Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was not only an All-America linebacker at USC, he also played on the baseball team and was good enough to be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.
That two-sport background caused his path to cross with a pair of guys with USC connections who went on to do pretty well in the Pacific Northwest. One, not surprisingly, is Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. The other is former Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson, who was a teammate of Del Rio’s on the 1983-84 Trojans baseball teams, which also included Mark McGwire.
“Randy was wild,” Del Rio said Tuesday. “He didn’t have a lot of great control back in the day – but awesome talent, and awesome to see him have such a spectacular career.”
Del Rio was long gone by the time Carroll took over the USC football program in 2001, and their paths have crossed only rarely at campus events or through the NFL.
“Not a lot other than we played a lot of basketball at the Senior Bowl over the years,” Del Rio said. “Pete’s got a little game. He can shoot a little bit. You’ve got to put a hand in his face. Other than that, when I would go out to Southern Cal, he was always very gracious out there when I would go out there to visit the Trojans.”
NOT SO FAST
One day after Broncos 27-year-old cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie created a stir by indicating that he would consider retirement after this season, he clarified his position at Super Bowl media day.
“They misunderstood what I was saying,” he said. “What I was saying is that I got a one-year contract. There are many times that I’ve seen a guy get a one-year deal, and it doesn’t pan out, and that’s it. So you have to think about life after football. That motivates you to go out and play hard. I’m not thinking about retiring in terms of giving up.”
He went on to cite Fabian Washington – also a defensive back, also from Bradenton, Fla. – who was selected in the first round of the NFL draft, but was out of the game after six seasons.
“I work out with him: He’s still fast, still in his prime,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “And I think, that could be me. I think about guys like that. I can’t speak on that (whether someone will offer a lot of money). I am prepared for whatever. That’s what I mean about this being the last go-round.”
He added that he is grateful to the Broncos for offering him his one-year contract this season, and said he would consider signing a contract that would keep him in Denver.
“The fans are great,” he said. “Everything’s great – other than that weather ain’t too friendly.”
One of the most-spoken words during this Super Bowl week – maybe right behind “Manning,” “Sherman,” and “weather” – is “Omaha,” regularly shouted by Denver quarterback Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage.
But as often as they have been asked about it, the Broncos have given little away:
• Coach John Fox: “I won’t get into the exact specifics – and really, we’ve never been real thrilled that the league kind of makes us put on these microphones on players. It’s not real fun for us.
“I know we have to change a lot, and all of those kinds of things. In today’s NFL offensively, there are more and more people doing things at the line of scrimmage – whether it is audibles – and I don’t want to get into too much.”
• Guard Zane Beadles: “We have all kinds of code words. You wouldn’t believe all the kinds of words we use and the number we use.”
• Rodgers-Cromatrie: “I just realized when I got here why everyone was saying that. I’m on this team, and I didn’t know what it means. I thought it was some new song.”