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April 27, 2009

Road to NFL runs through USC

While the NFL Draft is certainly a major day for individuals who hear their names called, signaling the beginning of their professional careers, it's also a pretty good day for the universities that produce the athletes.

And for USC, Draft day is much better than a pretty good day.

It's a coronation ceremony for the success the school has enjoyed under head coach Pete Carroll, and this past weekend wasn't an exception.

For the second consecutive year, USC produced more selections than any other school in the draft. 11 Trojans heard their names called during this year's draft - five on day one and six on Sunday.

After Mark Sanchez (No. 5 to New York Jets), Brian Cushing (No. 15 to Houston), Clay Matthews (No. 26 to Green Bay), Rey Maualuga (No. 38 to Cincinnati) and Fili Moala (No. 56 to Indianapolis) had their NFL dreams realized Saturday, Patrick Turner, Kaluka Maiava, Kyle Moore, David Buehler, Cary Harris and Kevin Ellison all were up on Sunday.

Turner, surprisingly, was the first Trojan selected on day two, picked with the 23rd selection of the third round (87th overall) by the Miami Dolphins. Maiava was next, going to Cleveland with fourth pick in round four (No. 104 overall).

Moore didn't have to wait much longer than Maiava to hear his name called, going to Tampa Bay 13 picks later in the fourth round (No. 117 overall).

Buehler got selected in the fifth round with the 36th pick (No. 172 overall), going to the Dallas Cowboys. The 55-pick gap between Moore and Buehler was the longest stretch of the Draft where a Trojan wasn't selected.

After Buehler, Harris and Ellison were selected in the sixth round. The Buffalo Bills took Harris with the 10th pick of the round (No. 183 overall), and the San Diego Chargers called on Ellison with the 16th pick of the sixth round (No. 189 overall).

In three of the four past NFL Drafts, USC players were taken more than players from any other school. It's also the third time in that same window where 10 or more Trojans were taken.

The success USC has had in getting its players selected hasn't been lost on any of the analysts covering the Draft for print, radio or television. Whether it's ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. or the NFL Network's Jon Gruden, it's impossible not to praise the Trojans for placing so many players in the NFL.

This cannot hurt recruiting. Save for rarely used reserves like tight end Jimmy Miller and defensive end Gerald Washington or punter Greg Woidneck, each senior that received notable playing time in 2008 heard their name announced during the 2009 NFL Draft.

As Carroll continues to attract marquee talent to Troy, USC players will continue to hear their names called during the course of NFL Draft weekend.

And that means the pageantry surrounding the Draft will continue to double as an infomercial for the Trojan football program.


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