Best USC football players: Modern-era Mount Rushmore

USC Trojans. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
USC Trojans. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Best USC football players ever
USC football (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/Getty Images) /

Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart are among the best USC football players ever and the former teammates make up half of the Trojans modern-era Mount Rushmore.

With 11 claimed National Championships in the history of USC football, the Trojans are among the most decorated college football programs in the history of the sport. While they’ve had their ups and downs, especially as of late, they’ve been dominant on a national level when they’re at their best, most recently in the 2000s with Pete Carroll at the lead of the program.

Because of the success that the Trojans have enjoyed, it’s no surprise that USC football has seen a laundry list of incredible talent come through. There are seven Heisman Trophy winners in the history of the program and, while there were plenty prior to the modern era (which began in 1980), plenty of the greats in USC history have been seen over the past 40 years.

Who belongs on the USC football modern-era Mount Rushmore though? That’s the goal for today as we look at the four greatest Trojans since 1980. But first, a look at a trio of honorable mentions.

Junior Seau submitted perhaps the most dominant defensive season in the history of USC in 1989. The all-world linebacker registered 19 sacks and 27 tackles for loss on the year, which is the type of playmaker he was in the middle of the defense. While his life ended tragically short, his greatness at USC and then in the NFL will always be remembered by fans.

Despite only playing two seasons for the Trojans, Keyshawn Johnson ranks ninth all-time at USC in receiving yards (2,796) after recording two top-five single-season receiving totals in back-to-back years. He was one of the most dominant receivers in the history of the program but just misses the mark of the modern-era Mount Rushmore.

Bruce Matthews started 34 games for the Trojans throughout his college career and was arguably the most dominant offensive lineman in the program’s history. Voted as an All-American for the 1982 season, Matthews was an undeniable and versatile force in the trenches.