59 days to USC football: Long snapping has been key for No. 59

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

USC football’s No. 59 jersey has been made special by long snappers like Damon Johnson and Collin Ashton, the latter of whom was a walk-on feel-good story.

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The days until USC football’s 2019 season arrives now number 59.

Step into the 50s this week with a look at some special teams standouts who were and are largely unsung, but essential.

Here’s a review of the past, present and future of the No. 59:

Who wore it best?

The No. 59 jersey has never been worn by a Trojan All-American or even all-conference player, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any meaningful stories to tell.

In fact, Collin Ashton may have delivered one of the all-time feel-good stories in USC history while wearing the number.

Ashton was a dyed-in-the-wool USC fan from birth, coming from a family of Trojans going back six generations, as detailed by Bill Plashcke in the Los Angeles Times in 2005. He attended his first game at the Coliseum in 1983 while still an infant.

When he was 10 years old, his parents gave him a gray USC T-shirt. He kept that shirt through years of playing high school football, toiling at linebacker and learning how to long snap.

Long snapping got his foot in the door as a walk-on at USC in 2002 and he wore that gray USC T-shirt under his pads while performing those duties.

And he wore it under his pads as he eventually earned a scholarship ahead of the 2004 season and proved his worth as a backup linebacker.

Ashton earned a national title ring that year and came back in 2005 with an even bigger role as a utility linebacker. He started twice, but mostly came off the bench to finish third on the team with 54 tackles.

Who wears it now?

Damon Johnson has kept the long snapping tradition going in the No. 59. For the last two seasons, he appeared in 24 out of 26 games for the Trojans, missing out on two because of a concussion in 2017.

He has hardly been mentioned, which is the biggest compliment for a long snapper, since his snaps have been largely impeccable.

Johnson will be a redshirt junior in 2019.

Stats to know: 59

  • Linebacker Willie Hall was USC’s 59th All-American in 1971.
  • USC’s 1928 national title team conceded just 59 points all season on their way to the championship crown.
  • Heisman-winning running back Charles White had 59 career receptions for 541 yards and four touchdowns.
  • During his outstanding freshman campaign, wide receiver Marqise Lee had a season-long catch of 59 yards in an upset win over Oregon.
  • The longest field goal by a Trojan opponent ever was 59 yards by Stanford’s Rod Garcia in 1973.

Next. 60 Days to Kickoff