by Garry Paskwietz
When Steve Sarkisian gave early enrollee freshman Cameron Smith the jersey number 35, the inside linebacker from Granite Bay, California had no idea there was a tradition at USC associated with the number.
Most observers of Trojan football can tell you all about the legacy associated with the number 55 – a tradition of linebacker play that includes Junior Seau, Willie McGinest and Chris Claiborne – but the significance of No. 35 at the position is not as well known.
From the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s there was a stretch of USC inside linebackers that were similar in style and intensity, a group of tough, hard-nosed players who approached the position the same way. It began with Riki Gray (now Ellison) from 1978-82, and continued with Rex Moore (1984-87), Scott Ross (1987-90) and Jeff Kopp (1991-94).