During his 16 legendary seasons (1960-75) as the head coach at the University of Southern California, John McKay coached two Heisman Trophy winners, Mike Garrett in 1965 and O.J. Simpson in 1968.
Garrett, now the athletic director at USC, remembers a man whose 'personality dominated the room.' He still remembers vividly those years playing under McKay, and how the experience has changed his life. Garrett's thoughts:
"With the passing of John McKay, part of my life flashes in front of me, probably one of the most important parts of my life, when I learned to have an identity and I learned to be a man. I think there are all sorts of experiences in which young men may have a rite of passage. Mine was on the football field of USC being coached by John McKay.
"I'm forever indebted to him for what he instilled in me. To this day, my whole thinking process involves some of the things I learned from him. He lives with me daily. I shall always remember him.
"I changed a lot in those four years. I became more resolute in my thinking because of John McKay. He was not an equivocal man. You could not be an equivocal person playing for him. I have a sense of direction and an absolute confidence now, and that's what I got from him.
"He had absolute charisma. His personality dominated a room. I saw a small man, who was a football coach, who could dominate a room.
"I think where people always underestimated John McKay was that he was a brilliant man. I always marveled at his brilliance—how he could make everything simple, no matter how complex it was. He could break it down to its smallest component. That's a talent I learned from him and something I use every day.
"I remember when he left USC and went to Tampa, I was living in L.A. at the time, and I told him then that a part of me felt lost, because I always knew that I could come on campus and see him. He was a natural gravitation point for me. Now that he's passed, there's no replacing him. Therefore I can only remember him and use that as a basis for my stability. I shall miss him."