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: ďWe all canít 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 heís 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.Ē
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 Mortonís 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 gameís 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: Heís majoring in English/American literature at USC. He is a popular figure on local and national sports talk radio shows. As part of the ďRead Across AmericaĒ program, he has read books to local elementary school classes in 2000. He has worked many years at his familyís 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 Troyís most inspirational player in 1971). His brother, Taso, was a linebacker with the Trojans (he lettered in 1994 and 1996).
PETROS PAPADAKIS ON:
Himself: ďIím a walking contradiction. Iím the only person in the world who can sit on the fence and watch himself go by...Iíve always kind of been a little bit eccentric in certain situations. But if I donít know the people, Iím kind of quiet.Ē
His 1998 success: ďIíve got confidence now...I became more comfortable with running the ball and making decisions in general. Usually Iím 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, Iíd be back in the huddle. I feel more comfortable carrying the ball now, reading the keys, having confidence in my blockers. And Iím 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.Ē
His running style: ďIím 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, itís just more comfortable for me to run into people. It hurts, but I just try to get a couple yards, and thatís whatís gotten me to where I am right now...I was never a very fancy runner. I donít have moves like Chad Morton. I canít do that kind of stuff. I would if I could. The truth is, Iím not cat-like, I canít reverse my field, do a flip and score. I run straight ahead and over people. But I am pretty fast...Iím not the most instinctive runner. I have to think to do certain things. If I let myself go, Iíll run right up (offensive guard) Travis Claridgeís back and heíll beat me up after practice. And thatís not good!Ē
His speed: ďTeams kind of misjudge my speed. No one has seen me go anywhere in about 5 years. I donít look particularly fast when I go 1 yard.Ē
Being a football player: ďNo one thinks I play football. Iím not that big and Iím not that muscular. One of my professors came up to me and said, ĎI hear you play football.í And then he said, ĎAre you a walk-on or a kicker?í...People used to mistake me for my brother, who also wore the same number. When they called roll in class, theyíd look at me confused because heís a big guy...Iíve 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...Iím not impressed with myself at all. Iím shocked that Iím here at USC, playing tailback...I never liked working out. I still have to force myself to get up in the morning. I donít like the weight room and I donít even like running, even though Iím a running back...Iím not Mr. Football. I donít breathe pigskin and I donít 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 Iím 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 Iíd 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. Thatís just not the way it is. Nobody really cares. Which is cool. I like that better.Ē
His popularity with the media: ďI just feel like the media is starved for somebody to say something different than, ĎWe really have to play hard this week.í Thatís all good stuff, but I deal with that in meetings every day. I deal with that for six hours with coaches.Ē
Football games: ďEvery 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, itís an emotional rollercoaster.Ē
His improvement: ďI feel more comfortable with the ball. Every year in college I get more and more used to running the ball. Iím more relaxed. And Iím catching the ball, which is good for me. The 1997 season wasnít 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.Ē
Originally going to California before coming to USC: ďI left for Berkeley the day I graduated from high school. I liked it there, but I got very homesick and nostalgic. I wasnít 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 didnít fulfill it. But it would have happened anywhere because I was unprepared. Thatís why I respect incoming freshmen, because I know what they go through.Ē
His USC roots: ďUSC 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, itís just such a great feeling. I couldnít even sleep the night before the first game...If someone had told me when I was 16 years old that Iíd be wearing a Trojan uniform and running out of the tunnel onto the field at Notre Dame like I did, I wouldnít have believed them. I realize how fortunate I am. I realize Iím getting a free education because of my football scholarship.Ē
Playing time: ďI found out at a young age that life deals up adversities and doesnít always go the way you want it to go. Iím ready when my chance comes. And if it doesnít, Iím not going to feel sorry for myself. Iím going to know in my heart that I gave it all I had.Ē
