While the Texas football program thrives on talent grown within the state’s borders, it also searches outside of the Promised Land in order to find players willing to emigrate from their home-state to don the burnt orange and white.
There are plenty of players and starters on the team who don’t hail from Texas, but for grad transfer Tre Watson and junior Collin Johnson, they have a chance this week to play against the premier program from their home state of California.
Both Johnson and Watson told reporters Tuesday the USC Trojans gave them scholarship offers. Although Texas seemed like the likely outcome from the start for Johnson given the legacy of his father, Johnnie, and his brother, Kirk, already committed, Collin gave the Trojans a long look.
“I almost went to USC really,” Johnson said. “That was another program I had a lot of respect for and watched growing up as well, being form California.”
The junior, who had seven catches for 191 yards against the Trojans in Los Angeles last year, resided in Northern California and attended Valley Christian in San Jose. Los Angeles is much closer to the Bay Area than the Austin City Limits, but Johnson never had a second thought about attending Texas.
“No regret in my mind coming here,” Johnson said. “It’s the best university in the world to me.”
That was a sentiment Watson echoed. “I’m where I want to be,” he said.
Watson didn’t share the family connection Johnson had to the program. He attended Centennial High School, an hour drive through LA traffic to USC’s campus.
He grew up familiar with the Trojan program under former head coach Pete Carroll, but noticed one game in particular in which the Trojans were defeated.
“I saw what Texas did at the end of the day,” Watson said, referring to the 2006 Rose bowl. “That’s the main goal. We want to focus on that, winning. At the end of the day, they came out with the victory in that instant. That’s our focus for this week.”
Watson called this game “a little more personal” because of his familiarity with the region, the opposing school, and some of the players.
“As a little kid, I was an SC fan,” Watson said. “I wore 5 because Reggie Bush was my favorite college football player.”
While both teams aren’t as strong in 2018 as they have been traditionally, this game still has a lot riding on it. USC and Texas seem to have the same issues, have similar styles of offense and defense, and are in need of a program-boosting win on the national stage.
Despite the fanfare, with Texas social media calling this matchup part three of “the trilogy,” Watson and Johnson both said they want to attack this opponent without letting the name get to them.
“We play for one game seasons around here,” Johnson said. “We’re just focused on going 1-0.”
“SC is SC at the end of the day,” Watson said. “They’re a great team. We know that they’re going to come out and be ready to compete.”
Watson, however, wanted to make sure it was clear he knew the task ahead of him.
“If you’re not in the burnt orange and white, you’re an enemy.”