Brian Cushing #56 LB
Height: 6-3 Weight: 255 Age: 26
Born: 1/24/1987 Park Ridge , NJ
Experience: 5th season
High School: Bergen Catholic HS [Oradell, NJ]
Selected By: Houston Texans
Pick (Overall): 15 (15)
The unquestioned leader of one of the premier defenses in college football, Cushing is also regarded as one of the finest strong-side outside linebackers in the game. Whether it is blitzing the quarterback, chasing down running backs or dropping back in pass coverage, the chiseled athlete has excelled at whatever task the coaches ask from him.
His steady performances each week brought back memories of former Trojans standout linebacker Duane Bickett, who went on to star in the NFL for Indianapolis (1985-93), Seattle (1994-95) and Carolina (1996) after being selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Colts.
Cushing felt that the 2008 season was his chance to prove to scouts that he was not only capable of being a first-round pick, but also prove that he could stay on the football field. Having missed more than a third of his freshman and junior seasons combined due to a rash of injuries, he underwent a rigorous training and nutritional program before the 2008 campaign. His exploits in the training room eventually earned him the honor of being named the team's Co-Lifter of the Year.
On the field, he received All-American recognition in addition to being named All-Pac 10 Conference first-team in 2008. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award, semifinalist for the Lombardi Award and quarterfinalist for the Lott Trophy. He accomplished all of this despite playing with a cast for close to a month to protect a broken bone in his hand.
Cushing earned Parade, USA Today, Prep Football Report, Scout.com, Super Prep, EA Sports and Prep Star All-American honors as a senior at Bergen Catholic High School. He was a member of the USA Today All-USA Team, in addition to receiving Super Prep Elite 50, Prep Star Top 100 Dream Team, Student Sports Top 100, Rivals 100, Super Prep All-Northeast Defensive Player of the Year, Prep Star All-East and All-State Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Despite missing three games with an ankle sprain, Cushing recorded 120 tackles, 11 stops for loss, 10 sacks and seven interceptions as a linebacker in 2004. On offense, the running back and tight end gained 475 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns and caught 13 receptions for 456 yards (35.1 avg) with seven scores. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
As a junior, Cushing was named Student Sports Junior All-American, All-State first-team and All-Bergen County Defensive Player of the Year. He went on to register 120 tackles, including 22 behind the line of scrimmage, adding nine sacks and seven interceptions.
Despite missing more than half his freshman season with a shoulder dislocation, Cushing returned to start four games for Southern California in 2005. He shared strong-side outside linebacker duties with Thomas Williams and also excelled on the special team coverage units. He returned a blocked punt 6 yards, delivered 23 tackles (14 solos), recovered a pair of fumbles and caused another. For that performance, Scout.com placed his named on their Freshman All-American squad (honorable mention).
With the depth on the defensive front wall depleted after four starters graduated, Cushing shifted to right defensive end for the 2006 campaign. He underwent a crash course at his new position during fall camp, having missed spring drills due to arthroscopic shoulder surgery. He recorded 57 tackles (27 solos) in his only season on the defensive line, as he ranked tied for second on the squad with 4.5 sacks and paced the Trojans with a career-high 13.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He blocked a punt for the second consecutive year, returning it 21 yards, and also fielded a kickoff that he returned 42 yards for a touchdown. He was named the winner of the team's John McKay Award, given to the player showing the most competitive spirit.
The injury bug resided in Cushing's locker in 2007. He missed a portion of spring drills with a hamstring injury, and at the conclusion of camp underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The All-Pac 10 Conference honorable mention suffered a bone chip and high ankle sprain vs. Idaho in the season opener and two games later, re-injured the ankle in the Washington State clash, missing the next four games. He finished with 25 tackles (14 solos) while starting eight of 10 games he played in at strong-side linebacker.
For the third consecutive spring, Cushing was on the sidelines, this time due to arthroscopic ankle surgery. He wore a cast for close to a month after breaking a bone in his hand vs. Oregon State and suffered a shoulder contusion vs. Arizona State, but still started all 13 games at strong-side linebacker in 2008. He was named All-American and All-Pac 10 Conference, as he collected 73 tackles (46 solos), ranking second on the team. He delivered three sacks and led the Trojans with 10.5 stops for losses. He also deflected six passes and picked off another.