Matt Lopes grew up around USC Trojans, then eventually became one
By Joey Kaufman
LOS ANGELES — Matt Lopes was spent.
It was his first training camp at USC, in August of 2013, the time of year when the afternoon sun bakes Howard Jones-Brian Kennedy Field and never seems to drop below the engineering buildings sitting on its west end.
Amid the swelter, Lopes, then an undersized freshman safety, never caught much rest. He often lined up across Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor, the Trojans’ All-American receivers and soon-to-be NFL draft picks, asked to cover them in drills and while running with the scout team.
“Not fun,” Lopes said, laughing.
Lopes sat on patio furniture outside of Heritage Hall on a recent afternoon as he recalled his initiation into major college football.
He was used to rubbing shoulders with the university’s premier athletes, the son of Steve Lopes, USC’s longtime senior associate athletic director, and Helaine Lopes, a former athletic trainer for two-plus decades, who first brought him as an infant to the school’s child-care center as they worked long hours.
“He literally grew up around here,” Steve said.
It was as a toddler when Matt lingered in the training room, wrapped ankle tape into little basketballs and went 1-on-1 with Dennis Thurman, a former Trojans safety and then defensive backs coach. Women’s volleyball players babysat him during some evenings. He stayed for meals with Dominique Byrd, a tight end, after practices before the 2005 Orange Bowl.
A young Matt Lopes poses with USC football great Ronnie Lott. (Photo courtesy of Lopes family)
The matchups on the field with Lee and Agholor, though, were different. These were tests to see if he could make it as a walk-on with a football team oozing with blue-chip recruits.
“I definitely had to get better fast,” Matt said.
He ultimately did.
After a late-morning shower earlier this month, the 22-year-old, fifth-year senior returned to an iPhone filled with dozens […]