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May 2, 2008
NFL Draft success leads to recruiting success
There are more than a few ways to catch the eyes of the nation's top prep prospects. You can call, you can visit and they can come see you. You can show them a weight room, the facilities and the cheerleaders.
And you can show them your rings.
But sometimes, all of that work is done for you, when an example of your program's success is plastered on national TV for an entire weekend.
More than just a few times Saturday during the NFL Draft, whoever was speaking at the podium uttered three letters that echoed through Radio City Music Hall - "USC."
Over the two-day event, 10 different Trojans heard their names called, officially moving them along on to the next level.
Under head coach Pete Carroll, plenty of players have moved through the pipeline that runs from the Coliseum to the league. In the past five NFL Drafts, 35 Trojans have been selected.
Most of those players have come from California, where Carroll and his staff have plucked elite talent like Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart from their backyard.
But when they've left California, Carroll's made it a point to find a specific kind of player - a first-round pick.
Of the 35 players selected over the past five years, 24 prepped in California. Since 2003, 11 Trojan players have been selected in the first round, with two of the picks coming from out of state - Mike Williams and Keith Rivers.
Williams, a four-star recruit from Tampa Fla., ranked as the 23rd-best receiver in the 2002 class. But Carroll identified Williams and his big frame, helping make him the only first-round pick out of the top 25 receivers in the class.
The Lions selected Williams with the 10th pick in 2005.
Rivers, a five-star linebacker who prepped in Lake Mary, Fla., preyed on opposing players, earning the nickname "the Shark." After a very productive stint with the Trojans, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Rivers with the ninth overall pick.
Next year, two other Trojans from outside of California could be selected in the first round. In an early mock draft done by Rivals.com, safety Taylor Mays, a former five-star from Seattle, and linebacker Brian Cushing, a four-star from Park Ridge, NJ, are both projected as first-round selections.
While winning on the field certainly has to help Carroll and his staff when selling USC to recruits, the promise of a professional career doesn't hurt.
And if a prospect ever forgets, all Carroll has to do is pop in a tape of the 2008 Draft, and there'll be 10 reminders.
Stay tuned for a follow-up article on the recruits that got away and how they fared in their careers.
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You can reach Dan Woike at [email protected]