As Reggie Bush sprinted and juked his way to one of the most impressive career highlight reels in college football history, Los Angeles was captivated. The USC Trojans, coached then by Pete Carroll, were at their most dominant and most entertaining in those days, and that made an adoring fan of a young Jaydon Mickens, who grew up in L.A. and went to high school fewer than four miles from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Mickens revered Bush in particular. So he joked Sunday that when the Huskies visit USC on Thursday night, Mickens’ first-ever game at the Coliseum, “I’m planning on doing a lot of Reggie Bush stuff.”
This will not be an ordinary road trip for the Huskies’ senior receiver. He said he’s gathering as many tickets from his teammates as possible -- each player is allotted a certain number of tickets for each game -- and bartering when necessary.
“Especially with the guys from Washington (who) don’t know anybody in Los Angeles,” Mickens said. “They even come up to you and are like, ‘Tickets?’ I can give them my Oregon State tickets because it’s like, I don’t think nobody from Los Angeles is coming to Corvallis, Oregon, in late November. You know? Hey man, I got much respect for Oregon State, but I don’t think nobody’s coming to that game. We probably gotta be ranked 1 and 2 to get people there, because that’s going to be cold.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
But Mickens wants to play Thursday in front of as many friends and relatives as possible, and to play well against a program that he grew up admiring. He even committed to USC as a high-school junior at Dorsey, but said “a lot of stuff happened, and it wasn’t for me, at all.”
He has no problem admitting: “If you’re from California, you wanted to go to USC. You can be a Cal fan, you can be anything, but you wanted to go to USC at some point in your life.”
Mickens said he knows “60 or 70” of the players on USC’s roster, “and if I don’t know ’em, I know of ’em and they know of me. It’s weird. It’s like, I’m going to talk crap to you, but afterward we might have lunch or something.”
More from Mickens on Sunday:
(Does USC look familiar at all?) “Looks very familiar. Everything they do is familiar to me — returns to blocking schemes to you name it. But knowing Coach Sark and knowing his coaching staff, they’re going to throw some curveballs at us. And that’s what type of guy he is and that’s what type of football team he created at that university right now. He’s going to play hard-nosed football. He’s not going to change anything up. Like I said, he might throw some curveballs at you, but they’re going to be ready to play. And they feel that they have something to prove. They feel that they should be a playoff-contender team and we’ve got to go in there and prove that for ourselves. Because we know we want to be a playoff-contender team — everybody does. We just can’t let them feel like we’re the underdogs and they’re over us. We gotta go in there and make it a game.”
(When the coaching change happened, were you looking ahead to this game?) “My freshman year I actually saw that it like skips — we played UCLA two years and then USC two years. So I’ve seen this on the schedule since my freshman year, because I was excited to play against ’SC. Like I said, it was always everybody wanted to go to USC, especially where I’m from. So playing against those guys (in Seattle) my freshman year, it was kind of like a dream come true.”
(What’s the biggest difference now and before the coaching change?) “I couldn’t say it changed. I’d say it just swapped, per say. It swapped on the direction — each direction wants to go the same route, which is what every team wants: a national championship. But there’s certain ways of going about it. Coach Sark, he’s more hard-nosed; we focused on ball and that’s what it’s going to be; get your school work done. Coach Pete, we want to focus on ball but we also want to keep it balanced between school, family, social life and also us as a team and make sure we’re close and we’re playing for each other. It’s a lot of cartwheels and things like that that go into it, but it’s just the coaching styles, really. Not much has changed. Same philosophy, kind of different, but the coaching styles change.”
(Did you get to watch the Washington State-California game yesterday?) “No, it was on Pac-12 Network, but I did see the highlights. From what I heard, it was a good game.”
(DirecTV?) “Yes, sir. … I told my girlfriend, ‘Hey, record the game, record the game.’ And then I was getting mad like, ‘You didn’t record the game.’ (She said) ‘I didn’t see it on there.’ Then I called Direct and was like, ‘What’s going on? You’re supposed to have all the channels and I’m paying this and what’s going on?’ (They said) ‘Well, we don’t hold Pac-12 Network.’ So I gotta get another cable box … just to watch Pac-12. So that sucks. Direct needs to step it up. … I got SEC Network (laughs). I don’t want to watch Georgia! I want to watch Arizona vs. UCLA. I want to watch the teams we’re going to play.”
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple