71 days to USC football: John Ferraro’s No. 71 was supposed to be retired

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

USC football was supposed to retire John Ferraro’s No. 71 jersey. Instead, the number has gone on to be one of the greatest in Trojan history.

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There are just 71 days until USC football returns in 2019.

That means 71 more days of looking forwards and backwards in anticipation of the coming campaign.

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Today, Reign of Troy is going into the weekend with a look at the prestigious No. 71:

Who wore it best?

In 1944, The Daily Trojan had this to say about newly-minted All-American John Ferraro:

“Cardinal and gold football jersey No. 72 will never again be worn by another SC gridman! Yes, such former Trojan football greats as Morton Kaer…Harry Smith, and Ralph Heywood, heros of the distant and recent past, will have to move over to make room for a newcomer, one John Ferraro, brilliant tackle of SC’s unbeaten 1944 grid outfit.”

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If you’re thinking to yourself, “But there are 71 days until USC football returns,” don’t worry. That’s The Daily Trojan’s typo, not ours.

Indeed, Ferraro wore the No. 71 with All-American acclaim as a sophomore tackle on both sides of the line in 1944, guiding the Trojans to an 8-0-2 record and a Rose Bowl victory.

The plan, according to the director of USC’s athletic news service, was to have Ferraro’s jersey “permanently retired from competition.”

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That, of course, never happened.

Granted, it was out of circulation for one year. Ferraro was called into active military service with World War II raging.

Fortunately for Ferraro, the war didn’t last too long after his early spring departure for the Navy in 1945. Though he missed the following season, he was back in time for the 1946 campaign.

He suffered a back injury early on, however, and that seems to have prevented him from picking up where he left off with more national honors. He still garnered all-conference selection.

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The 1947 season put the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, who was nicknamed “Big John,” right back on the top of the heap. He earned his second All-American nod and would eventually make his way into the College Football Hall of Fame.

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“If any tackle in this land of ours has ever played better ball, he must be Superman and Hercules rolled into one,” Braven Dyer of the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1944 after Ferraro pushed the Trojans to a victory over the San Diego Navy. “When Big John goes to work, he’s dynamite.”

It’s a good thing the No. 71 stayed un-retired, because it has become one of USC’s most successful jerseys in history since Ferraro laid the marker in the 1940s.

Offensive guard Brad Budde became the first freshman to take up a starting job to begin the season since the war and he would put in an exceptional four years in the trenches for the Trojans, who were 42-6-1 in his tenure. Three times he was an all-conference selection. In 1979 he was a unanimous All-American and became USC’s first and only Lombardi Award winner.

As if that wasn’t enough, Tony Boselli picked up two All-American nods and the Morris Trophy as a dominant offensive tackle in the jersey from 1991 to 1994.

The All-American tradition didn’t stop there. Taitusi “Duece” Lutui was named a consensus All-American in 2005 before Morris Trophy winner Charles Brown made it five all-time All-Americans for the jersey in 2009.

Who wears it now?

The No. 71 has been surprisingly unpopular for Trojan players since Brown. It was in danger of remaining vacant for the entirety of this decade before a surprising position change earlier this year.

Defensive lineman Liam Jimmons, who had worn the No. 93 for three seasons, swapped over to the offensive line this spring and wore No. 71 throughout Spring Camp.

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Considering Ferraro’s considerable playmaking on both sides of the ball, Jimmons seems a fitting owner of the jersey.

Since he is new to the position, it is tough to tell how much of a role the redshirt junior will have to play in the coming campaign.

He lined up as a tackle, mostly with the second team, and seemed solid enough for someone learning their new role.

Stats to know: 71

  • Linebacker Richard Wood was USC’s 71st All-American in 1974. It was the last of three All-American nods for the man nicknamed, “Batman.”
  • Wide receiver Curtis Conway finished his career with 71 catches for 1,004 yards and six touchdowns.
  • Wide receiver Steve Smith had a career-high 71 receptions in 2006, totally 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Keary Colbert had 71 catches for 1,029 yards and five touchdowns. Those seasons are tied for the 13th-most catches in a single season in USC history.
  • With 25 touchdowns on 71 catches from 1977 to 1980, Kevin Williams holds the USC record for highest percentage of receptions for touchdowns at 35.2 percent.
  • In the 1980 Rose Bowl against Ohio State, Charles White accounted for 71 yards on six carries during an eight-play, 83-yard drive in the final minutes of the game. The last yard delivered the game-winning touchdown for the Trojans at 17-16.
  • Adoree’ Jackson wowed viewers of the 2014 Rose Bowl with a 71-yard touchdown on a short pass from Cody Kessler. USC beat Nebraska, 45-42.

Next. 72 Days to Kickoff