(90) RYAN NIELSEN--Defensive Tackle, 6-5, 280, Sr.*/Sr.
2001: Nielsen, the veteran on USC's defensive line, started for his third season at defensive tackle as a senior in 2001. Overall in 2001 while starting 11 games (he missed the Washington game after spraining his right shoulder against Stanford), he had 31 tackles, including 5 for losses of 22 yards (with 3 sacks for minus 21 yards), 1 deflection and 1 fumble recovery. He had 5 tackles (with a sack) against Oregon State, 4 stops against San Jose State, Kansas State, Notre Dame (with a fumble recovery) and UCLA (with a sack), and 3 against Oregon (with a sack) and Utah (with 2 for losses). He was invited to play in the Paradise Bowl.
2000: After starting all of 1999, Nielsen was a part-time starter at defensive tackle as a junior in 2000. He started 5 games (Penn State, Colorado, San Jose State and Oregon State to open the season and then the Notre Dame season finale) and was Bernard Riley's often-used backup in the other contests. A back sprain in practice prior to the Arizona game hampered him for the rest of the season. Overall in 2000 while appearing in all 12 games, he had 25 tackles, including 3 for losses of 8 yards, plus 4 deflections and a forced fumble (against Arizona, which USC returned for a TD). He had 5 tackles (2 for losses) at Oregon State (along with the forced fumble and 2 deflections), 4 at Stanford and Arizona State, and 3 against Colorado and Notre Dame. He had surgery to repair a torn right biceps tendon and an abdominal hernia after 2000 spring practice.
1999: Nielsen started at defensive tackle as a sophomore in 1999 and did a commendable job. He started all but the Stanford game (he backed up Aaron Williams in that one). Overall in 1999 while appearing in all 12 games, he had 39 tackles, including 6 for losses of 28 yards (with 3 sacks for minus 20 yards), 3 deflections and 1 fumble recovery (against San Diego State). He had 9 tackles at Oregon, 5 against Stanford and Arizona State, and 3 versus Hawaii, San Diego State, Arizona, California and Washington State. He was a 1999 All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick and was USC's Defensive Lineman of the Year.
1998: Nielsen was a backup defensive end and tackle as a redshirt freshman in 1998. He even started the Purdue opener at end. Overall in 1998 while appearing in 10 games (all but San Diego State, Florida State and Notre Dame), he made 12 tackles (including 1 for a loss). He posted 5 tackles against TCU in the Sun Bowl and 2 stops each against Purdue and California.
1997: Nielsen redshirted as a freshman defensive end in 1997, his first year at USC.
HIGH SCHOOL: He was a 1996 Prep Star All-American, Super Prep All-Farwest, Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team, All-CIF Division III, Los Angeles Times All-Ventura County first team Defensive MVP, Los Angeles Daily News All-Valley first team and All-Marmonte League as a senior at Royal High in Simi Valley (Calif.). He had 129 tackles (79 solo), 19 sacks, 7 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions as a defensive end in 1996 and 34 catches for 356 yards (10.5 avg.) with 4 TDs as a tight end.
As a 1995 junior, he made Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior second team, Los Angeles Times All-Ventura County first team, Los Angeles Daily News All-Valley second team and All-Marmonte League.
A 3-year starter, he was an All-Marmonte League choice as a 1994 sophomore.
He also played basketball (earning 1997 Student Sports Grid-Hoops All-American honorable mention, 1996 All-Marmonte League MVP and 1995 All-Marmonte League as a center) and baseball at Royal.
PERSONAL: He's a public policy and management major at USC. He likes to fish in his free time. His sports hero is Bo Jackson.
RYAN NIELSEN ON: His philosophy: "My approach is to go out there and play as hard as I can and make the most of my time when I'm on the field and while I'm at USC."
Being underrated: "I really try not to look at it like that. I just go out there and try to do my job. If media come talk to me, that's fine. If not, that doesn't bother me."
WHAT OTHERS SAY: Former USC defensive tackle Ennis Davis: "I'm impressed with his knowledge of the game and his work ethic. I'm impressed with the way he's come back from all he's been through. He's our brain on the field."
GAME-BY-GAME WITH RYAN NIELSEN