February 22, 2009

Havili glad to be back with team

With sun already set on New Year's Day, members of the Trojan family were busy celebrating USC's 38-24 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

Trojan fullback Stanley Havili wasn't, though. He was taking a big sigh of relief from his apartment, thankful that his absence didn't cost USC a victory.

"I was more nervous than I've been my whole life watching a football game," Havili said. "That was brutal."

Havili missed the game and the preparation leading up to it because of an academic issue.

"It was just an unfortunate situation. I had one of my finals misgraded. The grade had been turned in and was finalized," Havili said. "Coach (Pete Carroll) told me about it, and I called my professor and asked him to regrade it. He said he would.

"There were some partial points that my (teacher's assistant) missed, and luckily, my grade changed - after the Rose Bowl."

The grade change had to wait because the people needed to fill out the paperwork weren't on campus with school not in session.

"I thought I was going to play. I had no doubt in my mind things were going to work out, but the process to change a grade moves slow," Havili said. "I was just super bummed."

Things got worse before they got better.

One of Havili's closest friends on the team, Mark Sanchez, announced he'd be leaving the team to play in the NFL.

"I'm happy for Mark. I'm sad he won't be here for another year with us, but he's proven himself and has been given the opportunity to play at the next level," Havili said. "If I was in his shoes, man, it'd be a tough decision to make."

Without Sanchez on the field, USC will need to replace its most vocal offensive leader.

"The quarterbacks coming in are ready to fill that void. Aaron Corp, Mitch Mustain and even Matt Barkley all have tried to be leaders," Havili said. "Other then being young guys, they're totally ready to lead this team."

And Havili said he feels pressure in that department too.

"I feel like there's a weight on my shoulders right now. I need to perform not only on the field and in the weight room but also in the classroom. That's most important," Havili said. "I feel like I have some work to do to earn back the respect of my teammates and my coaches. Being a leader is a part of that."

Havili and the Trojans' other veterans have already begun to set a positive example in workouts, pushing the younger Trojans.

"Workouts are going really well. A lot of our young guys are getting into it. You can just tell the team unity out here. We're all getting closer," Havili said. "This is when it starts. This is where we establish for the whole team our work ethic - for all of us.

"You can just tell that after these first few weeks, everyone is pushing each other on the weight room and on the field."

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