2000: The hard-running and off-the-wall Papadakis, whose father and brother played at USC, is looking to get back into the tailback mix as a senior in 2000 after suffering a season-ending foot injury in 1999. He missed 2000 spring practice while recovering from the resulting surgery.
PAUL HACKETT SAYS: ?We all can?t wait for Petros to return, because he brings so much to our team. He can hit it up hard in the middle and do some damage, yet he?s fast enough to break off some big runs. He just needs to get healthy and return to his 1998 form when he was such a vital part of our offense.?
1999: Papadakis was set to be on the field often in 1999 as a senior tailback in a variety of situations (in short yardage downs, in two-back formations, as Chad Morton?s backup, as a potential starter and possibly returning kickoffs)...until he broke his right foot in 1999 fall camp and was sidelined for the season. So he redshirted the 1999 season.
1998: Papadakis was the backup tailback to Chad Morton in 1998 as a junior. He even started 4 games (Oregon State, Arizona State, Washington State and Stanford) for an injured Morton. Used primarily in short yardage situations, he proved equally capable of breaking long runs. Overall in 1998 while appearing in all 13 games, he gained 365 yards on 93 carries (3.9 avg.) with a team-best 8 rushing TDs and he caught 3 passes for 26 yards (8.7 avg.). He also made 1 tackle (against San Diego State) on special teams. He had a game-high 118 yards on 13 carries (both career bests) against California, with a career-long 65-yard TD run (a 58-yard TD run was shortened to 41 yards because of a late penalty behind the play). The next week at Washington State, he was again the game?s top runner, this time getting 84 yards on 6 tries, including a 53-yard scoring burst. He had 2 short TD runs at Stanford and 1 at UCLA and against TCU in the Sun Bowl.
1997: Papadakis, who came to USC as a walk-on after transferring from California but earned a scholarship in 1997, was a reserve tailback and key special teams player as a sophomore in 1997. Overall while appearing in 10 games in 1997 (he did not play at California), he rushed for 103 yards on 24 carries (4.3 avg.). He had 54 yards on 7 carries against Stanford. He also made 1 tackle (at Notre Dame). He missed the last half of 1997 spring practice because of a sprained left ankle.
1996: He redshirted as a running back at USC in 1996.
1995: Papadakis originally signed with California and actually participated in practice for 1 week with the Bears in the fall of 1995, then left there and enrolled at USC in the spring of 1996.
HIGH SCHOOL: He made the 1994 Student Sports All-State honorable mention, All-CIF Division II first team, Los Angeles Times All-South Bay first team, South Bay Daily Breeze All-South Bay Co-MVP and All-Bay League Offensive MVP as a senior running back at Peninsula High in Rolling Hills (Calif.). He rushed for 2,026 yards on 217 carries (9.3 avg.) with 22 TDs in 1994. Ten of his TD runs were at least 40 yards and he scored at least 2 TDs in 7 different games. He ran for 288 yards in 1 game. Peninsula went 11-2 and advanced to the CIF Division II semifinals. Current Trojan Scott Huber also prepped at Peninsula.
PERSONAL: He?s majoring in English/American literature at USC. He is a popular figure on local and national sports talk radio shows. As part of the ?Read Across America? program, he has read books to local elementary school classes in 2000. He has worked many years at his family?s renowned Greek restaurant in San Pedro, Papadakis Taverna. Petros is a third generation Trojan. His father, John, lettered 2 years (1970-71) as a linebacker at USC (he was Troy?s most inspirational player in 1971). His brother, Taso, was a linebacker with the Trojans (he lettered in 1994 and 1996).
PETROS PAPADAKIS ON:
Himself: ?I?m a walking contradiction. I?m the only person in the world who can sit on the fence and watch himself go by...I?ve always kind of been a little bit eccentric in certain situations. But if I don?t know the people, I?m kind of quiet.?
His 1998 success: ?I?ve got confidence now...I became more comfortable with running the ball and making decisions in general. Usually I?m really scared of doing something bad...It used to be just my legs going and by the time I figured out what I was supposed to be doing, I?d be back in the huddle. I feel more comfortable carrying the ball now, reading the keys, having confidence in my blockers. And I?m kind of trying to open my eyes more now!...Early on, though, I was starting to get down. I started to miss keys and miss holes, which is not good. I was thinking maybe I was just a short-yardage guy.?
His running style: ?I?m a powerful runner with some speed. I try to hit the hole going full speed. I just try to get at least 4 or 5 yards a carry...Basically, it?s just more comfortable for me to run into people. It hurts, but I just try to get a couple yards, and that?s what?s gotten me to where I am right now...I was never a very fancy runner. I don?t have moves like Chad Morton. I can?t do that kind of stuff. I would if I could. The truth is, I?m not cat-like, I can?t reverse my field, do a flip and score. I run straight ahead and over people. But I am pretty fast...I?m not the most instinctive runner. I have to think to do certain things. If I let myself go, I?ll run right up (offensive guard) Travis Claridge?s back and he?ll beat me up after practice. And that?s not good!?
