ESPNZONE Event featuring USC and Stanford legends


USC and Stanford legends Chris Claiborne (USC), Toi Cook (Stanford), Darrin Nelson (Stanford), and Dennis Smith (USC) will be in LA on Thursday night, Oct. 27th, giving their thoughts and previewing the big game between the two schools from 6:30 to 7:30 at ESPN ZONE at L.A. Live.

The event will preview the upcoming USC-Stanford matchup with former football legends from both teams going back and forth. Focus will be on highlighting a few of the game’s top storylines, discussing the standout players for both sides, offering predictions, and taking questions from the fans. The panel will also be discussing the changing landscape of the Pac-12 and NCAA football conference structure. Wrapping things up will be final score predictions from each guest.

Be sure to check it out!

About the players:

Chris Claiborne

Chris was a first-team All-American who played middle linebacker at the University of Southern California.  As a junior in 1998, Chris was USC’s first recipient of the Butkus Award, given to the top linebacker in college football.   In that same year he was selected as Football News’ National Defensive Player of the Year and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 1998 as he led USC in tackles (120), pass deflections (16) and interceptions (6).  In Caiborne’s three years as a starter he posted 312 tackles, 27 which were for a loss.  Chris made his debut in the NFL with the Detroit Lions in 1999 and also played with the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, and New York Giants.


During Clairborne’s career with USC, he played Stanford three times and USC won 2/3 of the games.  In 1996, Chris recorded 8 tackeles, 2 which resulted in loss of yards but USC lost 24-20. In 1997, he had 8 tackles and a fumble recovery to help lead USC to a win, 45-21.  In 1998, Claiborne had 6 tackles as USC won the game 34-9.


Dennis Smith

Smith was an All-American safety his senior year in 1980 and was inducted into the USC Ring of Fame in 2001.  In his four year college career, Dennis posted 205 tackles and 16 interceptions and was a member of the 1978 USC team the won the national championship.    Smith played for the Denver Broncos from 1981-1994 and was a 6x Pro-Bowl selection, 4x All-Pro, and played on three Broncos Super Bowl teams.



Smith played three games against Stanford, two which USC won and one game where they ended tied.  In 1978, he recorded 6 tackles in a winning effort for the Trojans, 13-7.  In 1979 he had 4 tackles and the game ended in a lock, 21-21.  In 1980, Smith had 7 tackles and 1 interception as USC rolled to a 34-9 victory.

Toi Cook

Cook was DB for Stanford from 1984-1986 and was named to Stanford’s All-Century Team In 1986 he recorded 7 interceptions for 115 yards for the Cardinal. In addition to football, Toi also was an outfielder on Stanford’s 1987 College World Series champion baseball team.  Cook played 11 NFL seasons (1987-1997) and appeared in Super Bowl XXIX as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. In 1992, he had a career high 6 interceptions for 90 yards and one touchdown for the Saints.


In 1984, the Cardinal fell to the Trojans 20-11. In 1985, he recorded the second-most team tackles (5) in a 30-6 loss to USC. In 1986, he helped the defense hold the Trojans to just 10 points, but the Cardinal were shut out in a 10-0 loss.

Darrin Nelson

Darrin was a one of the most prolific running backs of his time, was a four- time All-Pac-10 selection and a First-Team All-American in 1981.  Nelson set, and still holds, many records for the Cardinal football program including career touchdowns (40) and career rushing yards (4,033).  He became the first player in NCAA history to rush for over 1,000 yards and catch 50 passes in a season, which he did three years of his collegiate career for the Cardinal.  Darrin had a very successful 11 years in the NFL playing for Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Chargers. He is currently the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Program Services at Stanford.


In 1977, he rushed 9 times for 22 yards and caught 3 passes for 19 yards in a 49-0 USC rout. In 1978, he rushed 10 times for 27 yards and had 4 catches for 40 yards in a 13-7 USC victory.

In 1980, he had 6 carries for 21 yards and 4 receptions for 12 yards in a 34-9 USC win.

In 1981, his best of the four matchups, he carried 14 times for 74 yards and had 4 grabs for 25 yards in a 25-17 USC win.