66 days to USC football: The No. 66 had a ridiculous run from ’65 to ’87

RoT Countdown / Photo by University of Southern California/Collegiate Images via Getty Images (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by University of Southern California/Collegiate Images via Getty Images (Reign of Troy) /

Bill Bain, Pat Howell, Bruce Matthews and Dave Cadigan each made USC football’s No. 66 jersey great in their own ways.

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With just 66 days until USC football’s 2019 season arrives Reign of Troy is focusing on numbers.

Specifically, jersey numbers and the past, present and future of each.

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Today, we’re looking at No. 66, which has a crazy strong track record:

Who wore it best?

The success of the No. 66 jersey from 1965 to 1987 may be unrivaled.

Jim Walker was the first Trojan to bring all-conference acclaim to the number. He did so while landing a key role on defense.

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The 1965 defense was supposed to be the weak link for the Mike Garrett-led Trojans, but standout performances from a load of unsung heroes helped the team achieve four shut outs while going 7-2-1.

Walker was one such hero.

In the opening game of the season, a 20-20 tie with Minnesota, the Trojans were gashed by quarterback rollouts. USC solved that problem by shifting Walker from linebacker to defensive end. It made all the difference as teams found little joy trying to get around the quicker athlete on the edge.

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The Trojans credited Walker with the Most Improved Player Award to end the season.

Walker, of course, was just the appetizer for the No. 66.

Bill Bain transferred in from Colorado ahead of the 1973 season and kickstarted an unbelievable run for the jersey.

Bain was a 6-foot-4, 275-pound guard with a massive mustache who enjoyed setting his pants on fire (no really). He also enjoyed bowling over defensive linemen. That particular skill earned him an All-American nod in 1974 and helped USC pick up a national championship.

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And still, the best was yet to come.

Offensive guard Pat Howell made his first appearances in the jersey in 1976, John Robinson’s debut season as the Trojan head coach. He helped USC win the Rose Bowl that season.

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Two years down the line, Howell was named a unanimous All-American on USC’s 1978 championship squad thanks to his exceptional play as a pulling guard.

“The most exciting thing in the world for me is to be running into an open field, with the tailback behind me, and see a tackler come into my line of vision, knowing my block will spring the back,” Howell said.

The back he sprung most often was All-American Charles White, who would go on to Heisman acclaim.

White called Howell, “a locomotive with finesse” in the San Bernardino County Sun. A few columns over, fellow guard Brad Budde relayed how Howell was almost cast as the Incredible Hulk on a television show but “he’s just too good-looking.”

We’re not done yet. Because the man who went on to fill Howell’s shoes was none other than Bruce Matthews.

Where Howell heralded the beginning of the Robinson era, Matthews was on hand for the end of it. He was thrust into the starting lineup as a freshman in 1979 after Anthony Munoz and Don Mosebar were struck by injury. He’d go on to win all-conference honors in 1981 and 1982.

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That final year of his career he became the key figure in the iconic “student body right” play and was voted a consensus All-American. He also won the Morris Trophy as the top lineman in the conference.

The run of outstanding No. 66’s finished with Dave Cadigan.

Stephen Dunn /Allsport
Stephen Dunn /Allsport /

Cadigan became a starter in 1985, when Ted Tollner’s tenure turned sour. He didn’t achieve the heights of previous stars in the No. 66 in a team sense, but as an individual he did as much as he could.His All-American efforts in 1987 were, unfortunately, fueled by tragedy.

In that era, USC’s coaching staff kept track of what they called “decleaters,” or plays when an offensive lineman put his man on the ground.

Cadigan experienced the ultimate off-the-field “decleater” when his mother, who had been fighting cancer on and off since his youth, passed away in August ahead his senior season.

The devastating loss didn’t keep Cadigan off his feet for long though. He attended his mother’s funeral and the very next day turned up to USC’s first preseason workout. He threw himself into football, determined to honor his mother’s memory by achieving all the things she wanted for him.

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At USC, getting 10 decleaters in a game was the threshold of “excellence.” Cadigan averaged 13.7, according to the San Bernardino County Sun.

His consensus All-American nod and first round selection in the NFL Draft in 1988 all came back to his mom’s influence.

“To see my mom smile or even cry because of some of the things I’ve done, the successes I’ve had, is the nicest thing I can think of in the world,” Cadigan said in the Los Angeles Times. “I get more of a kick of out that than anything. More than receiving any kind of award.”

Who wears it now?

The No. 66 was given to freshman offensive lineman Gino Quinones for the 2019 season.

Quinones came to USC from St. Louis High School in Hawaii as a prospect who could fit in on either side of the line. He got his start this spring as a center.

The Trojans are hoping to develop Quinones, but his No. 66 jersey isn’t expected to feature much for a couple of year.

Stats to know: 66

  • Linebacker Richard “Batman” Wood was USC’s 66th ever All-American in 1973.
  • Defensive lineman Marlin McKeever had 66 tackles in 1959. Defensive tackle Gary Jeter had the same number in 1975. Linebacker Scott Ross started his career with 66 in 1987. Linebacker Oscar Lua matched that with 66 in 2005, leading the team.
  • Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson announced his presence at USC with 66 receptions for 1,362 yards and nine touchdowns in 1994. Impressively, he did that in only 11 games. In 1990, Gary Wellman also posted 66 catches, but did so in 13 games. That’s tied for the 20th best receiving season in USC history.
  • Running back Ronald Jones II broke off a 66-yard run against Oregon in 2016, his longest of the season.

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