USC football’s Mount Rushmore of legendary Trojan quarterbacks

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Joe Robbins/Getty Images /
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Rodney Peete scrambles past a UCLA defender. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Rodney Peete scrambles past a UCLA defender. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The USC football Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks includes Heisman winners and game-breakers who made history for the Trojans.

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USC football may be known as Tailback U, but recent history for the program has been centered on the quarterback.

As the game of football has shifted to the aerial attack, USC has followed, producing Heisman winners and record breakers.

But who claims the most iconic names, faces and moments? Here are the four faces Reign of Troy would put on the Mount Rushmore of USC quarterbacks:

Rodney Peete

USC had some excellent quarterbacks lead them to national championships during the glory days of the John McKay and John Robinson eras, from Pete Beathard to Pat Haden to Paul McDonald. However, it was Rodney Peete who truly brought the Trojans into the era of the modern quarterback.

Peete was a mobile quarterback who used both his arm and his legs to attack the opposing defense. He was known as much for his iconic smile, once compared to that of Magic Johnson, as his immense football talent.

“When you’re losing, that smile just eats away at you,” UCLA linebacker Carnell Lake was quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1988. “When you see him off the field, it’s warm and comforting. But on the field, it’s spooky. It seems like he knows what’s going to happen. You could get wrapped up in his smile and it could throw you off your game, especially when you don’t get a sack on him and he’s just smiling as he’s running past you. That has got to be the world’s worst feeling.”

Peete earned every smile he gave. As a senior, he came down with the measles, spent two days in the hospital, and still led his team to victory over UCLA on Saturday.

A three-year starter, Pete threw for 8,225 yards and 54 touchdowns, running for another 12 on the ground.

In 1988, after tossing 2,812 yards and 18 touchdowns, he was the runner-up to Barry Sanders for the Heisman Trophy. He didn’t get that silverware but he did get the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, the Pop Warner Award, and the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Award.