When was the last time the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick came from USC?

The Chicago Bears are expected to select former USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL draft Thursday night in Detroit.

If that happens, USC will have more players taken with the top overall pick than any other program. Williams is set to become the sixth former Trojan to earn the honor and the first in more than 20 years.

The first was offensive lineman Ron Yary, who was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in 1968. Yary played defensive tackle for the Trojans in 1965 and was named the Pac-8 defensive player of the year before switching to offensive line, where he was a consensus All-American in 1966 and 1967 and won the Outland Trophy for the nation’s top interior lineman in 1967.

Yary spent 14 seasons with the Vikings before spending one season with the Rams to finish his career. The seven-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

In 1969, the Buffalo Bills selected former USC running back O.J. Simpson with the top overall pick. Simpson had led the nation in rushing yards during both of his seasons with the Trojans — 1,415 yards with 11 touchdowns in 1967 and 1,880 rushing yards with 22 touchdowns during a 1968 campaign that resulted in him winning the Heisman Trophy.

Simpson won the NFL rushing crown four times between 1972 and 1976. He was named the league’s most valuable player in 1973 after rushing for 2,003 yards to become the first player to run for more than 2,000 yards during a time when the season was only 14 games. He spent nine years with the Bills and two with the San Francisco 49ers and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

In 1977, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected former Trojans running back Ricky Bell with the No. 1 overall pick. In three seasons with the Trojans, Bell rushed for 3,553 yards and 28 touchdowns, setting a school single-game record with 347 rushing yards against Washington State in 1976. He finished third in Heisman voting in 1975 and second in 1976.

Bell spent five seasons with the Buccaneers and one with the Chargers before retiring after the 1982 season, having suffered from weight loss, skin problems and other medical issues. He died Nov. 28, 1984, at age 29 of a heart attack triggered by an uncommon muscular disease of the heart called cardiomyopathy, which is a form of dermatomyositis.

In 1996, the New York Jets drafted former USC receiver Keyshawn Johnson with the top pick. Johnson was a two-time All-American and the 1995 Pac-10 offensive player of the year. He finished his Trojans career with 148 catches for 2,358 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Johnson played four years for the Jets, four with the Buccaneers — winning a Super Bowl after the 2002 season — two with the Dallas Cowboys and one with the Carolina Panthers. He made three Pro Bowls and finished his career with 814 receptions for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns.

The last former USC player to be go No. 1 in the NFL draft was quarterback Carson Palmer, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003. Palmer spent four years with the Trojans, winning the 2002 Heisman Trophy after completing 309 of 489 passes for 3,942 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions that season.

Palmer played 14 NFL seasons and make the Pro Bowl three times — in 2005 and 2006 with the Bengals and in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals. Also in 2015, Palmer finished second in league MVP voting after throwing for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns, both career highs, with 11 interceptions.

Williams transferred to USC before his sophomore season in 2022, following coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. That year, he completed 333 of 500 passes for 4,537 yards with 42 touchdowns and only five interceptions and rushed for 382 yards and 10 touchdowns to become the record eighth USC player to win the Heisman Trophy. Last season, he completed 266 of 388 passes for 3,635 yards with 30 touchdowns and five interceptions and added 142 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top