83 days to USC football: The rich, iconic history of the Trojans’ No. 83 jersey

RoT Countdown / Photo by University of California LA/WireImage via Getty Images (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by University of California LA/WireImage via Getty Images (Reign of Troy) /

With 83 days remaining until USC football returns, we set our eyes upon one of the most historic numbers in Trojan lore: No. 83.

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Slowly but surely, the 2019 USC football season is starting to come into focus. We now sit 83 days away from the Trojans’ August 31st opener against Jeff Tedford’s Fresno State Bulldogs at the Coliseum.

Sunday marks the continuation of RoT’s daily countdown, featuring a look into the significance of the No. 83 jersey.

Let’s begin.

Who wore it best?

Only eight numbers have been worn by four different All-Americans at USC. The No. 83 is one, with Jimmy Gunn, Willie Hall, Richard Wood and Fred Davis all having earned the honor with it.

But what sets 83 apart from 66 or 77 is the diversity among its wearers.

Gunn was a dominant defensive end on the school’s most famous defensive line. Hall starred at linebacker in 1971, right before Wood became the first-ever three-time All-American on his way to winning a pair of national titles under John McKay. Then there’s Davis, who shattered tight end records and won the Mackey Award in 2007.

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Three —Gunn, Wood and Davis— are arguably the best Trojans to ever play at their position. It’s a completely different history than the serial anointment of the next great lineman wearing No. 71.

It all raises one question: Is the No. 83 USC’s most criminally underrated historic jersey number?

The 42 and 55 are in school lore for a reason. But why not 83? The simple answer is NFL success.

Despite more accomplishments, Batman Wood doesn’t have the fan cache of Seau or McGinest because he didn’t have a dominant pro career. No. 83 Keary Colbert was overshadowed by No. 1-weilding Mike Williams. And for as great as Gunn was, his successes are lumped in with the collective triumphs of the Wild Bunch.

Who wears it now?

Receiving tight end Josh Falo, who looks to…ahem, follow in the footsteps of Fred Davis with a breakout junior season. While he’s already provided a tangible impact —he caught the Pac-12 title-clinching pass in 2017— he’s one of the Trojan playmakers who has the most to gain from a transition to Graham Harrell’s Air Raid offense.

Falo’s prowess comes almost exclusively as a receiver, making him an ideal candidate to be split out wide to diversify the arsenal of weapons in the receiving corps. Former

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Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury used Jace Amaro as a tight end lined up outside in 2013 and it was a smashing success. Amaro earned All-American honors after catching an obscene 106 passes for 1,352 receiving yards.

Don’t look for Falo to blow up quite so much. He’s not 2007 Davis, and won’t be expected to carry the offense himself. But an uptick in production is a reasonable expectation in a pass-heavy scheme from a player who caught just 10 balls a year ago.

Stats to know: 83

  • Offensive guard Pat Howell became USC’s 83rd All-American in 1978 while blocking for tailback Charles White.
  • Speaking of White, his iconic moment as a member of the Trojans came to cap off an 83-yard drive. The Heisman winner repeatedly gashed No. 1 Ohio State’s defense, before scoring on a historic, acrobatic, game-winning 1-yard touchdown leap with 1:32 left in the 1980 Rose Bowl.
  • If you’re the NCAA or have a weird case of amnesia, then you’d be living in a world where Pete Carroll won 83 games as USC’s head coach. The rest of us will point to 97.
  • USC scored a school-record 83 offensive touchdowns in 2005. Having Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush must have helped. Oh, and LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Ryan Kalil, Sam Baker and so on.
  • Sam Darnold rushed for 83 yards as a redshirt-sophomore in 2017, a significant drop from the 250 he amassed in his first year as starting quarterback.

Next. 84 Days to Kickoff