50 days to USC football: Adrian Young, the Irish Trojan, Nick Figueroa and the No. 50

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

Adrian Young was an Irish Trojan who downed the Fighting Irish. Now Nick Figueroa hopes to live up to his deeds in No. 50 for USC football.

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The countdown is halfway through! USC football will return in 50 days.

That means 50 more days of exploring the history and prospects of each Trojan jersey number.

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Here’s a look at No. 50:

Who wore it best?

“There is Ireland in Matthew Adrian Young’s face,” Dwight Chapin of the Los Angeles Times wrote of USC’s All-American linebacker in 1967.

Indeed, the greatest No. 50 in USC history was full-blooded Irish. Adrian Young grew up in Dublin, trading in his soccer boots for football cleats after moving to America at the age of 11.

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It’s just a coincidence that USC’s biggest rival is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but it was particularly fitting in 1967 when Young was the hero of the Trojans first victory in South Bend for 28 years.

Young had been a fullback on the freshman team in 1965, but he failed to convert a fourth-and-one-inch at the goal line in the season finale. It was then he decided to devote all his time to being a linebacker.

His career as a linebacker justified the focus on defense. He received All-American attention as a junior in 1966 before picking up consensus All-American honors as a senior in 1967. His aggressive play earned him the description as a “demon linebacker” in one report which ran across the country.

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But Young and USC hadn’t had much success against the Irish during his career.

In 1965, Young’s sophomore year, the No. 4 Trojans traveled to South Bend and were humbled 28-7. The next year, the No. 1 Irish utterly embarrassed No. 10 USC with a 51-0 drubbing at the Coliseum. That remains the Trojans largest ever margin of defeat and boosted Notre Dame on their way to a national title.

So the 1967 meeting between No. 1 USC and No. 5 Notre Dame held particular weight.

And it was Young, the Irish Trojan captain, who lifted that weight with a monstrous performance on defense. He intercepted four passes, which remains a USC and Pac-12 record, and was credited with 12 tackles as the Trojans won 24-7.

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The performance didn’t go unnoticed across the country. He even received a telegram from Ireland which read: “Ireland is proud of you,” according to the Pasadena Independent.

He also received a national championship ring by season’s end.

Who wears it now?

Adrian Young was physical presence at 6-foot-1, 224 pounds back in 1967. USC has found an even bigger load in the No. 50 in junior college transfer Nick Figueroa, who stands 6-foot-5, 275 pounds.

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Figueroa was a JC All-American while playing for Riverside City College in 2018. With 19.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks he was named the Southern League Defensive Player of the Year.

All in all, he hasn’t played much football. He was All-Citrus Belt as a senior at Cajon High School, but that was his only year playing the sport at that level. He took a redshirt in 2017 at Cal Poly before starring for Riverside.

His size and explosiveness makes him an intriguing prospect. His lack of experience lends an air of promise to his development.

During Spring Camp, he certainly didn’t look like someone with limited experience.

The Trojans lined him up behind Christian Rector at defensive end, or the old Predator spot. A starting job will be hard to come by this first year, but a role in the rotation seems in the cards.

Stats to know: 50

  • Running back O.J. Simpson was USC’s 50th ever All-American in 1968, when he was a unanimous pick and Heisman winner.
  • When he achieved All-American status in 2005, defensive back Darnell Bing had 50 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, six deflections and four interceptions.
  • Out of Tom Malone’s 185 career punts, 56 traveled at least 50 yards.
  • Wide receiver Marqise Lee ranks eight on USC’s career kickoff return list with 50 returns for 1,305 yards and two touchdowns.
  • The USC record for most games scoring 50 points belongs to the 2005 squad, which did it seven times.
  • USC’s 50th ever win came against Occidental in 1908, 14-0.
  • In 1964, Craig Fertig found Rod Sherman for a 22-yard touchdown to put USC ahead of Cal with 50 seconds remaining on the clock.
  • USC officially lists Jim Farrell of Long Beach as the 50 millionth fan to see a USC football game, home or away. He achieved that status in 2004 when he went through to gates to watch the Trojans play Arizona State.

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