41 days to USC football: The No. 41 jersey belongs to unsung heroes

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

USC football’s No. 41 jersey has been worn by key role players historically, which could be how current linebacker Juliano Falaniko makes his mark.

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It’s 41 days until the 2019 USC Football team takes on Fresno State to kick off the season at the Coliseum. They’ll do so with Juliano Falaniko likely on the field for special teams, where he looks to provide similar impact as the versatile 41s before him.

Let’s dive into the No. 41 jersey, shall we?

Who wore it best?

The No. 41 has been a number worn by hard-working role players for the Trojans, with two in particular carrying the torch: Scott Lockwood and Thomas Williams.

A running back for USC in the heart of the Larry Smith era, Lockwood split time with the likes of Steven Webster, Aaron Emanuel, and Mazio Royster, but still found a way to leave his impact by being versatile. Smith called him an unsung hero because of it. He played a little fullback, returned punts and caught as many as 22 passes out of the backfield, doing so in 1989.

“I’d rather be sore and beat up and not be able to walk after a game than be fresh because I didn’t play,” Lockwood told the LA Times in 1990.

That give-it-everything mentality, coupled with his speed, saw the jack-of-all-trades back twice win the Jack Oakie ‘Rise and Shine’ Award, given to the running back with the longest rush of the season. He clinched it with totes of 38 yards in 1987 and 66 yards in 1990.

Lockwood totaled 1,313 rushing yards in his four years, where he sits at No. 36 on the Trojans’ all-time rushing list ahead of notables like Silas Redd (39), Tre Madden (43) and Hershel Dennis (47). His 13 touchdowns see him in a tie for 32nd with Pete Carroll era stars Joe McKnight and CJ Gable.

Thomas Williams only started 14 games in his career, but few players would have been capable of breaking into USC’s starting line up which featured the likes of Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers.

He, like Lockwood, found other ways to help the Trojans reach a BCS bowl every year of his career. Nicknamed “The Hitman” and known for his copious use of eye black, he was a mainstay on USC special teams.

His versatility allowed him to contribute at linebacker at every position in the unit. Though he saw his longest stretch as a starter in 2005, Williams produced his best season in his final year as the utility linebacker, logging 56 tackles and five tackles for loss.

All told, Williams had 117 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions as a Trojan. He was named USC’s Most Inspirational Player and Special Teams Player of the Year in 2007.

Who wears it now?

Linebacker Juliano Falaniko dons the No. 41 for the Trojans. Similar to Thomas Williams, the redshirt sophomore has primarily seen time on special teams thus far, making seven tackles.

The 2019 season could hold more of the same for the American Samoa product, as defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast transitions the linebacker corps into a tighter, three-position depth chart.

Falaniko got run at weakside inside linebacker in the spring, but sits behind phenom Palaie Gaoteote, the highly touted yet unproven Solomon Tuliaupupu and steady 2018 freshman contributor Kana’i Mauga. It’ll be a difficult task to get fully intrenched in the rotation, but Year 3 in the system might just be the time for Falaniko to flash.

Stats to know: 41

  • The Trojans have scored 41 points on 16 different occasions, including  41-32 win over Northwestern in the 1996 Rose Bowl.
  • All-American wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett holds USC’s career touchdown receptions record with 41 scores.
  • The Trojans went down 10-3 early to No. 23 Oregon in 2008, before rattling off 41 unanswered points.
  • Mark Sanchez totaled up 41 touchdown passes in his year-plus as the Trojans’ starting quarterback. Thirty-four of those came in 2008.

Next. 42 Days to Kickoff