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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Shane Foley Story

Q.B. from the O.C.
by Mojack

If you're from Southern California, you know Orange County. Land of beautiful beaches and beautiful girls, great surf, Disneyland and Richard Nixon. If you're a Trojan fan you also know that Orange County is a quarterback factory for the University of Southern California breeding tall, handsome, incredibly talented O.C. kids with big arms and big hearts who bleed Cardinal and Gold. Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Craig Fertig, Rob Johnson, Matt Leinart, Todd Marinovich, Mark Sanchez, and Shane Foley, all prepped in Orange County and all have gone on to USC to play QB as will the incoming freshman Aaron Corp.

All the above-named QBs came to USC with huge pedigrees, starring bigtime in O.C. high schools, and landing on the 'SC campus with high expectations of success. They say that USC is now "Quarterback U." because of the recent Heisman trophies presented to Carson and Matt, and the continued expectations for Booty and Sanchez to continue that tradition, but the high level of USC quarterback play, started long ago. There was Pat Haden and Vince Evans, among others, and in the late '80s to early '90s, there was an unbroken string of Rodney Peete, Todd Marinovich and Rob Johnson who starred at USC and then went on to be drafted high in the NFL.

In the midst of this deluge of NFL quality QBs at USC, Shane Foley was coming out of Newport Harbor High School as the record holder in Orange County career passing yards. He had the credentials; 1986 CIF Player of the Year, and Shane was primed to step into the USC rotation of stellar QBs and take his spot behind center, ready to lead USC to Rose Bowls and victories. But, just like a recent USC QB, Matt Cassell, various factors conspired to prevent Shane from reaching the same high pinnacle of success he had enjoyed at Newport Harbor High. Some Orange County fans are still incensed about that today. Though Shane did enjoy some playing time, and had some very good outings as a USC QB, he never got the chance to start a full season at USC, and possibly show what he could've done in his career. When I googled "Shane Foley" I found an active Orange County sports message board which included a recent post that stated, "Shane Foley, the legend that USC screwed over. Foley was better than Marinovich."

Though some O.C. fans are still bitter about Shane's USC career, and though I tried to imagine Shane's disappointment that he wasn't given the opportunity he deserved, Shane is the exact opposite, beaming with pride about being a Trojan and excited that he played with the great players he was teammates with. He is a Trojan gentleman with the utmost character who only sees the positive in his experiences at USC. His answers to my questions left me full of respect for his Trojan spirit, and on that note, we present the Shane Foley interview below:

You were a legend at Newport Harbor High School. You threw for over 5000 yards? What was your recruiting like? What sold you on USC?

I played at Newport Harbor High School and was very fortunate to play for Mike Giddings. Coach Giddings was defensive coordinator at USC when the Trojans won their first National Championship under Coach McKay in the early 60's before moving on to coach in the NFL as well as head coaching positions at Utah (was Norm Chow's head coach) and head coach of the World Football League's team in Hawaii in the 70's. We were able to do some things in the mid 80's that not too many teams were doing in that era. I was fortunate to have a tackle, Mike Beech, who was a year ahead of me and was highly recruited (he opted to go to UCLA). I was the benefactor of coaches coming to scout Mike my junior year so I was able to gain some exposure.

When I graduated from Newport Harbor High, I had thrown for over 5,300 yards in 2 seasons (3100+ as a senior), then the Orange County career record. However, records are meant to be broken and it has been many times over. I was recruited by many Divison 1 schools and several in the Pac-10 and Big-10. I was interested in USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Arizona. There were a lot of very good quarterbacks coming out of high school that year and I narrowed my focus to USC, Stanford, and Arizona. My Dad and my Uncle had graduated from USC and my other Uncle went to Stanford and was a 2 year starter as a defensive back (I was at the Coliseum the year that Stanford came back and tied and the Trojans 21-21 and cost us the National Championship - it is "us" now but I was pulling for my Uncle at the time!). Ted Tollner recruited me and I chose USC over Stanford and Arizona.

Can you do a brief recap of your career for us?

Orange County Career Passing Leader upon graduation
All County and All CIF
2 years
CIF Player of the Year -1986

USC 1986-1990

ABC Player of the Game vs. Arizona State 1990
Player of the Game vs. Oregon State 1990
USC Offensive Champion 19
90 - given to Senior for Leadership, Team Commitment, and Dedication
John Wayne Memorial Post Graduate Sch
olarship for Senior with highest G.P.A.

