ONE MEAN DECLEATER
Don't let Dave Cadigan's boyish freckles fool you. Or his tony Newport Beach, Calif., background. Or the unabashed hugs he gets from his father after games. This is one tough hombre we're talking about. The 6'5", 280-pound senior tackle is heir to a tradition of stellar offensive linemen at USC. Cadigan has 4.68 speed in the 40 and is the strongest Trojan ever, having bench-pressed a team-record 485 pounds this summer.
In Saturday's 31-14 victory over Cal in Berkeley's Memorial Stadium, USC, now 2-1, rolled up 461 yards of total offense, including 226 yards rushing. Those numbers will be properly credited to players such as quarterback Rodney Peete and running back Steven Webster. But Tailback U., like other schools, also quantifies the achievements of the laborers up front who clear the way for the glory guys. While studying game films, the Trojan coaches count the number of knockdowns, chop blocks, decleaters and movement blocks racked up by their offensive lineman. When you high-block your opponent off his feet, that's a knockdown. Take him down low, and you've got yourself a chop block. When you block him onto his back, that's a decleater. When you drive the poor devil five or more yards off the line of scrimmage, that's a movement block.
At USC all four categories are sometimes referred to collectively as decleaters, and two weeks ago, in a 23-17 victory over Boston College, Cadigan produced a remarkable 28 of them. "I coached the offensive line at Michigan for four years," says Southern Cal coach Larry Smith. "You're talking about guys like [Dan] Dierdorf, [Reggie] McKenzie, some great All-Pro people. I never saw them get 28 decleaters in one game, I don't care who we played."
"Cadigan was as strong as an ox," says BC's decleated defensive tackle Mark Murphy. "He got his clamps on you and it was really tough to shed him."
The USC coaches counted 11 decleaters for Cadigan against Cal, a most respectable total. And Cadigan and his linemates did not surrender a sack. In fact, Peete has been thrown for a loss only once in the Trojans' three games—on a rollout.
Cadigan has the strength of several people, most notably his mom and dad. Patrick Cadigan, a 257-pounder, was a two-time Eastern weightlifting champ at Boston College in the '50s, the first Eagle to bench-press 400 pounds. That no doubt accounts for Dave's physical prowess. But his inner strength is a gift from Barbara Cadigan. "Whatever the ultimate is in support, she was it," Cadigan says. She not only offered her son encouragement, she offered him an example. For 12 years, she fought cancer, first breast, then lung, repeatedly battling it into retreat. But then on Aug. 11, six days before Dave began practice for this season, she died.
"I think about the things we talked about," Cadigan says. "About the kind of year I'm going to have. My mom really believed I could be an All-America." He shifts to the present tense. "She really believes I can be a first-round draft pick. And I promised her that I would." If he fulfills that promise, Cadigan would become the 16th USC offensive lineman in the last 20 years to be chosen in the first round of the NFL draft.
"I feel she's still around, that she sees what I do," he says. "She has a definite presence. I think she knows I had a good game. I think she is watching."