His speed: ?Teams kind of misjudge my speed. No one has seen me go anywhere in about 5 years. I don?t look particularly fast when I go 1 yard.?
Being a football player: ?No one thinks I play football. I?m not that big and I?m not that muscular. One of my professors came up to me and said, ?I hear you play football.? And then he said, ?Are you a walk-on or a kicker??...People used to mistake me for my brother, who also wore the same number. When they called roll in class, they?d look at me confused because he?s a big guy...I?ve always been a little eccentric. I reveled in obscurity for 3 years in high school, then I ran for 2,000 yards as a senior and everyone started to like me...It happened so fast. Nothing had changed in my mind. I was still a confused high school student. All of a sudden, I was getting scholarship offers and everyone liked me again. I was cool and popular. It was so weird...I?m not impressed with myself at all. I?m shocked that I?m here at USC, playing tailback...I never liked working out. I still have to force myself to get up in the morning. I don?t like the weight room and I don?t even like running, even though I?m a running back...I?m not Mr. Football. I don?t breathe pigskin and I don?t have laces in the back of my head, but I play for a reason. I value my relationship with my teammates and I do things for them because they do things for me...I like the regimen of football and I?m proud of myself for being able to handle it...I always thought that if I ever played college football, the world was going to smile upon me. Like I?d be walking out of my house in the morning and the sun would be singing a song and smiling and the picket fences would come alive and be holding hands. That?s just not the way it is. Nobody really cares. Which is cool. I like that better.?
His popularity with the media: ?I just feel like the media is starved for somebody to say something different than, ?We really have to play hard this week.? That?s all good stuff, but I deal with that in meetings every day. I deal with that for six hours with coaches.?
Football games: ?Every game is a mental challenge. Part of you wants to hide and part of you wants to kill somebody. Part of you wants to go perform and part of you wants someone else to perform. Personally and collectively, it?s an emotional rollercoaster.?
His improvement: ?I feel more comfortable with the ball. Every year in college I get more and more used to running the ball. I?m more relaxed. And I?m catching the ball, which is good for me. The 1997 season wasn?t easy for someone like me designated as the third-string running back, not even knowing if I would play. I know all I can do is run hard.?
Originally going to California before coming to USC: ?I left for Berkeley the day I graduated from high school. I liked it there, but I got very homesick and nostalgic. I wasn?t ready emotionally, so I came home...I wanted to be a Berkeley poet-sage. When I came home, I was enticed to come to USC and play football...It was a bad decision to go to Cal and it was a bad decision to leave. It still bothers me in the sense that I signed a scholarship, made a commitment to them and didn?t fulfill it. But it would have happened anywhere because I was unprepared. That?s why I respect incoming freshmen, because I know what they go through.?
His USC roots: ?USC is the best place to be for me. I was born going to USC games. The Trojans were my heroes...My grandfather (Tom) loved USC. He got the whole thing started. He has never missed a Trojan home game...When I saw my jersey and my name on my locker, I felt I was home. It was like a homecoming to me. Every time I run out of the tunnel, it?s just such a great feeling. I couldn?t even sleep the night before the first game...If someone had told me when I was 16 years old that I?d be wearing a Trojan uniform and running out of the tunnel onto the field at Notre Dame like I did, I wouldn?t have believed them. I realize how fortunate I am. I realize I?m getting a free education because of my football scholarship.?
Playing time: ?I found out at a young age that life deals up adversities and doesn?t always go the way you want it to go. I?m ready when my chance comes. And if it doesn?t, I?m not going to feel sorry for myself. I?m going to know in my heart that I gave it all I had.?
His love of literature: ?When I was in high school, I was obsessed with Jack Kerouac. I loved the whole beatnik thing. Then I got into Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. That?s why I wore No. 22 when I first got here...I?ll read, like Henry James now. I read ?Moby Dick? for the first time. John Updike, that was pretty depressing. Sylvia Plath? She?s really depressing. The dead Greeks are way beyond me. Philosophy doesn?t move fast enough for me...I?m not much of a writer. I don?t watch much TV. I?m not much of a social guy. I just read. I can?t add. I don?t have a mind for business. I don?t have a linear kind of mind. Not that I have any kind of mind. But if I am any kind of thinker, I?m an abstract thinker and literature kind of suits me?I took a class in Confucianism Thought. I took it because I thought it would keep me centered.?
His family?s athletic background: ?Everyone in my family, we all play the same. We?re not the most athletically gifted family, but we play with heart. It?s good to bring heart to everything you do, or there is no point to it.?
