USC Notes: It’s Ricky Bell’s Birthday

It is Ricky Bell’s birthday and I am always ready to appreciate him.

I have no problem saying should be one of the top 5 tailbacks in USC history.

Bell made his first start in the season-opener in 1975 vs. Duke. He rushed for a school record 256 yards in 34 carries.

Asked if he knew during the game he set a record, Bell said, “I knew. Even the guy who tackled me knew. He congratulated me when he helped me up.

“It’s funny but (before that game) I had been at USC for two years and nobody noticed. Then for three hours work I got more attention than I did for two years.

“Before the game, for example, I wanted to bring a football home, so I could walk around and get the feel for it. I thought it would help keep me from fumbling. But the equipment manager told me no I couldn’t take one home.

“Then they game me the game ball.”

Bell came to USC as an outside linebacker and then moved to fullback before John McKay made him a tailback.

“Ricky Bell has qualities that not many backs in the history of football have had,” said former USC coach John Robinson. “In my memory, I can only think of two like him, O.J. Simpson and Jimmy Brown. Like them, Ricky has power and the flat-out ability to make them miss.”

Bell led the nation with 1,875 yards rushing in 1975, finished third in the Heisman Trophy results and was an All-American. In 1976, Bell rushed for 347 yards against Washington State and was second in the Heisman balloting behind Tony Dorsett.

He was nicknamed “Bulldog” by his teammates, “because of a crazy growling noise I make when I run. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I was embarrassed when I found out.”

“I’ve had a lot of great tailbacks and I think I know something about them,” McKay said. “Bell doesn’t have any weaknesses. He’s fast, tough, big, strong and has tremendous power and acceleration. He absolutely shatters defensive backs.”

Bell’s brother founded the singing group, “Archie Bell & the Drells” in 1965. In 1968, the single “Tighten Up” sold 1 million copies.

  • Former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic has been convicted on all counts, another significant win for the government in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions case.

The jury deliberated for five hours and found Vavic guilty of conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud; conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and honest services wire fraud.

32 thoughts on “USC Notes: It’s Ricky Bell’s Birthday

    1. The Heisman ballots were already finished before the ’74 USC-ND game. After that year, the Heisman ballots were not due until after the end of the regular season. What a shame, as AD finished second to Archie Griffin. The show he put on in the ’74 ND game almost certainly would have put him as the Heisman winner.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I remember this well ’67, and they gave the Heisman to Archie Griffin for a second time. AD showed him up in their Rose Bowl clash.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. There was such an obvious west coast bias at that time among football writers, despite McKay’s record vs. the Big 10. Same bias against the ’69 Wild Bunch team that finished 3rd that year in the polls.

        1969 USC strength of schedule was 5th hardest. Nat’l Chap Texas (anointed as the nat;l champ by Nixon) had only 48th hardest SOS, and Penn State, which was voted 2nd, had only 54th hardest SOS.

        Neither TX or Penn State had a passing game. TX threw less than 10 times a game, Penn State less than 8 times a game. I would have loved to see either TX or Penn St try to rush against the Wild Bunch. Both Jimmy Gunn and Charlie Weaver were likely as fast or faster than any of the RBs on TX or Penn State. Only 2.2 yards per carry allowed by the defense. 10 sacks of Dennis Dummit in the vic bell game.

        USC beat Michigan 10-3 in RB, after Michigan had upset #1 Ohio State, 24-12. Michigan average 35 points a game that year.

        McKay may have played too conservatively on offense that year.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Clarence Davis’s best season was 1969. Davis wasn’t even on the radar of the voters, despite running for over 1300 yards that year. 3 OSU players finished in the top 9 of the voting. Jim Plunkett had a massively more impressive season than any QB other than the Purdue QB, but he still finished way behind Rex Kern, who threw for 9 TDs and had 9 int and only about 100 yards passing per game. The OSU fullback ran for 300 yards less than Clarence, fewer TD, and still finished way ahead of Clarence in the voting (and ahead of Plunkett).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Clarence was a great running back that got overlooked by the sportswriters, as well as our 1969 team. We went 10-0-1 and beat Michigan 10-3 in the 1970 Rose Bowl. Michigan earned the right to go to the Rose Bowl by beating the Top Ranked Ohio State in their last game. Our 1969 team had .955 winning percentage 5th best in the 137-year history of USC football!! The 14-14 tie vs ND was awful for us. My defensive team constantly gave the offense great field position. But the offense was never came through… We finished NO. 3 nationally, which was very disappointing. Texas, and I think, Penn State we raked ahead in the final polls. Also, I think a Texas player won the Heisman, which I could care less about!


