You left central Georgia to go all the way out west to USC. So, what prompted the decision to go to L.A.?
I didn't want to get away from home. I just wanted to get away from Warner Robins, Ga. I had family out in L.A. My grandmother and my uncles live out in Inglewood, so it wasn't my first time there. And I wasn't born in Georgia. I was born in Germany, and I lived in El Paso, Texas, for nine years. I didn't move to Georgia until seventh grade. I actually have no family there.
When I mention (USC coach) Pete Carroll, what's the first thing that comes to mind?
I think he's the greatest football coach ever. That's why we stay on top every year. He's won the Pac-10 seven times in a row. As far as building a program, we haven't fallen off. There are teams that do well then have those rebuilding years. We don't have rebuilding years. We just move the next guy up. That's how he's always run his program. That's why the program is so successful.
How did Pete sell you on USC?
He came out and watched me in basketball practice. And he told me I was going to play (in) my freshman year, which I did. He didn't lie to me. He was sincere when he told me, and he didn't lie to me. I knew that I was going to have a chance to go to the national championship in my first year, and that was exciting. I was there with Matt (Leinart) and Reggie (Bush). That was an experience. Practice used to look like a highlight film. We had two Heisman Trophy winners plus LenDale (White) and Steve Smith. All those guys are in the (NFL) doing good.
I hear you were pretty serious about basketball.
I thought I was going to be a basketball player before I became a football player. I'd been playing basketball since I was 5 years old. I was always too big to play in my age bracket, so I always played in the one above me. I just used to dominate everybody. I played sports year-round. I even tried baseball at one point, but standing out there in the outfield doing nothing wasn't exciting to me. I was just sitting there. My first time swinging at the ball, I hit it over the fence. That was fun. But sitting in the outfield was boring.
Weren't you more serious about basketball than football at one point?
Oh, definitely. All the way up until my junior year of high school. Then I noticed there are more scholarships and letters coming for football than basketball. I got scholarship (offers) for basketball, too. But they weren't from the North Carolinas or the Dukes. When I started seeing 6-5 point guards out there, I was like, "Nah. I'm good."
What's the angriest you've ever been?
I guess when my little brother used to (steal). I caught him taking my money. All he had to do was ask. I could have punched him. He took like $10, but it had built up. This wasn't the first time. And he would always get away with it because my mom and dad would let him off. I always worked when I was coming up because I wanted to have my own money. My mom used to say, "I hope you make it big because you have expensive taste." I used to wash cars, cut grass, then I worked at Foot Locker, McDonald's, Zaxby's — anything. When I work for something and somebody takes it from me, I get pretty angry.
Weekly question: What's on your iPod that would surprise me?
I have a lot of gospel music on my iPod. It's inspirational for me. It can calm you down when you're so ready to go out and play. You really feel it in your heart.
Other weekly question: What Web site do you think you visit the most?
I visit a mixtape Web site that I get a lot of music from. It's called datpiff.com. I hear about all the new music that's coming out. I like to stay up on that.
You're kind of a military brat. What was the most interesting place you lived in?
I lived (in) all kinds of places. I lived in Greece, Rome, I was born in Germany. I went to — where's the place where they wear the pointed shoes? — yeah, the Netherlands. The place I lived the longest was probably El Paso, Texas. My dad was stationed at Fort Bliss, and we lived there for about nine years while he went overseas to Korea twice and Saudi Arabia once.
Your father was stationed in Warner Robins, Ga., when you were in high school. What does everyone do in tiny Warner Robins on a Saturday night?
In Warner Robins, Ga., on a Saturday night, there is nothing to do. Maybe you hit a local bar, go to the movies or get on the road and go to Atlanta. There's really nothing else to do but kick it with your homeboys. That's why I don't go home much. I've been spoiled for the last four years. I was in L.A. It's good to see my family, but I can't be there for long.