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USC FOOTBALL

Palmer Is the Fans' Favorite

January 23, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

About 1,000 USC football fans, many wearing replicas of Carson Palmer's No. 3 jersey, showed up Wednesday at Heritage Hall as the school unveiled Palmer's Heisman Trophy and retired his number.

Palmer, the school's fifth Heisman winner and the first Trojan quarterback to win college football's most prestigious award, took a welcome break from pre-NFL draft training to attend the ceremony.

"It's been pretty much one thing after another," he said. "It's great to be back here for a great honor."

Palmer played in the Senior Bowl last week and did nothing to hurt his status as the possible No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. On Monday, he started a full-time, four-week training regime in Aliso Viejo in preparation for next month's NFL combine in Indianapolis and pre-draft workouts.

Palmer and eight other clients of agent David Dunn, including Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser and Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone, are immersed in a program that includes strength, speed and skills training.

The players start at 7 a.m. and finish at 4 p.m.

"It used to be that college players finished their bowl games and were drafted a few weeks later," Dunn said. "But the draft is much later now and the money is much more significant. A lot depends on measurables -- 40 [yard-dash] times, how high or far you can jump, how much you can lift.

"With teams placing so much emphasis on this, it makes sense to get players in a focused environment."

After the ceremony, which also honored USC's national championship women's volleyball team, Palmer was fitted for his Heisman ring, and did a series of interviews and photo shoots before he was ushered to a campus police cruiser.

Before he left, Palmer said he'd return to Heritage Hall to see his jersey and trophy displayed with those of Trojan Heisman winners Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen.

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