Who were some of your favorite teammates? Do you still keep in touch?

I have a lot of favorite teamates that I played with and still talk to, just to a name a few - Bruce Luizzi, Pat Muldoon, Cliff Minkoff, Mike Molinaro, Jeff Brown, Ernie Spears, Rigo Diaz, Mike Salmon, Curtis Hein, Don and Craig Gibson, Sam Anno - on the staff, Tim Lavin who referred me to you.

You played for two different coaches, the not so revered Ted Tollner, and the equally not-so- revered Larry Smith. Can you explain what you liked and disliked about each coaching style? And what was it like playing for Larry Smith as his teams and his tenure started off well, but seemingly didn't live up to expectations?

Ted Tollner recruited me but I only played under him for one season and he was fired after the football season prior to our bowl game vs. Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. I personally liked Coach Tollner and he proved to be a very good recruiter. I don't think he had enough discipline in the program though. I was recruited heavily by Larry Smith at the University of Arizona but I chose USC and ironically, Coach Smith was hired when they fired Coach Tollner. We had a good run, if you recall, in the late 1980's under Coach Smith but it was with Coach Tollner's recruits. We went to 3 straight Rose Bowls and beat Bo Schembechler in his last game at Michigan. I believe we had a couple of top 10 finishes. Coach Smith was not a USC guy and I don't think he really understood the deep tradition of USC. I believe his challenges came later when he made exceptions for players which created a lack of consistency in how he dealt with us, which came back to hurt him and, ultimately, the program.

A lot of Trojan fans and Herdmembers enjoy the open practices of the Pete Carroll tenure. Pete encourages fan interaction with the players and coaches, and Pete has especially embraced the Herd. What was the difference in Tollner's practices and Smith's practices, and how did each coach interact with Trojan fans in general?

There is no question that Pete Carroll has completely embraced the USC tradition and has really reached out to former players to come and be a part of the current program. It has been awesome to see what he has been able to accomplish in this era of limited scholarships and parity. As for Coach Tollner, I was a redshirt when he was coaching so my job was to run the other teams plays and give the starting Defense a good look. I don't remember a lot of former players being around but I do know that there were a lot fans that were welcome out at practice. I have similar memories on Coach Smith's practices- a lot of familiar faces coming out to practice with the USC fans. One time, former President Reagan came out to a practice after we beat Washington State in the last few seconds.

As stated above, you were one of THE premier QB's out of high school and you took your place in line behind Rodney Peete and Pat O'Hara...What was it like to back-up Rodney Peete, a Trojan legend in his own right, a runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior year? And then Peete graduated and Pat blew his knee out, and you should have stepped in as the starter. However, Coach Smith put Todd Marinovich in front of you. I've been told that this was a move the players did not think was fair or right. As a top athlete and competitor, how did that effect you?

Playing behind Rodney Peete was fun as a fan but a long wait as a quarterback wanting an opportunity. He was a great quarterback and a great Trojan. Certainly one of the best quarterbacks of all time at the collegiate level. My senior year in high school, Rodney had blown his achilles out in the Aloha Bowl and the coaches said they were not sure how he would come back from that injury. Well, he came back just fine and went on to have a great Trojan career and a long NFL career as well.

As for my opportunities to play, I did not really have much opportunity to play at quaterback until my junior year when Rodney had graduated. I had volunteered to play on the kickoff and punt teams as a redshirt freshman so I could contribute and travel with the team. I had played DB in high school and the hitting was fine with me.

Pat O' Hara and I came to USC the same year - Fall '86. He and I battled it out early on at USC and had gone back and forth on the depth chart. Rodney's Senior year, Pat was backing up Rodney which did not add up to too much as Rodney took the majority of the snaps that year. Todd was a true freshman that year and redshirted. Todd obviously had an outstanding high school career and had a lot of strong connections to USC. The year you are referring to when Pat had a freak knee injury that ended his season was Pat and my junior year and Todd's redshirt freshman year. I felt like I came into camp that fall ready to compete and mentally and physically prepared and focused; I was in the best shape of my life. I was running with the 2nd team offense and we were scrimmaging against one of the best defenses in the country with Junior Seau, Mark Carrier, Dan Owens, Tim Ryan, Don Gibson, Cleveland Colter, Scott Ross, etc. I had a strong scrimmage against them and put a few touchdowns on them and I felt like I could be in the mix to compete for the job. When Pat got hurt, we were less than 2 weeks out before the opener and the coaching staff went with Todd. As a competitor, I had wanted that opportunity but everything happened very quickly and I was just preparing to play and to help the team win if I had that shot.

