retired from football at age 10, following a disappointing career with the
Hinsdale (Ill.) Falcons. "Everyone had to play at least four downs," he
says, "and every game I played four downs." He was the rare child who
valued sheepskin over pigskin: Malcolmson earned his high school diploma in
just three years and enrolled at USC, where he's covered 29 consecutive
football games and three national championships as a writer for the Daily
Trojan. Malcolmson knows who the BMOCs are. "Obviously," says the
senior, "football players are idolized on campus."
As for Malcolmson,
he avoided contact even during the football games at his fraternity house,
Alpha Gamma Omega, where he has been president and chief Poindexter, with a 3.5
GPA. But he's also a fearless reporter, which is how he came to be a football
student-manager for a day. "I have great respect for those guys," he
says. "You pick up a lot of dirty things." When Malcolmson saw the USC
football team would hold walk-on tryouts on March 7, he thought it would be a
funny story if he tried out. Forced to list a position on his application,
Malcolmson wrote, "Wide receiver?" A few days before the tryout he
bought a pair of cleats for $34.99 at Sports Authority.
Ten minutes into
that tryout, Malcolmson realized he was in over his head. He'd never run a 40,
and when he tried to fake his way into a sprinter's stance, coach Ken Norton
Jr. recognized this impostor and shouted, "That's the newspaper guy!"
Asked to run a Go and a Deep Slant, Malcolmson thought of Madden. "I play
video games," he says, "so I knew some of the terminology."
seemed to make every catch, including a one-hander. And he did run a
respectable 4.72 40. But at 6-feet, 169 pounds, he's built like a sunflower,
all head and no body. After the tryout, he returned to his room and began to
write a story about "how terrible I am."
Two mornings later
his friend Lana called and said, "Did you try out for the football
team?" When Malcolmson said yes, she casually replied, "Well, you made
it," before nattering on about something else. Ben blurted out, "I have
In a daze he went
to Heritage Hall, where his name was indeed posted with nine others who'd made
the cut. He raced to Pete Carroll's office, where the head coach's
secretary--who knew Malcolmson as the Daily Trojan beat writer--said, "Yay,
good hands and you're quick," Carroll told him. "You want to do
this?" Malcolmson was on the team, having hit history's first walk-on home
run. He rewrote his story, which ran beneath the headline HAULING IN A HAIL
MARY, then promptly resigned from the paper.
The newest Trojan
player is still dazed. "It's like when someone dies young and you can't
believe it, and you keep telling yourself this can't be," he says.
It wasn't long
before the reporter turned receiver fielded his first dumb question from the
media--on Ryan Seacrest's radio show. "He asked me," sighs Malcolmson,
"if I've been slapping a lot of butts in practice."
From his frat
brothers, "I get nonstop crap," says Malcolmson. Whenever he fails to
wash his plate promptly, someone will announce, "Ben doesn't have to do
that anymore. He's on the football team."