LOS ANGELES – Hayes Pullard bleeds Blue and Gold. Not UCLA Blue and Gold, but Crenshaw Blue and Gold.
There’s a difference.
“It’s two different colors,” Pullard said.
Some former UCLA Bruins who are also Crenshaw alums tried to tell him different. Pullard had a talk with former Crenshaw stars, Brian Price and Reggie Carter earlier this week. Carter and Price were heavily recruited coming out of one of the top programs in the City Section. They chose UCLA.
“I was talking to older guys like Brian Price and Reggie Carter (Tuesday) night about that,” Pullard said. “I was like ‘It’s not royal blue and gold, it’s powder blue and gold. It’s not the same.’ Don’t say you bleed blue and gold. It’s not the same.”
The youngest of the trio stood his ground.
When you look at the player wearing No. 10 in Cardinal and Gold for Monte Kiffin’s defense, you’d know he stood his ground to get to his linebacker position for the Trojans.
As he does from time to time on the football field, Pullard went against the grain by choosing USC over UCLA.
The Bruins built a pipeline from Crenshaw to Westwood that included the likes of Carter, Price and offensive lineman Aleksey Lanis.
On Signing Day 2010, Pullard’s decision came down to the Bruins and the Trojans. Choosing USC was viewed as a surprise. Despite the fact that UCLA was the first school to give him a scholarship offer as a sophomore in high school, Pullard spent plenty of time at UCLA cheering on former Cougars Price and Carter, but as Pullard puts it, he had to do what was best for him.
“It felt good (to be different),” Pullard said. “I talked to Reggie and Brian Price about it. I was like ‘I don’t think I want to go to UCLA. I feel like my heart is at USC.’
“They (told me) ‘If that’s where (your heart) is, that’s where it is. I want you to go to USC.’”
He was one of three Crenshaw players targeted by Lane Kiffin as he took over the USC job and tried to keep the recruiting class intact while trying to influence those who’d yet to make a decision.
In addition to signing Pullard, offensive lineman Marcus Martin signed the dotted line as well, starting a trend.
“It was real shocking,” Pullard said. “Me, Marcus, and (Oregon running back) De’Anthony (Thomas were) all talking about how we’re going to go to USC.”
Lane Kififn was able to get two of the three. Thomas was the one that got away – a USC commit at the time, who changed his mind and elected to head to the Pacific Northwest. The proverbial wall UCLA was thought to have surrounding the Crenshaw campus didn’t play a factor in USC trying to recruit there.
“There were two really good players there and both of them were coming here for a while,” said the Trojans head coach. “We go on the evaluation of players.
The three guys in two years that we recruited there, I thought, were all good players and all three of them are starting in our conference.”
Before announcing his pledge to the Trojans, Pullard had a chance to play in the Coliseum, helping lead Crenshaw to the 2009 LA City Section title.
Saturday will mark his first time playing in the Rose Bowl.
Playing for Crenshaw, he knows a thing or two about being a part of a big rivalry. Crenshaw-Dorsey is considered one of the greatest rivalries in Los Angles. He admits the USC-UCLA rivalry was lost on him growing up.
He didn’t pay much attention to it. Naturally gifted as a football player, Pullard didn’t spend much time watching football, opting for basketball instead and even played basketball during his time at Crenshaw.
Since stepping on USC’s campus, he’s learned the enormity of the situation. It doesn’t hurt to have folks like Carter and Price in his ear with a little banter from time to time.
On Friday night, as he’s preparing for the Bruins, Crenshaw will be taking on Dorsey for the second time this season. This time will be for the right to advance to the City Section semifinals.
His thoughts will be on the Cougars. He always pulls for his alma mater. Donned in Cardinal and Gold, there will be Blue and Gold flowing through his veins, just not that Blue and Gold.