His brother, Taso: ?I have always had great respect for him. I admire his optimism and relentless pursuit of his goals. I think of the hardships and injuries he has gone through and how he has handled everything like a man...He?s my hero. He?s the greatest. He?s gone through more adversity than I could dream...A lot of the reason my family members have lost their minds over my play has to do with Taso having so much misfortune here. It really broke all our hearts. He gave everything he had here, like his entire body, without every getting any recognition.?
His father, John: ?My dad is still bigger than life. Dinner at my house is like holding court, or being in Parliament, or something. But it?s cool. It really is...My dad?s into philosophy. He says, ?Become a philosopher, like the Greeks. Be a man.? My father, he thinks he?s Achilles or Agamemnon. He used to come home from the restaurant at 3 in the morning and gather Taso and me together and say, ?You?re a Papadakis, everybody loves you, you?re a Greek!?...If you listen to him, you?d think I?m up for the Heisman...If I ran 30 yards backwards and got tackled for a safety, he?d say, ?It?s not your fault. You did everything right.??
His family?s restaurant, Papadakis Taverna: ?The restaurant is like a living thing. It?s like it?s alive, or animated. It?s like we all pump life into it...It?s an exciting place to go. It?s not exactly the kind of place where you?d have a quiet conversation. We just beat out Chucky Cheese as Gourmet Magazine?s Most Fun restaurant! My father?s kind of a psycho, so it?s really loud. There?s a lot of dancing. Greeks sing a lot and they break things, but I don?t dance and sing and I haven?t broken anything in a long time...I?ve done everything there, peeled carrots, washed dishes, everything. Now, on certain nights, I run the place.?
The craziest thing he?s done: ?I used to run naked in the summer when we used to condition on Fridays. I did. At Howard Jones Field. For the last run, I used to strip naked!?
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
Steve Bisheff, Orange County Register: ?Petros is a smiling, self-deprecating person who is unlike any college football player you?ve ever met. In another time, in another world, you could picture him as this brilliant, toga-wearing Greek scholar who dabbled in athletics.?
Matt Deringer, USC Report: ?He is a joking, goofing, self-deprecating player who appreciates life the way his head coach does a three-deep zone. A football talent who by his own admission has more trouble asking out a coed than taking out a linebacker. He?s an English/American Lit major who can read a defense as easily as he does T.S. Eliot. A power runner whose less-than-Jerome Bettis build often gets him mistaken for a kicker. He?s a short-yardage back with...speed??
Robyn Norwood, Los Angeles Times: ?Petros Papadakis is like no Trojan tailback before him. What Heisman Trophy winner ever referred to the Industrial Revolution on sports talk radio? What human being ever referred to the Industrial Revolution on sports talk radio? Only a few minutes before that, he was telling reporters how before his big game, he could feel his confidence plunging, like Javert into the Seine in the scene from ?Les Miserables.? Literature is a powerful interest, and he has been known to walk off the practice field quoting Shakespeare. At least it sounded like Shakespeare.?
Mike Waldner, South Bay Daily Breeze: ?The young man is articulate. He?s intelligent. He?s fresh. He?s quick. He?s refreshing. He?s fun. He?s a walking, talking whirlwind. He is opinionated. If he has no opinion, give him a tick or two and he?ll generate one. He has 4.4 speed in the 40. That?s slow compared to his mind when he?s operating at full throttle...He is no cliche. He?s an original...On the field, Papadakis lacks style. He doesn?t zip, spin or juke. He?s not Barry Sanders. But he has the size and the speed.?
Phil Collin, South Bay Daily Breeze: ?The guy does leave an impression. It?s not just the nonstop chatter, it?s the content of the chatter. One minute he?ll be referring to Flaubert, the next he?ll talk about his favorite book, Catch 22, or he?ll break out into a Sinatra song...He wouldn?t follow in anyone?s footsteps. He was the kid who could rankle any teacher or parent. For the hours Taso spent lifting weights, Petros could either be found reading, pestering somebody, or generally finding mischief.?
Former USC offensive guard Travis Claridge: ?Petros is a good-hearted guy. He?s a nut, too. I?ve never met anyone like him. He?s come a long way. The line loves to see a mad Greek running behind them.?
USC quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst: ?I bet a lot of people didn?t know he was fast. But everybody on the team has seen him run 40s. He just needs a chance to get out in the open. Once he?s in the open, he?s fast. Once he gets ahead, you?re not catching him from behind.?
His brother and former teammate, Taso: ?Petros is a funny guy. He?s a good storyteller and he?s a ham. He likes to be in the spotlight...He approaches football in a different way than I did. I approached it like a locomotive. He?s very theatrical, very dramatic. I believe he perceives the game the same as I do, no matter what comes out of his mouth.?
His father, John: ?I?m very proud of him. I?m amazed by him like everyone else is. He has some amazing gifts.?
PETROS PAPADAKIS CAREER STATISTICS