Oct. 25, 2006
By Alex Timiraos, UCLA Sports Information Assistant
For senior Justin Hickman, the UCLA-USC rivalry hits close to home. Both his parents attended USC, and his father Donnie played football for the Trojans from 1974-76.
"Sure, there's a little rivalry within the family going on," says Hickman, a standout defensive end for the Bruins who totaled 33 tackles as a junior in 2005. "Obviously, we've got UCLA and USC stuff all over the house."
Being raised by parents who fervently supported USC, it seemed only natural that Hickman would follow in his folks' footsteps. That is, until it came time for the budding high school star to make his own decision.
"Growing up, I rooted for USC because both my parents went to school there," Hickman says. "But when it came to recruiting, it was all my decision. The 'SC thing had really worn off for me, and it just came down to whichever school was the best fit for me. UCLA was the best place."
After playing at Glendale Community College in 2003, several Pac-10 schools (Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington State) showed interest in Hickman, and the feelings were mutual. With the Bruins having lost four starters on the defensive line -- Dave Ball, Mat Ball, Rodney Leisle and Ryan Boschetti -- to graduation after the 2003 campaign, Hickman knew he could compete for playing time in Westwood.
"I took all my trips, and UCLA was the best fit for me," Hickman says. "It was all about being able to play, and UCLA had just lost four defensive ends, so the gate was wide open for me to get playing time."
Not only has Hickman played on UCLA's defensive line, he's taken full advantage of the opportunity. The defensive force registered three sacks -- one coming at the end of the fourth quarter and another in overtime -- in UCLA's historic overtime comeback victory (30-27) at Stanford last season. In August 2006, the Glendale, Ariz., native earned himself a spot on the Lombardi Award Watch List (given to the nation's top lineman).
"College football is the most exciting thing out there for me," Hickman says. "I love going into a stadium where you've got some 80,000 or 90,000 people just screaming and yelling. College football is a great experience, and I'll always love the game even after my career here is finished."
And when Hickman has played in his last game as a Bruin, one can be sure that his family's favorite college rivalry will continue -- all in good fun, of course.
"My dad has this thing going on, where he puts an 'SC hat next to a UCLA hat," Hickman says. "But right now my dad has got the 'SC hat on top of the UCLA hat to show that they've been on top lately. On Saturdays when 'SC plays and they win, he'll be talking about it all day. He's going to leave that 'SC cap on top until we beat them. Hopefully we can just go out there and do that this year."