Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

UCLA-USC Rivalry Game Holds Weight for 9 Vikings Teammates

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Before the Vikings take on the Cardinals Sunday, a handful of teammates will be invested in the results of one particular college game Saturday evening.

University of California, Los Angeles will host Southern California for a Pac-12 matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. (CT).

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, a USC alum, only had one thing to say about the matchup: "We're going to win."

Minnesota's roster holds a large number of alumni from the rival teams – seven on the active roster and two on reserve lists. Griffen, Rhett Ellison and Matt Kalil (injured reserve) played for USC. Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Jeff Locke, Kevin McDermott, Kai Forbath and Mike Harris (reserve/non-football illness) all played for UCLA.

McDermott said it's a fun experience to have so many alumni from two schools together in one NFL locker room, and it's especially unique that all three specialists are former teammates.

"It's really exciting; it's cool," McDermott said. "We know each other really well, but we've also had a lot of the same coaching throughout our careers. I think the familiarity is awesome."

USC (7-3) is the favored team heading into Saturday's game over UCLA (4-6), but McDermott said the conditions could be ripe for a Bruins victory.

"I'm partial because my brother's still on the team," admitted McDermott, whose brother Conor McDermott is an offensive lineman at UCLA. "[But] it's a home game and it's a rivalry game, so anything can happen. Plus, SC's coming off a big win last weekend, so they're primed for an upset."

Added McDermott: "But USC's a good team."

In McDermott's five years at UCLA, the Bruins defeated the Trojans only once, in McDermott's final season.

"It was amazing," McDermott said. "It was a big win for us as seniors, because we had been beaten down pretty hard the previous years, and the year before that game, we had lost 50 to nothing. It was a pretty big deal to beat them our senior year."

Ellison (2008-2011) was part of the USC streak against UCLA and likes to remind his teammates that it couldn't really be considered a true rivalry during his tenure there.

"They don't really have any trash to talk," Ellison said of the UCLA alumni in the locker room. "They've been pretty quiet."

Of four career touchdowns during Ellison's collegiate career, two were against UCLA, including one in his final game for the Trojans.

"Obviously I didn't like those guys," said Ellison, who identified Notre Dame and UCLA as the team's two biggest rivals. "You always wanted to play your best games against those teams."

Kendricks said the weekend of a UCLA-USC matchup is always high-energy, and it brings him back to his time alongside Barr with the Bruins.

"It's a great game, and there's always a lot of fans from both sides there," Kendricks said. "There's a lot of history in that game."

During the linebacker's time at UCLA, he said the most memorable moment was receiving the Butkus Award in 2014.

"It wasn't the award itself necessarily, but it was the fact that I was presented the award with my teammates, and everyone got to share that experience with me, everyone that I'd worked with to get that," Kendricks said. "That was pretty special to me."

In the week leading up to tonight's matchup, Kendricks said there was "definitely a little bit of trash talk" throughout the week. Asked who the most vocal of the team tends to be, Kendricks just laughed.

"I don't know – I think it's pretty unanimous," Kendricks said. "I think we all hate each other that week."

There may be some friendly fire exchanged in good fun over tonight's matchup. At the end of the day, however, a band of brothers will be suiting up Sunday to look for a win over Arizona. 

"I had a lot of experiences with those guys in college and kind of grew up with them a little bit," Kendricks said. "So it's pretty cool that we're sharing the same experiences now."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.