As Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Shay Fields took part in the program’s weekly media conference earlier this week, the native of Southern California was asked which of the many legendary USC Trojans players he most often tried to emulate in his younger days.
“I’m pretty sure everybody wanted to be Reggie Bush,” Fields said.
Awaiting his turn at the podium another SoCal native, linebacker Rick Gamboa, couldn’t help but laugh when he took over the microphone.
“I had a Reggie Bush jersey growing up,” he said.
When the Buffs put their No. 21 ranking on the line Saturday against USC at the historic Los Angeles Coliseum, the Pac-12 Conference showdown will count as a homecoming for a vast number of Buffs mined from the rich recruiting ground of Southern California. Many of those recruits, like Fields and Gamboa, rooted for the Trojans as youngsters a decade ago when USC came within seconds of winning three consecutive national championships and CU still competed in the Big 12 Conference.
Those old allegiances obviously have shifted for CU’s SoCal contingent. And with a homecoming on the horizon, head coach Mike MacIntyre has stressed the importance of making Saturday more like a business trip than a family reunion.
“We talked about it Monday first thing in our meeting that a lot of guys are going home,” MacIntyre said. “A lot of family and a lot of things. I wanted them to get all their tickets out of the way early this week and be honed in to go for a business trip to go win a football game. That’s what our goal is.
“After game, after we win, we can spend a lot more time with them. It’s an early kickoff, thank goodness, so we can hang around a little bit longer and let them see their families. But the whole key is to go down there and win the football game. It’s a business trip and our guys will be ready for that.”
Fields in particular could be excused if he was eager for a strong showing in front of the hometown fans. In his return as a true freshman two seasons ago, Fields did catch three passes for 35 yards and even scored a touchdown in the Coliseum against USC. But the Trojans pounced on the Buffs for a 28-0 first quarter lead and never looked back in a 56-28 rout.
CU has come a long way in the two years since, as indicated by the Buffs’ first national ranking in 11 years. And for Fields, giving the Trojans a better game and possibly returning to Boulder with a victory remains far more appetizing than putting on an individual show before his family and friends.
“It’s just a normal game,” said Fields, who also had four catches for 39 yards in Los Angeles last year during the Buffs’ loss in the Rose Bowl against UCLA. “You’ve just got to be ready, be focused. Have good days of practice this week and just come out ready to play on Saturday. It feels great to be ranked, but as a team you want to be (better) and that only comes with winning more games along the road in the Pac-12. We’re satisfied but not too satisfied. We’re still hungry.”