His love of literature: ďWhen 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. Thatís why I wore No. 22 when I first got here...Iíll read, like Henry James now. I read ĎMoby Dickí for the first time. John Updike, that was pretty depressing. Sylvia Plath? Sheís really depressing. The dead Greeks are way beyond me. Philosophy doesnít move fast enough for me...Iím not much of a writer. I donít watch much TV. Iím not much of a social guy. I just read. I canít add. I donít have a mind for business. I donít have a linear kind of mind. Not that I have any kind of mind. But if I am any kind of thinker, Iím an abstract thinker and literature kind of suits meÖI took a class in Confucianism Thought. I took it because I thought it would keep me centered.Ē
His familyís athletic background: ďEveryone in my family, we all play the same. Weíre not the most athletically gifted family, but we play with heart. Itís good to bring heart to everything you do, or there is no point to it.Ē
His brother, Taso: ďI 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...Heís my hero. Heís the greatest. Heís 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.Ē
His father, John: ďMy dad is still bigger than life. Dinner at my house is like holding court, or being in Parliament, or something. But itís cool. It really is...My dadís into philosophy. He says, ĎBecome a philosopher, like the Greeks. Be a man.í My father, he thinks heís Achilles or Agamemnon. He used to come home from the restaurant at 3 in the morning and gather Taso and me together and say, ĎYouíre a Papadakis, everybody loves you, youíre a Greek!í...If you listen to him, youíd think Iím up for the Heisman...If I ran 30 yards backwards and got tackled for a safety, heíd say, ĎItís not your fault. You did everything right.íĒ
His familyís restaurant, Papadakis Taverna: ďThe restaurant is like a living thing. Itís like itís alive, or animated. Itís like we all pump life into it...Itís an exciting place to go. Itís not exactly the kind of place where youíd have a quiet conversation. We just beat out Chucky Cheese as Gourmet Magazineís Most Fun restaurant! My fatherís kind of a psycho, so itís really loud. Thereís a lot of dancing. Greeks sing a lot and they break things, but I donít dance and sing and I havenít broken anything in a long time...Iíve done everything there, peeled carrots, washed dishes, everything. Now, on certain nights, I run the place.Ē
The craziest thing heís done: ďI 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!Ē
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
Steve Bisheff, Orange County Register: ďPetros is a smiling, self-deprecating person who is unlike any college football player youíve ever met. In another time, in another world, you could picture him as this brilliant, toga-wearing Greek scholar who dabbled in athletics.Ē
Matt Deringer, USC Report: ďHe 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. Heís 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. Heís a short-yardage back with...speed?Ē
Robyn Norwood, Los Angeles Times: ďPetros 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 ĎLes Miserables.í Literature is a powerful interest, and he has been known to walk off the practice field quoting Shakespeare. At least it sounded like Shakespeare.Ē
Mike Waldner, South Bay Daily Breeze: ďThe young man is articulate. Heís intelligent. Heís fresh. Heís quick. Heís refreshing. Heís fun. Heís a walking, talking whirlwind. He is opinionated. If he has no opinion, give him a tick or two and heíll generate one. He has 4.4 speed in the 40. Thatís slow compared to his mind when heís operating at full throttle...He is no cliche. Heís an original...On the field, Papadakis lacks style. He doesnít zip, spin or juke. Heís not Barry Sanders. But he has the size and the speed.Ē
Phil Collin, South Bay Daily Breeze: ďThe guy does leave an impression. Itís not just the nonstop chatter, itís the content of the chatter. One minute heíll be referring to Flaubert, the next heíll talk about his favorite book, Catch 22, or heíll break out into a Sinatra song...He wouldnít follow in anyoneís 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.Ē
Former USC offensive guard Travis Claridge: ďPetros is a good-hearted guy. Heís a nut, too. Iíve never met anyone like him. Heís come a long way. The line loves to see a mad Greek running behind them.Ē
USC quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst: ďI bet a lot of people didnít 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 heís in the open, heís fast. Once he gets ahead, youíre not catching him from behind.Ē
His brother and former teammate, Taso: ďPetros is a funny guy. Heís a good storyteller and heís 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. Heís very theatrical, very dramatic. I believe he perceives the game the same as I do, no matter what comes out of his mouth.Ē
His father, John: ďIím very proud of him. Iím amazed by him like everyone else is. He has some amazing gifts.Ē
PETROS PAPADAKIS CAREER STATISTICS