In No. 68 for USC football, Howard Stoecker flew under the radar, Mike McKeever was a sensation and Keith Van Horne proved Notre Dame wrong.
The countdown to USC football’s 2019 season is down to 68 days.
The Trojans have 68 days to get ready for Fresno State while we at Reign of Troy have 68 days to look back at the history and prospects of each USC jersey number.
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The No. 68 goes under the microscope now:
Who wore it best?
The standouts in the No. 68 may be small in number, but they certainly haven’t lacked for size or effectiveness.
The number found its first all-conference honors with left tackle Howard Stoecker in 1939.
Stoecker played alongside All-American Harry “Blackjack” Smith on the offensive line, but received far less acclaim on the Trojans Rose Bowl-winning squad in 1938 and national championship team in 1939.
“Howard has developed into one of the best tackles on the Coast. He ranks right up among the best of the tackles that I have ever had,” head coach Howard Jones told the Iowa Globe-Gazette in 1939. “There isn’t a great deal said about Stoecker, but he deserves a lot of credit.”
Sportswriter Dick Hyland campaigned in the Los Angeles Times for Stoecker to receive all-star acclaim as “the sole, single and solitary man on the Trojan squad worthy of the honor.”
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If Stoecker went under the radar wearing No. 68, Mike McKeever couldn’t stay off of it.
McKeever was an All-American guard in 1959, impressing particularly with his defensive play. He and twin brother Marlon were sensations in college football as the “Twin Terrors of Troy.”
Mike lived up to the terror moniker. He twice led USC in tackles and garnered a bit of controversy with his aggressive style of play.
The No. 68 eventually made its way onto another All-American in offensive tackle Keith Van Horne.
Van Horne was one of the many outstanding offensive linemen USC produced during the John McKay and John Robinson era of domination.
He was a starter during USC’s 1978 national title run, capped the 1979 season with a Rose Bowl victory and achieved consensus All-American acclaim in 1980.
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Funnily enough, two of the Trojans biggest rivals passed on the opportunity to recruit Van Horne.
Back in high school, Van Horne was a 6-foot-7, 230 pound tight end who was focused as much on basketball as he was football. The Irish requested his tape but told him later that he “wasn’t the quality-type player they wanted at Notre Dame,” according to the Los Angeles Times in 1980. UCLA recruited him briefly but favored another player and moved on from Van Horne.
He might have ended up at Stanford, but offensive line coach Hudson Houck joined the USC staff and convinced Van Horne to put on the cardinal and gold.
It worked out for all involved as he grew into a 6-foot-7, 265-pound beast up front.
For the record, Van Horne went 3-0 and 2-1 as a starter against the Irish and the Bruins respectively.
Who wears it now?
Now, the weight of the jersey is on offensive lineman Liam Douglass.
Douglass was a three-star in USC’s class of 2018, brought in with an eye on developing and growing into his frame. As such, he still isn’t expected to play much of a role in 2019.
He did see more action with the second team offensive line in Spring Camp this year, showing clear signs of bulking up.
Stats to know: 68
- Defensive back Artimus Parker was USC’s 68th All-American in 1973.
- Tight end Charles Young had 68 career receptions for 1,090 yards and 10 touchdowns.
- Wide receiver Erik Affholter led USC with 68 catches for 952 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior in 1988.
- Wide receiver Kevin Williams holds the NCAA record for percentage of touchdowns to receptions in the regular season, scoring on 24 of his 68 receptions, a rate of 35.3 percent.
- Safety Troy Polamalu had 68 tackles as a senior in 2002. The same total belonged to Matt Grootegoed in his senior season in 2004.
- Reggie Bush’s record 513 yards of total offense against Fresno State in 2005 included 68 receiving yards, along with 294 rushing and 135 kick return yards.
- In the first ever “Pac-12” game, USC locked in a victory over Utah at the Coliseum when Matt Kalil blocked the Utes’ game-tying field goal attempt and Torin Harris returned it 68 yards for a touchdown.