Todd Marinovich encountered a few public problems along the way and was suspended for the Arizona game. You started that game and you had a great outing. But, the next week Todd was the starter again. How did you deal with that? Emotionally? Mentally? What was your relationship like with Todd, and how did you keep preparing yourself to be ready week in and week out in case Marinovich got hurt?

My senior year, I was very involved with the offense and was working out with the 1st and 2nd team offense along with Todd. The week of the ASU game, there was a lot going on but that was the game that Smith handed me the reigns. We went into Tempe and grinded out a win 13-6. But we completely controlled the clock and the yardage.

The next week was Cal at home and I actually started that game and we went down 80 yards and scored and went up 7-0 but I was taken out of the game and we went on to a tie at home against the Bears. Not too sure why I was benched after a win and a touchdown and was never given a very good answer by Coach Smith. My best complete game was against Oregon State - went 9 for 9 and threw 2 TD's and ran one.

I was always focused on my game and getting myself prepared to win games for the Trojans. There were some decisions that I may have questioned at the time but I was focsed on helping the team win games. I did not dwell much on what I could not control and I always worked on staying positive and I wanted to make the most of every opportunity and ultimately wanted to help the Trojans win football games.

In the John Hancock Bowl against Michigan State, Coach Smith pulled Marinovich in the 4th quarter. You came in and led USC to a couple scores to get us back in the game, but time ran out and USC lost 17-16. There was a well-publicized shouting match on TV on the sideline with Coach Smith and Marinovich. What were your feelings about that game, and almost being the hero? And I've also heard that there were some fireworks in the locker room after that game. Do you feel free to comment on that?

The Sun Bowl that year was tough. We had opportunities to win that game and should have. I came in at the end of that game - I got hit on an option on 3rd down and we did not convert the 1st down so we kicked a field goal to close the gap to 17-16. Todd and Coach Smith had a heated exchange on the sideline that I heard about later, but I was not aware of it at the time. It was much talked about and covered by CBS. It did not matter as our D did not get the ball back for us to have another shot. As for the locker room post game, I don't really have a comment on that one!

You've seen the Trojans go on major streaks against their rivals the last few years, the 2006 UCLA game doesn't need to be included in this conversation. What was it like to play against UCLA and Notre Dame?

The UCLA and Notre Dame games were huge games and it was an honor to be a part of that tradition and fierce rivalry. I find Coach Carroll's approach to these games interesting as I gather that he tries to approach every game the same. I think that is a great goal to work toward avoiding letdowns and highs and lows but this is no easy task. There is so much hype and electricity involved in the Notre Dame and UCLA games. We are talking about the greatest intersectional rivalry and the best cross-town rivalry in the country and we play these games back to back every other year to boot. There is so much intensity involved in these games and it can be a challenge to channel that excitement and adrenaline into playing championship caliber football every week. In my time, we had a 3-1-1 record against UCLA but I was part of the long losing streak against the Irish- that was not any fun. Obviously, Pete has done an incredible job with the program and against our rivals. It is great to be a Trojan and I am sure I am not the only one looking forward to getting the Bruins back at the Coliseum next year...

What did you do after you graduated from USC? What are you doing now? Did you have any thoughts of a career in football? Playing? Coaching?

After college, I worked out for the Rams and thought about going to Canada to keep playing. I went to the World League, down in Orlando, which at the time was in the U.S and Europe. I was one of 2 QB's in camp and I thought I had a good shot at starting. However, this league was owned by the NFL so two weeks into camp, there were 2 more QB's from NFL rosters that were sent to the team I was on and that finished things up for me that season. Life went a different direction and I got into the working world.

I have been in the Real Estate field for the last 10 years. I have been a licensed broker since 2000 and I work in real estate finance and investments, both commercial and residential. I have my own company, Access Capital, located in Orange County. I look forward to coaching again but that will probably be when I have some kids!

Trolling the world of google for info on your USC past, I came across a message board posting that said, "Shane Foley..the legend that USC screwed over...Foley was better than Todd Marinovich " Apparently some fans are still bitter about your treatment at USC, and the lack of chances you got to get playing time and show what you could do. Did you (or do you) have any bitter feelings about that chance gone by?

