Delmar Chesley, USC's sophomore inside linebacker, is uncomfortable this week, receiving congratulatory handshakes he says he doesn't deserve.
Chesley, filling in for injured Rex Moore, started for the first time Saturday against Boston College. He was in on a game-high 15 tackles, and made two big plays on short-yardage fourth downs.
In the second quarter, Chesley tackled tailback Jim Bell for a two-yard loss at the USC 36-yard line. Then, in the fourth quarter, with the Trojans holding a 23-17 lead, he stopped quarterback Mike Power short of a first down at the USC 33.
That was the game. USC ran out the clock.
But the 6-3, 230-pound Chesley isn't feeling good about taking bows for his accomplishments.
"Even though people are patting me on the back, I think I had an average, or below average game and I know I could have done better," Chesley said. "I can't wait until we play Cal (Saturday at Berkeley) to make up for it."
Chesley got his chance to start when Moore broke his left leg in a 27-13 loss at Michigan State Sept. 7.
"I watched films of Boston College and they were pretty much a 50-50 run-pass team," Chesley said. "They changed that philosophy to 70-30 run--Delmar Chesley's way. Any time there's a new person inserted in the defense at inside linebacker, where most of the action is, they're going to try you and run at you.
"It kind of rattled me for the first quarter. I didn't respond as fast as I could have, and I could have played better. Hopefully, I will the next game."
Chesley said that the inside linebacker position is like rush hour on the freeway. It's where the football traffic is congested.
In the USC media guide, Coach Larry Smith is quoted as saying, "Inside linebacker is a high-collison position, where injuries occur often, so Delmar could suddenly be thrust into a starting job and we feel confident that he'll handle that well."
It was a prophetic observation, and Chesley said that Smith told him at the end of spring practice to work out hard during the summer and, because of the injury factor, to prepare himself as if he were a starter.
Chesley, who grew up in Washington D.C., is the last of seven brothers to get an athletic scholarship from a major university. An older brother, Martin, is a USC tight end, who is unable to play this season due to back surgery.
The other Chesley brothers:
--William was an offensive lineman at North Carolina.
--William's twin, Walter, played basketball at Boston University.
--Francis was an outside linebacker-tight end at Wyoming, who later played with the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints.
--Al was an inside linebacker at Pitt and went on to play with the Eagles and Chicago Bears.
--John was a tight end at Oklahoma State who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins.
Delmar also has three older sisters, who have earned college degrees, a No. 1 priority in the Chesley family.
"The only thing that is required in my family is to get a college degree," Chesley said. "Two of my older brothers have masters degrees and Walter, a Rhodes scholar, is a lawyer."
Chesley indicated the obvious: that his father, Walter, and mother, Agnes, have emphasized academics for their children.
Delmar said that Martin is depressed because he can't play for the Trojans this year.
"He had surgery on a disc and the doctors said that the tissue was not thick enough for him to handle any sort of contact on the football field," Chesley said. "He's taking it pretty rough right now. He wants to come back and play so badly, but I tell him, hey, 'There's life after football and football only lasts a certain number of years.' He should get his degree and just say life goes on.
"A lot of kids put football or basketball first, but their No. 1 priority should be to get a degree. That's one thing they can't take away from you."