Senior center Kristofer O'Dowd sat down with RipsIt the other day to talk football, his summer activities and appearing in Playboy Magazine (for his Playboy All-American award, of course). Here's the Q&A with the Tucson, Ariz. native:
RipsIt: Thanks for coming in today Kristofer. Now, this is your last summer at USC - have you been doing anything special, outside of taking classes and participating in workouts?
Kristofer O'Dowd: It hasn't really hit me yet that it's my last summer here. I'm going through the same things I've been going through since my freshman year - taking a couple classes, hanging with the fellas. I work out in the mornings with the offensive line, helping build the chemistry all the way up until fall ball. It's my senior year, so I've just been a lot more focused on getting my body right and doing what I need to do to be successful going into fall camp so I can carry that throughout the season.
RipsIt: You're also graduating early at the end of the fall semester (however, Kristofer will walk with the rest of his fellow graduates in the spring 2011 ceremony). From an academic standpoint, how does it feel to have all the hard work pay off?
KO: Yeah, it was a tough time my first couple of years. I did a lot of school because I knew I wanted to graduate early and I thought about doing a master's program. My freshman year I didn't really expect to start (O'Dowd started three of the first four games and appeared in seven games total as a true freshman), so that added an extra level of difficulty. Coming into the fall this year, I'm only taking two classes, so I can really focus on football, and then after the season I can leave with a degree and really make Mom and Dad happy.
RipsIt: What have your summer workouts looked like so far?
KO: We're the big fellas, so we're the first workout group. We're (in the weight room) at 6:30 or 7 a.m. working out, trying to build the unit, trying to get better from where we were in the Spring. Pretty much just getting each other right for the season because that's the most important thing.
RipsIt: As one of the team's senior members, both literally and figuratively, how have you pushed and mentored your O-line teammates?
KO: We have a lot of leaders on the team. As one of them, I put myself in a position to pull other players into our workout group. (Senior) Butch (Lewis) is my boy, and as seniors this year we're trying to do big things. Working out with him and combining our passion really gives us a drive, and it's fun to have someone like him to relate to.
RipsIt: With several members of the offensive line gaining experience this past spring due to injuries and having to face a tough defensive line, how do you feel like they have progressed?
KO: We're definitely one of the toughest offensive lines just because we were running only six to seven guys all spring. It was unfortunate that a bunch of the older guys got injured, but that happens all the time during the season, so it just calls on the younger guys to step up. A lot of them wouldn't be in the position they are now if the older guys hadn't been hurt. I'm really proud of them because even though it was a little rough in the beginning, by the end we were really gelling, and when you get that with the first, second and third team guys that's pretty special. When fall comes, there's definitely going to be a lot of competition - more so than if everyone had stayed healthy in the spring.
RipsIt: Shifting away from the gridiron a bit - we're at the height of the NBA playoffs right now, and the Lakers' road to the finals went through Arizona. You're from Tucson - were you pulling for the Suns or the Lakers in the last series?
KO: Well since I'm from Tucson, not Phoenix, I'm not really a Suns fan. Being out here in L.A. for the last four years, you get brought into the realm of the local sports by living down the street from Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center. With USC being one of the major L.A. football attractions, you feel more a part of the local sports loyalties.
RipsIt: Earlier this month you were elected to your second straight Playboy All-American squad, but they stopped throwing parties for the players three years ago. What's up with that?
KO: It's kind of a bummer, but it's still great to be recognized in Playboy Magazine, so I really can't be too upset.
RipsIt: On a more serious note, when the NCAA ruling came out last week, Matt Barkley referenced Jake Olsen as a source of perspective on the matter. What have you drawn upon to maintain a positive attitude?
KO: It's one game. It's disappointing that we're not going to have the opportunity to show what we have at the end of the season after playing 13 games by being rewarded with a bowl game. But if you think about it, that one game won't really change anything in the big picture of your life. My last home game is against Notre Dame and my last collegiate game is at the Rose Bowl (against UCLA), and that's pretty special as it is. I'm not complaining at all, so don't be surprised when you see the Trojans come out this year and giving it their all in those 13 games.
RipsIt: Some of your teammates from last year are now in the NFL. Who are you most looking forward to see play on Sundays?
KO: My boy, C-Boogie, Charles Brown. I was so jacked up to see him go to the Saints. It's a great place for him. It's so crazy to look back a year ago and they're all next to you, and then they transition to the next level and you can say "hey, I played with that guy." I can't wait for that opportunity when it comes.
RipsIt: Have you kept in touch with Charles or any other of your former teammates?
KO: I keep in touch with a bunch of the guys - Nick Howell with the Titans, Rey Maualuga, Kaluka Maiava, we're all good friends. It's crazy because once they get to that level, they'll always have respect for the players who went to SC and appreciate the relationships they built while they were here.
RipsIt: One way to keep in touch is on Twitter (follow Kristofer here)...
KO: I have to get more followers than Barkley. I want an offensive lineman to be more popular than the quarterback (laughs).
RipsIt: I believe former Trojans Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing are also competing to see who can get more followers. You might have to put out some stakes to beat out Barkley.
KO: Oh, if you put steaks out there, I'll eat 'em (laughs).
RipsIt: So you use Twitter to stay in touch with fans, friends and family?
KO: Yeah, it's cool to see what they're doing on the day-to-day. It gives them an idea of what I'm doing here in LA. If you have an interesting question or comment, let me know and I'll hit you back.
RipsIt: And to wrap-up, what are you most looking forward to this upcoming season?
KO: The upcoming season. Senior year. There's nothing better than that. I can't wait to finish out my career as a Trojan and go out guns a-blazin, because that's what's going to happen.