As New Year’s Day beckons, I’ll highlight some Trojans we lost in 2022.
Former USC halfback Ernie Zampese was better known as a successful NFL offensive coordinator.
Zampese was a left halfback at USC in 1955-56 and made his mark despite playing with star tailbacks Jon Arnett and C.R. Roberts.
In 1956, Zampese was third in rushing (500 yards), second in passing, third in scoring and third in total offense. He was also the punter and averaged 43.9 yards, one of the top averages in the nation that season.
Zampese still holds the record for longest punt in USC history (85 yards).
He was also known for his fun-loving personality, according to an L.A. Times article.
“Zampese was a work of art, or so the legend goes, a guy who could paint the town Trojan Red at night and be seen whistling at sunrise the next morning, a Daily Racing Form folded under his arm, a soda in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Let’s just say he wasn’t headed for biology class.”
In 1953, he was the CIF Player of the Year at Santa Barbara High School.
Zampese was an assistant for the San Diego Chargers under former USC assistant Don Coryell from 1979-86. He then became the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator from 1987-93.
“(Zampese) used to overrule Joe Gibbs (on play calls) and he was always right,” said former USC and Chargers assistant Dave Levy. “If Joe waited at all to call a play, Ernie would step in and call one.
“Ernie had a good sense of humor and he was smart.”
Zampese became the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys from 1994-97, winning the Super Bowl XXX in 1996. He was the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator from 1998-99.