As for my USC career, I have no regrets. Sure, I would have loved the opportunity to have a full season to be the starter and to see where I could have taken us. Everybody that is recruited by a major program has hopes of starting and playing a part in their respective program. However, I can feel good that when I played we scored points and we won games.

My favorite moment at USC was coming in against Ohio State early in my junior season. That was the first time I really noticed the fans when I was playing. When I ran out to the huddle, I heard the crowd roar (which you never hear when you are playing) and for split second realized that it was for me, which was kind of surreal. At home, down 3-0 I led the team downfield to a touchdown. The play was 3rd and goal on a play action pass to Scotty Galbraith that I could have run or passed in. It's moments like these that made all of the struggle, hard work, and commitment worth it.

I saw an article in 2002 written by Ryan Abraham of www.uscfootball.com and he mentioned that you were one of the former players at a practice, so at least five years ago you were still involved with Trojan football in a sense. What is your current relationship with USC football? And finally, can you sum up your feelings about your time at USC, about being a part of Trojan football history, and of your feelings about the Trojan family?

We are blessed to be part of the greatest University in the country!! - Yes, I am a little biased. I received a great education with two degrees, met some of my best friends that I still talk to and work with every day, and played for the best football program in the country. I am a Cardinal and Gold season ticket holder and go to most of the games and occasional away games. I still talk to a lot of former players and get together for events like the annual golf tournament at the Trojan Football Alumni Club, etc.

I think it is awesome what Pete and his staff have done at USC- to bring the program back to National prominence, year in and year out, competing for the BCS game and not being satisfied unless we win it - that is what being a Trojan is about. I love his philosophy of playing anyone, anywhere, anytime and the attitude that the team encompasses - a toughness and no quit - that each of his teams possess in their own way, that is a mark of greatness It is great to see the Coliseum with a lot more life than I remember after I graduated in the 90's - there is a lot more to cheer about these days!!! The Trojan family continues to grow and I see examples of it frequently in the working world and I will continue to reach out and do what I can to serve.

3 comments:

Jason said...

Shane may be Okay with the way things turned out and you have to respect his humility but as a former team mate at Newport Harbor, I have might have to be pissed off for him. Shane was a great football player and great friend and would have gone on to play in the NFL. I remember the recruiting guides in 1986...It was Jeff George and Shane Foley. Although I am a USC fan I am more a Shane fan and can only wonder what would have happened if he had taken the full ride to Notre Dame. All the best.... Nedelman

Bill said...

I had the privilege of being the receiver coach with Shane his senior year in High School. Let me tell you that he was not only the best High School QB I have ever seen, he had amazing character and poise. He was both a competitor and a great leader. Nice to hear he has a positive outlook because I thought for sure I'd be watching him on Sundays.

petebusarac said...

Many people don't know this but Shane didn't play football his sophmore year in high school. He played frosh football at Palm Springs High the previous year. Shane was the starting QB and I was in the backfield and 2nd string QB. I had a stronger arm than Shane with the ability to throw the ball 50+ yards but that was it. Shane was a born leader who lead our team to a championship season with only one loss by a 3 point margin. In one game at Fontana, he threw a 40+ yard touchdown pass into the endzone on 4th down with only seconds remaining on the game clock, which won the ballgame for us. In the final game of the season versus Norco High(championship game)at Palm Springs, which was played at night on a rain soaked muddy field. Shane razzled and dazzled with a 60yard rush from scrimmage for a touchdown. That play shattered Norco's defense and we went on to score 2 or 3 more touchdowns for a dominant win. Shane chose to move to Newport during the summer since he had been told at Palm Springs he wouldn't be the starting varsity QB until his senior year and coaches had opted to move him to tightend. Shane had to sit out from sports at Newport Harbor his sophmore year to cooperate with CIF sanctions on switching schools. One could only imagine what his career passing record would have been like if he had played his sophmore year at Newport Harbor High. 7000+ yards?
Myself and many others chose not to play another year of football after Shane left Palm Springs. We wanted to play and would have played well but it was not going to be the same without #10 Shane Foley taking the snap from behind the center. That was the last team to win a frosh football championship for Palm Springs High for a very long time. Those were Shane's early days as a QB.

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