USC receiver Marqise Lee drags UCLA cornerback Sheldon Price as he runs… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Marqise Lee had just begun speaking with a huddle of reporters Friday when safety T.J. McDonald trotted by en route to the locker room.
"He should have won the Heisman!" McDonald yelled.
Lee only laughed.
The sophomore was regarded as a Heisman Trophy candidate after catching 112 passes and ranking among the national leaders in all-purpose yardage. But he did not garner enough votes to earn a trip to New York for Saturday's Heisman show and announcement.
On Thursday, during a nationally televised awards show in Florida, Lee won the Biletnikoff Award, presented to college football's top receiver.
The Heisman finalists — Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein — also were there.
"All three are amazing; all three are leaders," Lee said. "Whoever wins, it's well deserved."
Then the All-American understatedly vowed to make a run at college football's most prestigious award next year.
"I'm not going to really focus on the trophy, but I'm going to make sure I compete and do the things I need to do in order to just get back up there," he said. "It was good just to be mentioned in that conversation."
Lee was similarly motivated to win the Biletnikoff Award after being left off the preseason watch list. He said he was nervous before he was announced as the winner, and later when he had to catch a pass onstage from Manziel.
He said he would keep the nearly 60-pound Biletnikoff trophy at USC's McKay Center because teammates such as fellow receiver Robert Woods, quarterback Matt Barkley and offensive linemen had played such a vital role in his winning it.
Also Friday, Lee was announced as one of four finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, presented to college football's most versatile player. The winner will be announced Jan. 8.
Coach Lane Kiffin said he left the phone number for Nathan Garcia — a 12-year-old boy from Bakersfield who is suffering from terminal brain cancer — in the lockers of Trojans players.
Nathan, who dreamed of playing for USC, was befriended by Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler, who grew up and attended high school in Bakersfield.
Kiffin called Nathan on Thursday — "Know we're praying for you and we'll go win this game for you," Kiffin said — and he shared Nathan's story with the team Friday, saying he wanted to remind players how fortunate they are.
"Any time they think about complaining about something in their lives," Kiffin said, "[there is] a story like that."
Receivers coach Tee Martin, quarterback for Tennessee's 1998 national championship team, may be a candidate to join new Volunteers Coach Butch Jones' staff.
Asked whether he would wait for a call from Tennessee, Martin said, "I got up this morning and got some text messages from friends and former teammates of mine at Tennessee — they gave me the news," about Jones' hiring.
"That's where I went to school, that's my alma mater, that's always home for me. If the opportunity presented itself, at that time, we deal with it. But as of right now nothing has happened."
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams was selected to the Sporting News Freshman All-America team…. Several jet-black Lincoln Navigators were parked on the street outside the practice facility after dropping off some of the recruits who were making official visits to USC this weekend. A'Shawn Robinson, a 6-foot-5, 304-pound defensive tackle from Texas, is among the recruits. Robinson reportedly has committed to Texas…. The Trojans, who play Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31, will be off next week for final exams.