    2. I was an undergrad with Ricky. He came down to the exercise physiology lab in the P.E., building and Dr. G checked his body fat. At the time he was a 225 lb. linebacker. His body fat was an amazing 4%! He was total muscle. Of course, he later died from dermatomyositis, resulting in, among other things, weakening of his muscles. I was once told that very low body fat is indicative of someone who might develop this problem, but l’m not sure the two correlate. He was a really nice, humble guy. The most telling thing about his running style was how he ran so direct and hard — right through people. No hesitation. A great Trojan.


  1. Too bad Rick Bell was drafted by an expansion team, because he got beat up on behind a horrible offensive line for several years, before John McKay made them competitive.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Scooter,

    Mr. Ricky Bell, pound for pound was just as good or even better than most of the SC tailbacks. I would start him over OJ. Ricky hit with authority and he could push and drag the def. players for long gains.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both Ricky and OJ were one-off athletes. OJ was something like a 10.3 100 meter guy, and weighed over 200 lbs. I don’t think Ricky would have been close to that speed, but on the other hand, Ricky could carry 3 guys with him, and shake them all off. Both were among the best college RBs ever IMHO.




  3. Scooter,
    A classmate of mine for Loyola played against Ricky for Washington St. in the Kingdome. he was a freshmen def end name Melvin Saunders. I watched the game and he was thrown around like a rag doll against Bell. 347 yards in one game is still mind numbing.

    He should have won the Heisman as well as Chuck Munice of Cal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and every member of the jury, MG

      Got deleted when I responded to So Cal’s OJ reference, so let me tone it down– OJ could slice and dice like nobody we have ever seen before, and the way he knifed through lines and left would be tacklers gasping for air proved he was one bloody blade of a guy.


      1. OJ had great top end speed… at Practice, we would run 40 yard wind sprints… I was a fairly quick LB.. Al Cowings would join in the sprints along with OJ. Well, at the first 10 yards, we were all even. At 20 yards, OJ was 4-5 yards ahead of me, I was 2-3 yards ahead of Al.. At 30 yards. OJ was at least 8 yards ahead of me. And I was 5-7 yards ahead of Cowlings. At the 40 finish< OJ was at least 10-11 yards ahead of me! I was 8-10 yards ahead of Al. So, OJ was getting a drink of water, when I crossed the 40 yard finish line! I ran the 100 yards in HS and I think my best time was a 10.9. Not bad for a Kid from Anaheim, who tackled people! So. I've experienced World Class speed up close. It was amazing.


  4. In 1979, Ricky Bell (and John McKay) came within one game of appearing in a Super Bowl after his best pro season ever (1200+ yds.).

    They lost the NFC championship game to the Rams led by UCLA TB Wendell Tyler. Pat Haden had been the Rams QB for most of the year but got injured allowing Vince Ferragamo to get the start in the Super Bowl.


    Liked by 2 people

  5. OK, I don’t have a t.v., never did have and don’t want one, so what is going on with the Josh Connerly decision?– Is he going to be a lame Duck or a striking Trojan?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Clarence Davis was out team’s RB for the 1969 season, totally underrated and basically unnoticed. We relied on his skills to keep us in the games. Our “Cardiac Kids” offense was good in the last few minutes of the games. I was the team’s Co- Captain and Defensive Signal caller for our legendary “Wild Bunch” defense. My Co-Captain was the great Jimmy Gunn, DE. We were the Number 1 ranked team defense in the Nation, in many categories. We always gave the offense great field position to start their offensive series, But, they seemed to wait to the last minute to get the job done. Clarence was a terrific runner and a very quiet man. No boosting, just results. A great teammate!


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