Drake London, the aspiring star receiver who carried a fighting USC team on his back for two tumultuous months, will miss the rest of the Trojans’ season after breaking his ankle in the 41:34 win over Arizona.
The devastating prognosis appeared to be all but certain in the second quarter of Saturday night, when London was loaded onto the injury car with a right ankle immobilized by an air bandage. In obvious pain, the junior wideout buried his face in his jersey and wiped the tears from his eyes. As the cart rolled through the tunnel, London waved to the crowd of the Coliseum, probably for the last time.
On Sunday evening, USC interim coach Donte Williams confirmed that London will no longer play in 2021. And with the NFL sure to be luring next spring, it’s unlikely that London, whose season should make him one of the best receivers in school history, will ever be a suit for USC again.
“Those eight games he’s played, all the awards you can think of, he deserves,” said Williams. “Whether it’s the Biletnikoff, whether it’s the All-American, the things he’s done for this team and this university, you know, he was going to set up one of the best statistical seasons any receiver in college football has shown. That says a lot. “
It’s not an exaggeration either. Even after missing the second half of Saturday’s game, London still leads all power five wideouts in receptions (88) and reception yards (1,084). Had he kept this pace, London would almost certainly have surpassed Marqise Lee (118) for the most receptions in a single season in school history while challenging him for the single year record for yards (1,721). Lee set both standards in 2012 and crowned his record season by winning the Biletnikoff Prize for best receiver in the country.
London was considered the leading contender for the same award until the second quarter through on Saturday. When London pulled an Arizona defender into the end zone for his second touchdown of the first half, his tackler appeared to roll over London’s leg as they hit the grass. London immediately grabbed his right knee and the coaches were summoned. An entire stadium fell silent.
London returned to the sidelines in the third quarter with a hard cast over his right ankle. Still in high spirits after the injury was confirmed at the end of the season, he hobbled on crutches into Sunday’s team meeting.
“He was still one of the guys,” said Williams. “He didn’t look at it as he was devastated and cried and alone. He was still here. That shows you again what kind of person he is. He is team leader and team captain for a reason. He still wanted to be close to his boys and still do everything possible to guide them. “
During a particularly dark time of year at USC, London was a lonely ray of light. The offense had relied on his amazing propensity to catch almost any pass thrown near him. Though the defense regularly brought him together in twos, London routinely worked its way up and broke even the best of fixtures.
Its loss is devastating to a USC misdemeanor in which London made up 43% of the Trojans’ airfields. In its place, USC will have to rely on a roster of receivers, many of which have been inconsistent during this season.
“Of course it hurt to lose him,” said sophomore Gary Bryant Jr. “But do what we do. Drake knows. He would tell us, ‘Just do what you do’ and we will do it. “
Bryant, who scored two touchdowns and hit a career high of 89 yards, is expected to take on a bigger role, along with seedy second transfer Tahj Washington, who had eight catches for 87 yards. The second Kyle Ford, who is similar in size to London, could also have more opportunities to move forward.
“I think there is a lot of emphasis on these guys,” said Williams. “But at the same time, these aren’t the guys we really fear getting promoted. It’s everyone else. The boys that no one really could see before. The Michael Jacksons of the world. The Kyron Ware-Hudsons. The Joseph Manjacks.
“And it puts even more emphasis on our tight ends. It’s not a person who could play Drake’s role. It is done collectively. They all need to improve their game and they will. “
For London, the injury should only be a slip-up in his football future. London should be an NFL first round draft pick next spring.
“It sucks, he’s the best receiver, the best player on the team, so it hurts a lot,” said quarterback Kedon Slovis on Saturday.