Reign of Troy honors Black History Month: Mike Garrett


Feb 17, 2008; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans athletic director Mike Garrett during the game against the UCLA Bruins at the Galen Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Continuing on with our Tribute to Black History Month, this next Trojan makes the list because he set a number of unprecedented records for his time, he ushered in the ear of “Tailback U” at USC and—most importantly—he was USC’s very first Heisman Trophy winner: of course, we are talking about former AD Mike Garrett.

Garrett was a two time All-American and during his tenure with the Trojans, he set a variety of USC, Pac-8 AND NCAA records by racking up 3,221 yards and 30 touchdowns, something that just didn’t happen in the 1960s. In 1965, he led the nation with 267 carries for 1,440 yards; he also caught 36 passes, returned 43 punts and 30 passes, and even tested out his arm by throwing six passes himself. Needless to say, Garrett was an all-purpose athlete in a time when most football players didn’t stray too far from a given position. At the end of the ’65 season, Garrett received the W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy, given to the most outstanding player on the West Coast. The only thing that could possibly top winning that would be to win the Heisman in the same year, and Garrett did just that.

So, not only was Mike Garrett the best Trojan of that year, but the best player on the ENTIRE West Coast. But did we honestly expect anything less?

In 1985 Garrett was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

After his years with Trojan Nation, Garrett went on to be a star in the American Football league (the precursor to the NFL). He played for the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers, and was a two time AFL All-Star in 1966 and ’67. He played in the first ever AFL-NFL World Championship (aka Super Bowl I) with the Chiefs. They would lose that game, but Garrett would become a World Champion when the Chiefs demolished the Minnesota Vikings 23-7, in the last AFL-NFL World Championship Game (aka Super Bowl IV) in 1969. He was the top rusher of that game, with 11 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown, two catches for 25 yards and returning a punt for 18 yards.

In his eight professional seasons, Garrett rushed for 5,481 yards, caught 238 passes for 2,010 yards, returned 14 kickoffs for 323 yards, and returned 39 punts for 235 yards. In total, Garrett gained a total of 8,049 yards and scored 49 touchdowns (35 rushing, 13 receiving, 1 punt return).

So yeah, he was basically the real deal.

In 1973, he hung up his cleats for good and went on to pursue other things. But he couldn’t stay away from the team that started it all for him; in 1993 Mike Garrett returned to Trojan Nation as USC’s sixth Athletic Director. He came under heavy criticism in 2001 when he hired then-questionable head coach Pete Carroll, but when Pete Carroll delivered for a decade, the naysayers were silenced. In 2005, he allowed safety Darnell Bing to wear his retired No. 20 jersey for his senior season. However, for all the great things Mike Garrett did in his tenure both as an athlete and as an AD, his handling of the NCAA investigation and subsequent sanctions that were imposed on USC during the 2010 season has muddled his legacy.

However one feels about Mike Garrett, his impact on USC cannot be denied. After him, USC featured dominant tailbacks such as fellow Heisman Trophy winners O.J. Simpson (’68), Charles White (’79) Marcus Allen (’81), and Heisman Trophy runner-ups, Anthony Davis (’74) and Ricky Bell (’76), who helped give USC its moniker of “Tailback U”. That trend persisted even beyond these athletes, culminating in the middle 2000s with the greatest Trojan that (according to the NCAA) never existed.

So, for his undeniable talent that ushered in decades of running back dominance for Trojan Nation, Reign of Troy salutes the man who started it all.

Fight On Forever, Mike Garrett!