The best USC defensive backs of all-time include a who’s who of exceptional safeties and corners from Ronnie Lott to Adoree’ Jackson.
Troy has never lacked for standout defenders in the secondary, so many that even All-American greats can’t crack our ranking of the Top 10 USC defensive backs of all-time..
The likes of Jim Sears, Nate Shaw and Mike Battle set the stage for the immense success to come in the Trojan secondary.
All-Americans like Cleveland Colter and T.J. McDonald also received national honors during their time at USC and deserve their due.
Underrated figures like Kevin Ellison, Nickell Robey and Danny Reese, who remains second on the all-time interception list, could also make their claim to distinction.
However, it can be a tough field when two of the game’s all-time greats wore cardinal and gold.
Here’s our ranking of USC’s 10 best defensive backs of all-time…
10. Taylor Mays
Despite USC’s rich history at defensive back, only one Trojan safety can claim three-time All-American status. That’s Taylor Mays.
Mays was thrust into the starting lineup as a freshman when incumbent starter Josh Pinkard suffered a season-ending injury during the season opener. He filled the role with acclaim, earning Collegefootballnews.com’s Defensive Freshman of the Year award and multiple Freshman All-American nods. Full-fledged All-American honors would follow.
For the next three years, Mays drew rave reviews while patrolling USC’s secondary with devastatingly hard hits and unmatched physicality. His All-American seasons in 2007 and 2009 were exceeded only by consensus nod in 2008 as part of one of the greatest USC defenses of all time.
With a body standing 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he was a physical marvel.
“Have I ever seen anyone that big move that fast? Maybe when I walked by the cheetah cage at the wildlife park,” said former USC strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle.
After a somewhat lackluster pro career, there could be debate steeped in hindsight over his place in the Top 10, but he still holds distinction among Trojan safeties.