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O'Hara Picks the Cardinal--and Gold : USC Edges Stanford, More Than 50 Other Schools to Recruit Him

February 13, 1986|RAY RIPTON | Times Staff Writer

Kim O'Hara, quarterback Pat's older sister, was giving her 17-year-old brother a little static when she dropped by the family apartment in Santa Monica.

Kim, an administrator at a Beverly Hills private school, had walked in while Pat was being interviewed and photographed. In a mock-serious manner, she complained that it was hard these days for her to get any recognition, that people tend to think of her as something like a lady-in-waiting to her brother.

She said that when she dropped by the grocery store, a clerk had asked her if she was related to Pat, and an acquaintance had greeted her by saying, "So it's USC."

USC it is for O'Hara, the star quarterback at Santa Monica High School who passed for 3,703 yards and 44 touchdowns in the last two years. At least, he made an oral commitment to play for Coach Ted Tollner's Trojans last week and was expected to sign a letter of intent this week with USC.

55 Colleges Interested

It was not an easy choice. In the last 10 months, 55 universities had shown an interest in having the 6-3 1/2, 185-pound O'Hara bark signals and throw tight spirals for their football teams.

Pat's father Bill, who is in the commercial real estate business, had fielded hundreds of phone calls from famous coaches wanting to drop by and talk to Pat about playing for their teams. Hundreds of letters were mailed to the O'Hara home, and Pat neatly filed them away in his bedroom, only to be asked to scatter them around on his bed so a photographer could get a good shot.

Patty O'Hara, Pat's mother, said that, if her husband wasn't at home, she would take the calls, but her husband "kept a pretty good record" of them.

A few weeks ago, Pat had winnowed all the material he received and finally extracted the letterheads of Ohio State, California, Stanford, UCLA and USC. He would accept a scholarship from one of those schools.

UCLA Trip Canceled

He visited Ohio State, Cal and Stanford and was scheduled to drop by UCLA last weekend. But he decided on USC and canceled the short--and by now unnecessary--trip to UCLA.

For weeks before that, he said, he had thought it would be Stanford. "All along they told me that I was their No. 1 guy, and I was all excited about it," he said. But after he sent in his application and waited four weeks, he was notified that, although he is a B-average student at Santa Monica High, Stanford would not admit him.

He said he made USC his choice after visiting that campus and talking to Tollner and USC football players, including former Santa Monica linebackers Keith Davis and Sam Anno and defensive backs Aaron Brown and Junior Thurman.

He said his choice was not influenced by Santa Monica High Coach Tebb Kusserow, a USC alumnus. "Mr. Kusserow was very open and in no way influenced me to go to USC. He would always bring up the good points of other schools and did not push me. He wants me to be happy wherever I go."

He said he was not affected by the fact that Santa Monica alumni, including Dennis Thurman of the Dallas Cowboys and Dennis Smith of the Denver Broncos, starred for the Trojans once. Nor by the ex-Santa Monica players still on the team; he said he had not known Davis and the other three when they were in high school.

To Stay in California

"I didn't go for USC because they were there, but because this is where I really wanted to be," he said. "Ohio State has a great football program. I just feel that USC is the place to go. I have grown up in Southern California, and after college I plan to work and raise a family in Southern California.

Another reason he chose the Trojans, he said, was because he liked Willie Wu, a USC academic adviser to athletes. "He's a real down-to-earth person, and he knows what an athlete goes through--all the problems and pressures."

O'Hara is back to earth after flying to Columbus, Berkeley and Palo Alto, and after the resultant fantasy flights about where he would one day play. And he will have a lot of pressures and problems to face to become a starter for Coach Tollner and the Trojans.

One problem is that Tollner was expected to sign two other top quarterbacks this week: Jason Schmid of Saddleback College, last season's California community college player of the year, and Shane Foley of Newport Harbor High School.

Another is that USC substitute quarterback Kevin McClain has two years of eligibility remaining.

Quarterback Injured

One reason Tollner is rounding up so many quarterbacks is that he had a problem when one of his starting quarterbacks was injured last fall. Rodney Peete, who was expected to be the top man next fall, suffered a torn Achilles' tendon, a tough injury to come back from.

But Tollner is optimistic that Peete will return. "At his age, and with the anticipation and the early prognosis, everything is in his favor for total recovery," he said.

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