17 days to USC Football: Erny Pinckert, Mike Battle and the No. 17 jersey

RoT Countdown / Photo by University of Southern California/Collegiate Images via Getty Images
RoT Countdown / Photo by University of Southern California/Collegiate Images via Getty Images /

We’re just 17 days to USC football, as Reign of Troy’s countdown looks back at great No. 17s of the past, Erny Pinckert and Mike Battle.

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The USC football team hasn’t taken home hardware since 2017, making T-Minus 17 days to kickoff the perfect time to look back at a victorious number in school history, the No. 17.

While we wait for the Trojans to get back on the field against Fresno State, let’s look back at the likes of Erny Pinckert and Mike Battle, shall we?

Who wore it best?

The No. 17 may not be sold in the USC bookstore any time soon, but there was a time when it was a “championship” number.

“Dynamite” Don Williams was the first to wear the jersey while earning All-American honors in 1928. He led the Trojans to their first ever national title as the quarterback that year.

Erny Pinckert followed soon after. His first All-American nod came in 1930 when he was renown for his defensive play and blocking.

In 1931, Brian Bell of The News Leader in Staunton, Virginia pointed out that Pinckert didn’t run the ball as well as he defended or blocked, but attributed that fact to the explanation a Trojan teammate gave: “When Pinckert runs with the ball himself there is no Erny Pinckert out in front mowing down opposition tacklers.”

As if proving a point, Pinckert used his speed to break off two touchdowns of 27 and 30 yards in his 1932 Rose Bowl MVP performance. The Trojans won the national title as a result.

Another national champion donned the No. 17 from 1966 to 1968. Versatile defensive back and return man Mike Battle was already a key contributor for the Trojans in 1966 when he led the team in punt returns, a feat he repeated the next two seasons as well. In 1967 he led the national title-winning defense with five interceptions while filling holes at corner, safety and rover.

Versatility and tenacity had to be his strength because size certain wasn’t. He described himself to Dwight Chapin of the Los Angeles Times as 6-foot-1, 167 pounds. Chapin described him like this:

“On the field, even in full football gear, Battle looks somewhat like a flamingo running for cover from a marauding lion. But only until the lion gets to him. Then the flamingo attacks.”

That flamingo helped USC win the 1967 national then went on to earn All-American recognition in 1968.

Who wears it now?

Walk on Zach Wilson is the sole owner of the No. 17 in 2019 after defensive back Chase Williams swapped over to No. 7.

Stats to know: 17

  • Offensive lineman Aaron Rosenberg became the 17th All-American in school history as a member of the 1933 team.
  • USC’s famed comeback against Notre Dame in 1974 featured 55 points in just 17 minutes.
  • Up until ’74, the most famed comeback in school history was just 10 years before, against the same Irish. Troy overcame a 17-0 deficit to the Irish with a 15-yard touchdown pass on the 84-Z delay from Craig Fertig to Rod Sherman.
  • The Trojans have scored 17 points on 43 different occasions. Despite it being a somewhat low number in modern college football, USC has sported a 32-10-1 record with 17 points to their name. The most recent occurrence? Their most recent game, a 24-17 loss to Notre Dame last November.
  • Ted Tollner was the last USC head coach to lose on his debut. The Trojans have won eight-straight openers for their coaches, sporting a 17-10-1 record all-time.
  • Charles White won the 1980 Rose Bowl with a touchdown run with 1:32 remaining. The drive, one of the most iconic in school history, began at the 17-yard line.

Next. 18 Days to Kickoff