The night began with a standing ovation and concluded with the university’s fight song led by the USC Trojan Marching Band.
Safe to say Pete Carroll’s USC homecoming was something special. On the heels of a Super Bowl victory, he visited campus on Feb. 26 to speak with students on his Win Forever philosophy. Bovard Auditorium was packed with people who came to hear the legendary coach talk football, fun and the ingredients of success.
“Tonight I really felt the Trojan love,” Carroll said, when asked about returning to the school he led to seven consecutive Bowl Championship Series games and two national titles. “I love this place. It feels really good to be back.”
Carroll, one of just three coaches to ever win both an NCAA championship and a Super Bowl, is one of the best in the business who reached that level thanks to strict adherence to a philosophy he developed early in his career. He described competition as the central theme of his program and the integral component of winning forever.
The coach walked the audience through his journey, explaining the obstacles and opportunities he encountered on his way to USC and his current position with the Seattle Seahawks. According to Carroll, being successful takes vision, hard work, a deep understanding of yourself and discipline. But when you have those ingredients, anything is possible.
The evening included special guests who dropped by for surprise visits, including new Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and Will Ferrell ’90. The comedian reminisced about USC football practice and even brushed up on his kicking skills, driving a football into the audience through imaginary field goal posts. Sarkisian and Carroll compared coaching notes, explaining what they admired about the other and where they saw the future of USC football.
“What has always stood out to me about Sark is his agile mind, his ability to think openly and his ability to understand people,” Carroll said. “He can handle any situation. Not everyone can do that. I’m thrilled that he has this opportunity. He knows what ’SC is all about. He’s going to do a great job.”
As the evening came to a close, it was easy to forget that Carroll’s main title is football coach and not inspirational speaker. Drawing on the tenants of his life philosophy and delivering on the purpose of the night (he was invited by a business class to speak on entrepreneurship and success), the coach gave the audience a locker room-esque speech for the ages.
“As you go through challenges, remember that grit is real,” Carroll said. “It’s about competing, it’s about pushing yourself, it’s about striving to be your best. The thing that’s great about grit is that no one else controls it but you.
“You have the opportunity to create your own value. No one else will control what happens to you. You have the power. That’s being in control of your own destiny.”