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Maualuga to Play After Father's Death

January 03, 2006|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

The father of USC linebacker Rey Maualuga died after a long illness, but Maualuga will remain with the team and play in the Rose Bowl, a school official said Monday night.

Maualuga, a freshman from Eureka, Calif., learned of his father Talatonu's death after the Trojans had taken part in media day Monday morning, according to Tim Tessalone, USC's sports information director. Maualuga practiced in the afternoon.

Tessalone said teammates and USC staff were counseling Maualuga, and Coach Pete Carroll said that members of the linebacker's family had arrived in Los Angeles.

Carroll said the decision about whether to play was left up to Maualuga.

"We gave him the option to do it any way he wanted to do it," Carroll said. "We're just going to do the best we can to take care of him."

On Nov. 7, Carroll gave Maualuga permission to leave school and miss practice so he could be with his father, who was hospitalized and gravely ill with cancer.

Carroll has intimated that the stress of the situation had played a role in Maualuga's behavior about a week earlier when he was involved in an off-campus incident that led to his arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor battery. Maualuga is alleged to have punched another man at a Halloween party.

The Los Angeles city attorney's office has not filed charges in the case.

Maualuga was not suspended from the team, but Carroll said he was receiving counseling and performing community service.


Seniors, and possibly some draft-eligible juniors, trotted off the practice field as the Trojans completed their final workout.

"This senior class has done a great service for this university," said Carroll, whose team is 48-3 over the last four seasons. "They have really put it together in great fashion and we owe a tremendous amount to that which they have done and what they have accomplished to set this thing in motion. It's a remarkable number of wins for any group ever. I can't wait to see them all graduate, finish up and get out of here."

Carroll said senior quarterback Matt Leinart "was all but perfect today," and that his team was ready to move into the final stage of preparation.

Senior defensive end Frostee Rucker said he could not wait to get onto the field against Texas.

"I'm going to miss all the guys, but we get one last time to fight on with the team," Rucker said.

"My days are winding down with this helmet on my head, but at the same time it's time to move on and see what else is out there for me."

Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, a junior who is expected to announce that he will turn pro, said it was a "sad time" for seniors, "but I think everybody is happy with the way the season turned out. You know you just have one more task to complete."

Junior offensive tackle Winston Justice said his father had spoken with agents but that he had not decided whether he would turn pro.


USC would typically do a walk-through at the stadium the day before an away game, but Carroll said the Trojans would instead follow their usual home-game routine.

The Trojans will leave their Century City hotel today, go through a walk-through on campus and check in to a downtown hotel tonight.

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