When Bryson Lloyd decided to rejoin the USC football team early this year, he and Scott Grimes anticipated their years of friendly jibes might lead to a high-stakes showdown on November 24 in Los Angeles. It has come to pass, but with a twist that totally defies their expectations.
“Scotty told me at the start of the season, ‘Don’t lose to anyone, so we can be your first loss,’” Lloyd said. “Now it’s the other way around.”
Grimes is a student manager of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who will take an 11-0 record and No. 1 ranking into Saturday’s game against the USC Trojans, who were voted the nation’s No. 1 team in the preseason but have stumbled out of the rankings with a 7-4 record. The nationally televised clash at the Coliseum will have a 5 p.m. kickoff.
Lloyd and Grimes hope to meet on the field during pregame drills. Once the game begins, Grimes will be in the pressbox with Notre Dame’s defensive coaching staff. Lloyd will take the field as USC’s long snapper on field-goal and extra-point attempts.
“It’s very cool to be part of this,” Lloyd said. “I’m able to live out my dream by playing in one of the greatest rivalries. It’s funny the way it’s worked out for Scott and me. Our families are so close.”
The friendship of their fathers, Ron Lloyd and Brett Grimes, brought their sons together since childhood in Santa Barbara. Their families went on vacations together and celebrated holidays together. The boys were flag football teammates at Marymount School. “I played quarterback, and Scott was a fast little receiver,” Lloyd said. “We called him ‘Scooter.’”
Lloyd, a year older and several sizes larger than Grimes, displays a brotherly fondness toward his friend. “I love the kid,” he said, “even though he’s been a UCLA fan his whole life.” The boys had fun taunting each other over their favorite teams – the Lloyds being a diehard USC family, the Grimeses loyal to the UCLA Bruins. “We never rooted for USC,” Scott said.
Their paths diverged in high school. Lloyd attended Santa Barbara High, where he became an outstanding receiver on the Dons football team. As a senior in 2008, he caught a record 108 passes – including 24 in one game – and earned all-county and all-CIF honors. He was not offered a scholarship to USC, but he went there anyway and made the football roster as a walk-on tight end.
Grimes attended Bishop Diego High. The only sport he competed in was golf. He worked hard on his academics and became the senior class salutatorian. He could have gone to UCLA, but instead he chose another longstanding rival of USC – in fact, the Trojans have played more football games against Notre Dame than against the Bruins.
Lloyd spent his freshman season practicing with the Trojans but did not see any game action. He took off the next two seasons, 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, Grimes became part of Notre Dame’s football program in 2011 when he signed up as a sophomore student manager.
“I was in the stands at last year’s [USC-Notre Dame] game,” Lloyd said. “I gave Scott a hard time. He was in charge of putting the field-goal nets up [behind the goal posts]. I told him he was going to be busy putting the nets back up, because we were going to score lots of points.” The Trojans won the game, 31-17, at Notre Dame Stadium.
Lloyd, who will achieve a degree in business this year, decided he had some unfinished business as a football player and returned to the practice field at USC. “It’s been a lot of work and a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve been playing our opponents’ tight ends against our defense.” That means the 6’3”, 225-pound Lloyd has been posing as Notre Dame’s 6’5” standout Tyler Eifert in practice this week.
For the past several weeks, Lloyd has been pressed into action as the Trojans’ snapper on placekicks. He drew on his experience as a quarterback. “If you can throw a spiral, you can learn to snap the ball,” he said. His skills as a pass receiver and blocking tight end also translate well to the position.
Grimes, a computer science major, has undertaken increased responsibilities as a junior student manager. He attends to the needs of the Irish linebackers, making sure they have all their equipment, from their cleats to the sport coats they wear after the game. In the pressbox, he sits behind defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and keeps track of downs and distances.
It has been a stressful job much of the season, as the Irish have survived one hair-raising game after another. “Our last win [38-0 over Wake Forest] was a relief,” Grimes said. “Triple overtime is not my kind of game.” The Irish leapfrogged to the top of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings when Kansas State and Oregon were upset last weekend. Grimes was not surprised Stanford won at Oregon, having seen the Cardinal lose a tough defensive battle in overtime at Notre Dame. “Oregon hadn’t played a true defense,” he said.
Now USC looms as the last obstacle between the Irish and their shot at the national championship. “It would be so nice to knock off the No. 1 team,” Lloyd said. Grimes countered, “We’re going to win . . . but I don’t think it will be boring.”