional football player, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Lee in the second round (39th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Marqise remains in the NFL, now playing for the New England Patriots.

Below are Marqise Lee highlights:

The Obvious: And finally, no doubt there will be much conversation and debate, and the O/NSO can already hear many of you making a case for a different Mount Rushmore setting of four wide receivers.  

The Not So Obvious: Moving on to next Friday, the O/NSO will announce our four-man Mount Rushmore of fullbacks.

Past O/NSO USC Football Mount Rushmore 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/  

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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