It all looked so familiar. Running back Silas Redd bent over in the backfield, sweat beading beneath his helmet, his eyes darting from side to side as he scanned the opposing defense. On a simple power play up the middle, Redd took the handoff, cut left, then raced right and headed for the pylon.
As he'd done seven times the season before, Redd found the end zone for a touchdown. Only this time it was different. When Redd looked up, his USC teammates greeted him, the gilded 'SC' on his chest reflecting in the setting California sun. For the Trojans, it counted for six points in an eventual 49-10 win over Hawaii on Sept. 1. But for Redd, the 32-yard scamper signified the start of a new chapter -- one that took him more than 2,600 miles from his former home in State College, Pa.
Last summer, Redd transferred from Penn State to USC, a high-profile move that was supposed to bolster an already dangerous offense. A year later, he's out of the national spotlight, but he's hungrier than ever to leave his mark.
The phone call didn't last long. USC coach Lane Kiffin was forthright with Redd's father, Silas Sr. Kiffin wanted Redd in a Trojans' uniform. Silas Sr. called his son and relayed the news, and Redd mulled the offer for several days. If he were to leave Penn State, he said, USC was the only other school he'd consider.
After Penn State was hit with unprecedented NCAA sanctions in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal last July, every Nittany Lions player was given the ability to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year. Other programs suddenly had a whole new crop of potential players to pursue, including quarterback Rob Bolden (who went to LSU), wide receiver Justin Brown (Oklahoma) and Redd, among others. The choice to leave State College was difficult for Redd, but ultimately one he needed to make.
"All my teammates wanted me to stay obviously, but they also wanted me happy," said Redd. "I came within myself and decided to make the transition."
The decision, which he announced a year ago this week, left Redd a sort of social pariah around Happy Valley. By leaving on the heels of a 1,241-yard rushing season in 2011, he received so much backlash that he eventually deleted his Twitter account (he has since reactivated it). An unabashed Penn State fan since his youth, Redd asserts the decision was entirely business.
"Penn State will always be a part of my life," Redd said. "I was just walking away from playing for them. I still have love for Penn State, and I still have a bunch of close friends there."
Yet when asked if he has any second thoughts about his decision to come to USC, Redd's answer is firm and concise: "No."
Still, the last year has not been easy for Redd. He describes it as a "roller coaster," a challenge he not only welcomes, but also embraces. Now that the attention he received for leaving Penn State has dwindled, Redd finally has a sense of peace again.
"Probably the middle of this last semester is when I finally felt a balance in my life," Redd said. "It was a period of time where [Los Angeles] started to transition into my home. I love the city, I love the people, I love the atmosphere, and I love the weather. It's an amazing place to be."
When Redd ran out of the tunnel at the Coliseum for the first time, with the Los Angeles skyline in the background, he was inundated with emotions. He looked around, trying to maintain his focus.
"Thank God the season's here," Redd recalled thinking. "[I felt] excitement, nervousness, joy, passion. I was excited to play for a new fan base and some people that I felt I really connected with."
Things didn't turn out as expected. A preseason No. 1 ranking evaporated into a 7-6 record, including an 0-4 billing against Top 25 teams. After a 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, the Trojans dropped five of their final six games.
Though Redd didn't replicate his sophomore statistics from Penn State, he rushed for 905 yards and nine touchdowns while splitting time with Curtis McNeal in the backfield. And while his total yardage decreased, his yards per carry jumped from 5.1 to 5.4. Redd says making a name for himself on the West Coast only added to his motivation.
"Naturally, I had to prove myself with my teammates, but they were the fastest in accepting me," Redd said. "The coaching staff had faith in me once they trusted I could play. And the fans' response was a beautiful thing."
This fall, Redd is out to finish his career strong. There are doubters to prove wrong, games for the Trojans to win. After tearing the meniscus in his knee in spring practice, Redd has been working tirelessly to get back to full strength and earn a starting spot. The process has been slow, but he's nearly 100 percent and expects to be ready for USC's season opener on Aug. 29 at Hawaii.
"I'm doing all the necessary preparations off the field," Redd said. "I'm eating better and making sure my body is ready to run the ball. I'm doing everything possible to prevent injuries."
Redd's individual goals for 2013 include rushing for 1,000 yards, scoring double-digit touchdowns and not turning the ball over. And with his eyes on the 2014 NFL draft, he's ready to make the final chapter of his collegiate career a memorable one.
"I had already established a little name for myself at Penn State," Redd said, "and hopefully with a great performance this year people will remember how I faced adversity and fought through it and disregarded the hatred and negativity and was still able to be successful. I'm excited for what's to come."