53 days to USC football: Jeff Byers bounced back from injury

RoT Countdown / Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
RoT Countdown / Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images /

Jeff Byers had his career derailed by injury for a time, but bounced back to prove a steady presence for USC football while wearing the No. 53.

Top 10 Trojan LBs. BEST OF USC

The countdown to USC football’s 2019 continues with just 53 days to go until the Trojans are back on the Coliseum floor.

As we continue to mark off the days, join Reign of Troy in exploring each number on the USC roster.

CHECK OUT: Will No. 55 be worn again?

Now it’s time for No. 53:

Who wore it best?

When offensive lineman Jeff Byers picked up the No. 53 jersey as a freshman in 2004, he did so with a great deal of high school hype and very little in the way of legacy to build on with regard to his new number.

Before Byers, no Trojan had achieved all-conference honors in No. 53. Byers looked set to change that as a five-star prospect and the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2003. Kirk Ferentz even called Byers the best high school player he’d ever seen.

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He wasted no time contributing for USC, entering the starting lineup at left guard at the tail end of the 2004 national title run because of injury above him.

Unfortunately, it was injury to himself which prevented him from using those starts as a springboard. He redshirted in 2005 after undergoing hip surgery and subsequently took a medical redshirt in 2006 because of an early-season back injury.

Finally returning healthy in 2007, Byers managed to remain a steady starter for the next three years in Troy.

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“After four surgeries you learn how to take care of your body,” Byers told the Los Angeles Times.

In 2008, Byers made Phil Steele’s All-American third team and the All-Pac-10 second team. In 2009, he locked in first team All-Pac-10 status and made several All-American second and third teams having started half the season at guard and center.

It wasn’t exactly the career that was hoped for Byers, but he salvaged his legacy in the end.

Who wears it now?

Walk-on linebacker Bryce Matthews currently wears the No. 53 entering his third year with the Trojans.

DEPTH CHART: Projecting USC’s lineup in 2019

Though Matthews hasn’t seen any action yet, he was named USC’s Service Team Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2018.

Stats to know: 53

  • Defensive tackle Al Cowlings was USC’s 53rd All-American in history in 1969.
  • Safety Taylor Mays had 53 tackles when he grabbed the second of three All-American nods in 2008. Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu had 53 tackles in his debut season as a starter in 2016.
  • Former walk-on Greig Carlson is 20th on USC’s all-time punt return list with 53 returns for 379 yards, leading the Trojans in that measure in 2002 and 2003.
  • The 2006 Rose Bowl featured four lead changes in the second half with Texas and USC combining to score 53 points, a record for the Granddaddy of Them All.
  • In the 2009 Emerald Bowl, fullback Stanley Havili scored USC’s first touchdown on a 53-yard reception.
  • When Minnesota mounted a late comeback against USC in 2011, Torin Harris intercepted the ball with 53 seconds remaining to secure his team the 19-17 victory.
  • Trojans who have been selected 53rd overall in the NFL Draft include guard Dan Ficca in 1961, tackle Bob Svihus in 1965, defensive back Louis Brock in 1987 and linebacker Su’a Cravens in 2016.

Next. 54 Days to Kickoff