Ex-Beaver Mokhtar showing his abilities at Southern California

2009-10-22T23:15:00Z Ex-Beaver Mokhtar showing his abilities at Southern CaliforniaBy Kevin Hampton, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times
October 22, 2009 11:15 pm  • 

There's quite a list of great running backs that have played for the University of Southern California.

Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Ricky Bell, Charles White, Marcus Allen and Reggie Bush, to name a few. The group is made up of all-Americans, Heisman Trophy winners and eventual NFL stars.

Ahmed Mokhtar has a chance to join the list.

Mokhtar, a former Oregon State player, joined the USC football team as a walk-on running back after transferring from Orange Coast College this summer.

Mokhtar got his first carry as a USC running back against San Jose State.

He had an idea that he might get into the game when coach Pete Carroll and running backs coach Todd McNair approached him at the start of the week and asked him if he was cleared to play.

Sure enough, the Trojans pulled away from the Spartans and Mokhtar got his chance.

"During the game coach McNair looked at me and nodded," Mokhtar said. "I got excited and ran in and got two carries."

Mokhtar gained four yards on those carries. He is officially part of USC's running back legacy.

"It's pretty cool to be considered in that, so it's huge for me," he said.

The road to USC was a little different for Mokhtar than most Trojans. He rushed for 1,498 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior and added 860 yards and 10 scores as a senior at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif.

Those numbers were good enough to grab the attention of recruiters. Mokhtar was heavily recruited by OSU, Colorado State and Washington and had interest from California, Penn State, Notre Dame and UCLA.

He signed with the Beavers but was redshirted and did not get into a game.

Mokhtar liked the coaches and his teammates at OSU, but said he felt something was missing.

"I wasn't happy there. It wasn't the right fit for me," he said. "I don't know if it was the nine months of rain or what it was, but it wasn't right for me."

He decided to leave Corvallis. He wanted to transfer within the Pacific-10 Conference, so he decided to transfer to Orange Coast College.

Mokhtar missed the first four games of the season with a knee contusion and then rushed for 178 yards on 37 carries with one touchdown and a long run of 41 yards in the final six games.

"It definitely helped a lot," he said. "I got back into that game experience. While I was at Oregon State I redshirted and it was good to be practicing but there's a whole different speed in the game.

"I think it was a good decision to play."

Mokhtar said playing for USC was never one of his big dreams, but he was interested in going there because he had high school teammates play for the Trojans and it was close to home.

Once he spent some time around Carroll, he knew it was the right decision.

He said Carroll emphasizes being the best person and player possible and believes in competition within the team.

"If you compete, you're going to do well," Mokhtar said. "You'll get on the field. I'm not afraid to compete."

The expectations are high and the pace is frenetic.

"You're expected to be great in everything you do," he said. "In high school at Mater Dei, things were pretty tough, it was intense. Practice had a pretty fast tempo. But here, the coaches are yelling and running around. It's awesome."

Mokhtar said he's looking forward to Saturday's game. Mokhtar has been texting his old roommate Damola Adeniji, Brandon Hardin and James Rodgers and wishing them good luck in the game.

"I still keep in touch with the guys up there," Mokhtar said. "I haven't seen them since I left, so it will be good to see them again."

The circumstances will be different and a little strange, however.

"Now I'll be on the SC sideline looking at them."

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