Fargas Ends Epic Journey As Orange Bowl Star

    Jan. 3, 2003

    MIAMI (AP)-- Huggy Bear's son did his own star turn in prime time.

    Justin Fargas had touchdown runs of 4 and 50 yards.

    Southern California tailback Justin Fargas, whose father, Antonio, played that character on the "Starsky and Hutch" TV show in the 1970s, provided a happy ending to his college football career Thursday night.

    Bowling over tacklers at times and dodging and darting past them at others, Fargas ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the No. 5 Trojans' 38-17 Orange Bowl victory over No. 3 Iowa.

    "I've had quite a journey, and it's all been worth it for this alone,'' said Fargas, who carried 20 times in the Trojans' well-balanced attack and scored on runs of 4 and 50 yards.

    He persevered through a disappointing three years at Michigan that included a serious leg injury. He transferred to USC and gave up a year of eligibility, then was ailing early this season before finally fighting his way into a starting job in the eighth game.

    "This is what I envisioned when I was coming back from Michigan,'' said Fargas, who still has a plate and screws in his lower left leg. "I couldn't imagine a better way to end it.''

    His performance came against a proud Hawkeyes defense that had given up an average of just 68.2 yards rushing a game, second-fewest in the nation.

    "We coaches saw something really special in him the year he spent on our service squad. The heart and intensity he showed were amazing. He was so tough,'' Trojans coach Pete Carroll said.

    Carson Palmer, the Heisman winner who threw for 303 yards and a touchdown to win the game's MVP, said Fargas provided inspiration for all the USC players.

    "I'm just proud to be his teammate; he's so intense and dedicated,'' Palmer said. "With him out there, it gave me confidence, because I know the other team isn't going to be able to focus on our passing.''

    "I've had quite a journey, and it's all been worth it for this alone."

    Seen as the Trojans' future tailback and Heisman contender in the late 1990s, Fargas had things go awry earlier in his career. Regarded as one of the nation's most promising runners when he came out of high school in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks in 1998, Fargas already had promised USC coach John Robinson he would play for the Trojans.

    But when Robinson was fired after the 1997 season and replaced by Paul Hackett, Fargas signed with Michigan instead. After a mostly disappointing time in Ann Arbor, he transferred to USC to play for Pete Carroll, who had replaced Hackett.

    Fargas had shown promise as a freshman at Michigan, but he broke his lower right leg in the 11th game. He redshirted the next season while recovering from three operations. The fracture wasn't healing properly after the first operation, so doctors had to re-break it and insert two metal plates around the bone.

    Listed as the USC starter this year, he injured a hamstring in training camp, was slow to recover and finally got his first start for the Trojans.

    "When he played in the Oregon game, that started to step up our entire team," Carroll said. "We became a different team from then on.''

    Fargas ran for 139 yards against Oregon and 125 yards Arizona State, and he wrapped up the regular season with 123 yards rushing and four catches for 41 yards in USC's 44-13 victory over Noter Dame.

    That set the stage for his finale in the Orange Bowl.