Monday, December 31, 2007

Bustin' Into The Playoffs

A reporter once said, if you want to increase your odds of winning the supebowl, make sure you have a Trojan on the roster. 7 of the 12 teams leaping into this year's version of the NFL playoffs will feature Trojans in significant roles. Though the Colts, Chargers, Redskins, Cowboys, and Packers won't have any feature members of the USC alum, the Seahawks, Giants, Bucs, Patriots, Jags, Titans, and Steelers will.

After seeing little time in his rookie season, and facing constant criticism about his weight, Lendale White had a breakout season for the Titans, rushing for over a thousand yards and helping to lead Tennessee into the AFC playoffs as a wildcard. This "other" back from USC, who was chosen in the second round, becomes the first to crack the 1000 yard mark, with Reggie Bush having a disappointing season in New Orleans. One season later, the tandem has switched positions, as White will participate in the postseason, and Bush will spectate from home. The offseason "Gut" check did wonders for Lendale.

Junior Seau revamped his career in New England, and continues to display his greatness. After calling it a career, two years ago, Seau re-entered the league and continues to be a dominant fixture for the undefeated Patriots. This certain first ballot hall of fame linebacker is looking to capture the one piece missing from an outstanding NFL career, a Superbowl ring. After becoming a world champion with the Patriots, Trojan Willie McGinest moved on to Cleveland, and the Pats quickly plugged in another Trojan replacement in Junior Seau. That's not a bad switch at all.

After becoming a prize pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2003, Polamalu will be making his fourth Pro Bowl appearance, and also be battling for a second Superbowl championship. This Trojan is everything the Steelers expected him to be, and they showed their appreciation, by extending his contract through 2011. Another legendary Trojan, Lynn Swann, collected 4 championship rings with the Steelers. Polamalu came along and aided in the Pittsburgh "one for the thumb" campaign, and will now be looking to help the franchise add some bling to the second hand.

Sammy Knight went undrafted in 1997, and was a Pro Bowl strong safety for the Saints by 2001. Now he patrols the field with a talented group of Jacksonville Jaguars. Although the Jags offense is often unsteady, the signature of Jack Del Rio's team has always been the defensive presence. With a stong push by the defensive line, Knight adds support, by locking on potential receivers and punishing those pass catchers in route. Many are calling his Jags the most dangerous team in the playoffs, and a team many would love to avoid. Some Analysts have gone as far as saying if there is one team in the AFC that can defeat the Patriots, it's the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In his rookie season of '05, Lofa Tatupu had the opportunity to dance on the big stage, before his Seahawks fell short of a Superbowl victory, and were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now in his third year, he is granted a third attempt, as he jumps into the playoffs with Seattle for a third time. Also in his third NFL season, he'll be returning to Hawaii for his third consecutive Pro Bowl. Tatupu was a member of that 2004 USC championship team that put the clamps on Oklahoma and the talented Adrian Peterson. Now he'll again clamp down on NFC opponents, in his quest for the hardware.

Overshadowed by Ronde Barber in the Bucs defense, Brian Kelly will be seeking his second Superbowl championship with Tampa Bay. Kelly shared the 2002 interceptions leader board with Rod Woodson, and continued his great play through the playoffs, capping the season with a victory in Superbowl XXXVII. After a few dismal seasons, the Bucs are poised to upset some bigger names to reach the big game again.

The giants are so sure of their second round choice, Steve Smith, that they utilize him as a red zone specialist. Whenver Manning leads his boys in blue into scoring position, this sure handed Trojan appears on the field. After beginning this rookie year impressively, Smith missed time with an injury. Now he's back in the line up, and No. 12 will be looking to do what he did best for the Trojans, secure the ball in the endzone.

92 Trojans have appeared in the NFL's biggest game. It's a mark unmatched by any other college program. There was a Trojan drought for the 2007 Superbowl, but we get another talented group of guys, looking to continue the USC Superbowl legacy.
Fight On!

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