Pat Haden quarterbacked USC to three Rose Bowl appearances, finishing his Trojan at about the same time head coach John McKay left for the NFL and the Buccaneers. Haden played six seasons in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams and is now an NFL commentator for TNT and CBS Radio.
Haden even lived in McKay's house for one year during high school, giving him an opportunity to see the person behind the man who would coach him to new heights. Haden's thoughts:
"I think he was the best evaluator of talent that I've ever seen. He would have some high school kid who was an All-American linebacker, and the first day he'd watch him practice and say, 'You're a tight end.' Two years later, that kid was an All-American tight end. I think he had a great knack for piecing an entire team together. You may have come in as one kind of player, but you would have left a different player, playing a different position, much more successfully.
"The year I lived in his house (Haden was the best friend of McKay's son, J.K., and stayed with the McKays so he could continue to play at Bishop Amat High School after his parents moved to San Francisco), I noticed that in the offseason there was a constancy about his life. He loved western movies, and he loved his yellow legal pads and drawing plays. Every single night that I was there when he was home, he'd have a western on, usually John Wayne, and he'd have one of those yellow legal pads, and for hours he would scribble plays.
"For me personally, he was as much a person who served as my best friend's father as he was a football coach. He was my best friend's father 12 months a year and a football coach of mine for three months a year. And so, I had a very good relationship with him. He was sometimes tougher on me because of it and sometimes easier on me. But it was certainly a different relationship.
"Certainly, the year I was living there, remember I was 17 or 18 years old, the formative years of my life, he tried to be more to me than just my best friend's father. He tried to be my father for a year there as well, pulling me aside, advising me on things, things that had nothing to do with football, but just life. And so we had a great relationship.
"This is a true story. I was getting recruited by every school in the country and so was John (J.K.). When colleges recruited me, they would actually come to the McKays' house to recruit me. And it was very awkward for a lot of these coaches. When Fresno State or someone like that knocked on the door, he wasn't home. But he always knew when Notre Dame was coming by, or Stanford, or Nebraska, or Alabama. For schools like that, he always answered the door. I kind of had mixed emotions about it. Here the coach from Stanford or Notre Dame is coming to recruit me, and the head coach of USC is answering the door. It was very interesting.
"I hadn't seen Coach McKay in a while, but about two or three years ago, I was down in the desert visiting him, and he had with him the old SC-Notre Dame game from 1974, and we popped it in, and we just had a grand old time. That was as animated as I've seen him in a long time. I hadn't seen the tape for a long, long, long time, and it was kind of fun watching it with him. We were all kind of giving each other a hard time and grief and making fun of John (J.K.) and me, and at this stage of our lives, we were even making fun of the coach."