48 days to USC football: Ernie Smith, the trombone-playing All-American

RoT Countdown / Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
RoT Countdown / Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images /

Ernie Smith was a trombone-playing All-American and devastating lineman on two USC football national title teams while wearing No. 48.

Top 10 Trojan LBs. BEST OF USC

There are 48 days until USC football is back in action.

That’s 48 more days of whiling away the hours, but we at Reign of Troy are hoping to help where we can by examining the history of each Trojan number, as well as the next players to wear each.

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No. 48 is next on tap:

Who wore it best?

There has been only one All-American to wear No. 48 for USC, but that suits the story on lineman  Ernie Smith just fine.

As Milt Phinney of the Oakland Tribune raved in 1932, Notre Dame essentially made him a one-man team when they tried to run his way against the Trojans in a 13-0 USC win.

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“Smith is an All-American. He is more of an All-American now than he was before the game. If there was any doubt of his ability, he removed it with sparkling exhibition which almost caused the spectators to drop the Trojan business and call the team just plain Smith,” Phinney wrote.

And that’s just an example of how effective Smith’s defending was. He was also an accomplished blocker on the other side of the ball, paving the way for All-American runners like Gus Shaver and Erny Pinckert.

Braven Dyer of the Los Angeles Times called Smith “gigantic” at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Smith, along with fellow All-American Aaron Rosenberg were given hefty acclaim by the local beat writer.

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“Tough? They’re murderous,” Dyer wrote.

With Smith commanding the trenches, USC won national titles in 1931 and 1932. The latter year saw Smith become the Trojans first ever unanimous All-American. College Football Hall of Fame induction came in 1970.

At USC, the Trojan marching band and the football team are both legendary, but crossover between the two in terms of personnel is obviously limited.

Except in the case of Smith.

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In 1929, Smith was a member of USC’s freshman team but still found time for his favorite past time: playing the trombone.

He marched at halftime with the band that season but had to give it up as a sophomore when Howard Jones moved him into his varsity rotation.

That’s not to say he gave up the instrument. He made money at dance orchestras on Saturday nights after USC home games by tooting his horn, according to the Associated Press.

Who wears it now?

The No. 48 has been most recognizable in recent years because of the contributions of kicker Andre Heidari and tight end Taylor McNamara. The former is a legend in his own right for booting home game-winning field goals against Stanford.

The jersey now belongs to a pair of walk-ons.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Winston Guillory III transferred in from Vanderbilt and has helped the Trojans on the practice field for the last two years.

Linebacker Peter Esparza is just beginning his USC career after walking on last year at outside linebacker. He took a redshirt and is set to remain with the team in 2019.

Stats to know: 48

  • Linebacker Adrian Young was USC’s 48th ever All-American in 1967.
  • Heisman-winner Charles White played in 48 career games for the Trojans, amassing an untouchable 6,245 yards.
  • All-American safety Tim McDonald had 48 career deflections from 1984 to 1986.
  • In the last game of John Robinson’s first stint as USC head coach in 1982, the Trojans beat Notre Dame 17-13 thanks to a controversial touchdowns scored by a diving (and fumbling) Michael Harper with 48 seconds remaining.
  • When USC beat Cal 55-14 in 2001, the audience was smaller than it had been for a long time. The game ended the program’s streak of 48 consecutive live football telecasts.
  • Michigan’s stout run defense stifled USC on the ground in the 2007 Rose Bowl, limiting the Trojans to a season-low 48 yards rushing. Of course, John David Booty and company stopped trying to run at a certain point, ripping off 27 passes in 29 plays on five consecutive scoring drives in the second half.
  • In 2008, Rey Maualuga returned an interception 48-yards for a touchdown against Ohio State.

49 Days to Kickoff. Next