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Insider

Exit Interview: Ross Cumming

1/28/2012
USC

One of the unsung players for the 2011 USC team was senior linebacker/fullback/special teams performer Ross Cumming.

Cumming was a little-used senior linebacker heading into the season who had made his mark primarily on special teams, but the coaches moved him to fullback for the Arizona State game and his role steadily increased the rest of the year. Cumming is a hard-nosed and physical player so his style worked perfectly as a lead blocker for the Trojans offense. He even caught two passes for 16 yards and added 15 tackles on special teams en route to being named the USC Special Teams Player of the Year.

Cumming attended Santa Margarita High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., and originally attended the Naval Academy Prep school with a plan of making a long-term commitment to the Navy. He broke his back while playing football in his first year at Navy prep and was unable to continue with his Navy career. He transferred to USC in 2008 with a goal of a career in real estate and will graduate this spring with a degree in public policy, management and planning.

WeAreSC caught up with Cumming to get his thoughts on the 2011 season, the blue-collar mindset of the team and a possible change in his career plans.



WeAreSC: “Thanks for joining us Ross. Tell us what you are doing right now.”

Cumming: “Thanks for having me Garry. I’m finishing up one class at a junior college -- it’s a pre-requisite math course that I need to take -- and I’ll be finished with school in March. I’m not going to take part in USC Pro Day so I’m done playing football.”

WeAreSC: “What are your immediate plans after school is done?”

Cumming: “I actually had some great conversations with some of our coaches -- they were very helpful -- and they’ve kind of directed me into coaching, so I’m slowly beginning that path.”

WeAreSC: “Interesting. Is that something you had ever thought about before?”

Cumming: “I started thinking about it about a year ago, maybe a little more. I was fortunate enough to be a senior for this coaching staff in their second year at USC, so I kind of got a behind-the-scenes look at what went on. I was blown away. It was really encouraging, not because of the way they coached or managed but because of the kind of guys they were. It was incredible to be around them.”

WeAreSC: “Talk more about that. It’s a side of the coaches that not everybody gets to see.”

Cumming: “Absolutely. I was pretty clueless about what college coaching is like but when you see this you realize it's not just drawing up plays on a board. They are so committed to what they are doing. Those guys sleep in the office sometimes -- they are there before us and they’re there after us. It was amazing to see that kind of passion for their work.”

WeAreSC: “So how are you going to get started with this coaching career?”

Cumming: “I’ve had a couple discussions with Coach (Lane) Kiffin and Coach (John) Baxter about a possible graduate assistant coach spot. There aren’t any guarantees about what will happen, but we’ve had some enthusiastic conversations regarding next year.”

WeAreSC: “Is there a specific area you would be interested in coaching?”

Cumming: “Most likely it would be either defense or special teams. They are still in the early stages of finalizing the staff, so I’m not even sure if I will have a spot or not. We’ll see.”

WeAreSC: “Talk about the coaching style of Lane Kiffin.”

Cumming: “I think there was a mutual process where he needed to get to know us and we needed to get to know him. With Coach [Pete] Carroll, we know how he behaved but we didn’t know him personally. With Coach Kiffin we got a chance this year to know him really well. He’s an incredibly fun guy, an outgoing guy, when you get a chance to know him. He’s really enthusiastic.”

WeAreSC: “Let’s talk about your move to fullback this year and how that played out for you.”

Cumming: “It started when (USC linebackers coach) Joe Barry asked me if I wanted to play some goal-line fullback. They tried me out in some basic blocking drills and I guess I outperformed their expectations -- they must not have expected much -- and my role kind of grew from there. The first game action was Arizona State and everybody gave me a hard time because I just sprinted in when they called me to go in the game. I really enjoyed it.”

WeAreSC: “You brought a real blue-collar approach to the offense and I think it made a difference through the rest of the season.”

Cumming: “That’s kind of the approach I’ve always taken. I really learned it at the Naval Academy Prep school. It wasn’t about what you wore or what you said, it was about going out there and performing your role. When I got to SC, I thought Rhett Ellison was the one who personified that. He’s the real leader of the blue-collar movement, if that’s what you want to call it.”

WeAreSC: “Sum up the experience of the 2011 season.”

Cumming: “I think the thing I would say is that this group of seniors -- along with the young guys and the coaches -- we officially changed the culture of how you work at USC. We had a bunch of meetings in the off-season last year about setting the identity that the coaches wanted and I think we succeeded in that. We wanted to out-work everybody, we wanted to get tougher. The last couple years, we hadn’t been like that. It was amazing to see the change come to fruition through our hard work. I mentioned him before but just watch Rhett Ellison and you’ll see the definition of hard work. The Rhett Ellison Leadership Award is totally deserved, he set a great example for the young guys.

WeAreSC: “Who are the guys in the future who are going to take that torch from Rhett Ellison?”

Cumming: “Next year’s team has so many leaders like T.J. McDonald, Matt Barkley, Khaled Holmes. They are set across the board.”

WeAreSC: “Let’s get back to the season, are there any highlight moments that stand out for you?”

Cumming: “The best one of the season was definitely when the clock struck zeroes in Eugene. There is a picture of me with two of my close buddies -- Shane Horton and Marshall Jones -- just smiling on the field right after the game and our mothers got it blown up and they gave one to each of us. You look at that and you’re just so proud of what you accomplished.”

WeAreSC: “What was your favorite part of being a USC football player?”

Cumming: “It’s pretty basic, it’s game day, playing in the Coliseum. Every single time I was in the Coliseum I got chills.”

WeAreSC: “What was your favorite part of being a USC student?”

Cumming: “The academic environment. USC is incredible. They did a real good job of furthering my education in real estate.”

WeAreSC: “What will you miss the most about college?”

Cumming: “Honestly, I’m very content with what went on. I’m 24 years old, I’m ready to move on. I’m just happy I got to contribute to a team like this, to have the success that we had. It was incredible. All the seniors, we still meet up, talk about the season, we’ll be doing that for the next 40 years.”