For a long time now, the City of Los Angeles has had an incredibly tepid relationship with the National Football League. The city has had three professional organizations in and out for years. It has also at the same time, interestingly enough, had two of the more successful college programs in NCAA history.
Of the three NFL teams that have come through the city, only the now again LA Chargers originated in Los Angeles. Playing one season in 1959, and then promptly moving to San Diego for almost the next sixty years, ultimately coming back to Los Angeles in 2017 to take advantage of the massive media market.
The Raiders originated in Oakland and after about twenty years in the Bay building success and a steady fan base, they would see Al Davis carelessly attempt to move the franchise from Oakland to Los Angeles, back to Oakland, and now the son of the late-owner is moving the team to Las Vegas.
Last, but not least, the Rams began their football journey in Cleveland, moved to Los Angeles, then moved to St. Louis, and are now finally back in Los Angeles.
Quite the interesting relationships.
All the while, in their path creating legions of loyal fans that have been with their teams for years, to generations of kids with no team to root for in LA. So with the tumultuous past of the NFL in LA, and the relative mainstay of college football success, finding four men who actually were notable standouts to fill out this Mount Rushmore was not as easy as it looked.
When selecting the four players I chose, I went through everything these players did in their football careers. Looking at their impact at the high school level, collegiate level, and professional levels. Measuring their impact on the game of football specifically in LA, and their impact across the game of football as a whole. Even their off-field issues, on-field issues, and post-career status were looked into.
My deepest insincere apologies to the droves of O.J. Simpson fans I don’t imagine exist. An actual special shout-out to some of the greats that came through the city of LA even if for just a moment, and were not placed on this list. Howie Long, Bo Jackson, Mike Garrett, Jonathan Ogden, Troy Polamalu, Ronnie Lott, and Jackie Robinson (who can be put on any “greats” list of anything, anytime) are just some of the names that were left out.
Without further adieu, the Mt. Rushmore of Los Angeles Football.
The Mt. Rushmore Of Los Angeles Football
Eric Dickerson – Los Angeles Rams (1983-1987), Los Angeles Raiders (1992)
When I started thinking about this list and discussing it with my friends and family, only one name popped up for everyone first. Eric Dickerson. Dickerson is the go-to guy when you think of Hall of Fame greatness, and a mainstay in the Los Angeles football economy.
Dickerson won a State Championship for Sealy High School in ’78. He would go on to play for Ron Meyer and the infamous “Pony Express” of SMU, getting caught up in their “Death Penalty” scandal. Dickerson would go on to be selected 2nd overall in the NFL Draft and go on to have one of the storied running back careers the league has ever seen.
He would break the NFL rookie rushing record with 1,808 yards and then, in his second season, the all-time single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards, both of which still stand today.
Despite a lockout in the middle of his career, Dickerson would go on to enter the Hall of Fame in 1999. His career post-football has been showered with a mainstay of football broadcasting works and what has been noted as a special knack for raising money for charities. Dickerson is undoubtedly the best example of the special type of football LA can be host to when given the chance.
Marcus Allen – USC (1978-1981), Los Angeles Raiders (1982-1992)
Marcus Allen may be the most through and through, true “Los Angeles” football player on this list.
A CIF champion in 1977 in San Diego, Allen would go on to have an incredibly storied career for USC and the LA Raiders.
After starting his time at USC backing up the great Charles White, Allen would explode onto the college football scene, becoming only the second player in NCAA history to break the 2k rushing mark. His pro career would be marred by a terrible relationship with Al Davis, injuries, and at one point even backing up Bo Jackson.
All of that aside, Allen is the only person in the history of football who has won a Heisman Trophy, an NCAA Championship, Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, and the NFL MVP award. If that doesn’t scream greatness, nothing does.
Troy Aikman – UCLA (1986-1989)
Troy Aikman was born and raised in Southern California. When he was twelve years old, his family moved to Oklahoma, where he would go on to become an All-State player and win a State Championship. He played at Oklahoma under the legendary coach Barry Switzer. After breaking his ankle, he watched freshmen quarterback Jamelle Holieway take over his starting job, and lead the Sooners to a National Championship. As a result of Holieway being locked in as the starter the next season (in hindsight, probably not a great choice) Aikman transferred to UCLA with the full blessing of Coach Switzer.
Despite losing a year to transfer protocol, Aikman would finish his UCLA career playing under Terry Donahue, eventually earning his way into the UCLA Hall of Fame. As a senior, Aikman won the Davey O’Brien award, given to the nation’s top quarterback. He was a consensus All-American and came third in Heisman voting. He finished his career at UCLA as second all-time in passing.
Aikman would then go on to be drafted by the Cowboys back under Barry Switzer and then Jimmie Johnson, where he helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowl titles. Aikman was elected to the college and professional football Hall of Fames in 2008 and 2005 respectively.
What was as impressive as his time on the field? Aikman would retire from his time in football to go on and be an Emmy winning color-commentator. Aikman now has his own radio show, multiple charities, and major business holdings. Keeping his name and legacy attached to football and the City of Los Angeles forever.
Reggie Bush – USC (2003-2005)
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes. The scandal. Here’s what I say in return to that. Firstly, the NCAA is one of the most corrupt organizations I’ve ever seen. Fairly well regarded that they mostly made the decision to punish Bush and USC because they simply didn’t like the program. Two, Bush was a kid who got swindled by a former convict who had never been a sports agent in his life, at 18 years old as his entire life was changing. And lastly, he used that money to buy his mom a car and a house. So Reggie Bush is forgiven.
Now scandal aside, Bush is probably the greatest college football player I have ever seen take the field. Bush played high school football at Helix High with Alex Smith down in San Diego, where he was awarded the Silver Pigskin award for being the nation’s top recruit.
After high school, he would enroll at USC where he would terrorize Division I for years, becoming the first Trojan to lead the team in all-purpose yards since Marcus Allen. His time at USC would also include two national championships, a Walter Camp Award (college football player of the year), a Doak Walker Award (top college running back), All-American status, and eventually the Heisman Trophy. Bush was also named AP’s Player of the Year in 2005.
Bush and quarterback Matt Leinart would go on to the be the only pair of teammates to win a Heisman and play on the same team, ever.
Admittedly, his time in the NFL was a bit of a letdown compared to the insane collegiate career Bush had. But it still included becoming a Super Bowl Champion with the Saints, and an All-Pro kick returner. Bush kept his name in the media and limelight for years after football by doing things like Keeping Up With the Kardashian, starting a career in broadcasting where he and Leinart once again teamed up for College Football pregame analysis on FS1 and working with the award-winning charity the Diamond Empowerment Fund.
No matter how you may feel about the man, his impact will be felt in college football, and the City of Los Angeles forever.