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O/NSO: The USC Mount Rushmore series – The Placekickers

Greg Katz09/03/20
Article written by:On3 imageGreg Katz
Mount Rushmore

The Obvious: When it comes to dramatics and nerves of steel, being a placekicker can bring a make or break career. When it comes to USC placekickers, finding a place on the O/NSO’s Mount Rushmore of four kickers may have been as difficult a selection process in our long series of positional selections.    

The Not So Obvious: In the annals of USC football,there has never been an All-American placekicker and only three All-Conference first team selections. That being said, you could argue that the field goal kickers of Troy are judged by a number of criteria for placekickers: career field goal attempts, career field goals made, and career field goal percentage.

There will be some kickers that don’t make our final four but by the nature of their kicks, winning games at the gun in the final quarter or overtime, still burns their name into the record books for all-time and are deep in the myth of USC history and lore. Who can ever forget Ron Ayala’s last second kick against Stanford in 1969 or Frank Jordan’s winning kicks against UCLA (1977) and Notre Dame (1978)?

To get us in the mood, here are three brief videos below. The first is the that memorable winning field goal by Ron Ayala in 1969 against Stanford in the Coliseum followed by Frank Jordan’s legendary winning kick against the Irish in 1978 in the Coli, and then Matt Boermeester's 2017 Rose Bowl winning field goal to defeat Penn State.


Before announcing our four-man Mount Rushmore of all-time placekickers, let’s tip our caps to those placekickers who didn’t make our four-man list but are deserving of honorable mention recognition: Ron Ayala, Glen Walker, Andre Heidari, Steve Jordan, Eric Hipp, Frank Jordan, David Davis, Matt Boermeester, Cole Ford, Joe Houston, Adam Abrams, Don Shafer, Jordan Congdon.

Feel free to differ from our selections and inform us of your own selections on the Garry P. WeAreSC message board. A reminder, our selections are not ranked in order of greatness but as a group and not by what they accomplished after their playing days at USC.

The O/NSO now presents our four-man punt return placekickers, which includes bowl game performances, for our USC Football Mount Rushmore.

The Obvious: Chris Limahelu (1972-73-74), born in Indonesia, was a 1974 All-Pac-8 placekicker.

Placekicker Chris Limahelu (photo above) was USC's first placekicker in the modern era to be named all-conference.

The Not So Obvious: Chris (5-5, 136), attended Covina (Calif/) South Hills High and Citrus JC before coming to USC and was one of the first soccer-style kickers in Trojans history.

During Chris’s three football seasons at USC, the Men of Troy were a combined 31-3-2, and he was the starter for the 1973 Pac-8 champions and the 1974 national champions. He played in the 1974 and 1975 Rose Bowls.

When Chris transferred to Troy, he played on the 1972 junior varsity team.  

As a junior in the 1973 season, Chris set two Trojan records: he was successful in 14 of his 18 field goal attempts, six more than any previous Trojan kicker in a season, and in the 1974 Rose Bowl against Ohio State, he kicked both a 42-yard and a 47-yard field goal.

As a senior, with his successful completion of 10 out of 17 field goal attempts and his successful 39 out of 43 point-after-touchdown conversions, Chris earned All-Pac-8 first team, as the Trojans won the national title.

Although small in size, not only was Chris Limahelu (photo above) a major force in 1973 and 1974, he was also the Trojans first soccer-style placekicker.

Up to this time period, Chris had kicked three of the five longest field goals in USC football history.

In his two-year season active USC career, Chris attempted 35 field goals and made 24 of those attempts (68.57%). For his career, he was also 70-of-77 on extra points.   

Following his USC career, Chris became an accountant after his playing years, and in 1995 became a member of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

In 2010, Chris sadly passed away at the age of 59 from prostate cancer.

In the NBC video below in the 1974 Rose Bowl game and Troy’s dramatic 18-17 win over Ohio State, Chris (No. 11) kicks off and contributes a field goal (lst quarter – 1.02.50 on video counter) and an extra point.


The Obvious: Quin Rodriguez (1987-88-89-90), from Mesa (AZ) Dobson High

Some argue that Quin Rodriguez (photo above) may be the Trojans best field goal kicker in USC history.

The Not So Obvious: Quin (6-0, 187) was a left-footed kicker who was a four-year letterman. He still holds the USC record for field goals made (57).

During his USC career, his Trojans teams were a combined record of 35-10-2, winning three Pac-10 titles (1987,88,89) and participating in three Rose Bowls (1988,89, 90) and one Sun Bowl (1990).

In three Rose Bowl games, Quin had two field goals and converted six extra points.

Trojans' placekicker Quin Rodgriuez (photo above) not only was highly accurate, but he was also a left-footed kicker, as well.

In the 1989 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, Quin made three field goals, which included 54 and 43-yard makes, and an extra point.

In his career, Quin made 57-of-76 (75.0%) field goals and converted 146-of-153 (95.4%) extra points. He also is tied with Ryan Killeen for most field goals for a single season (19).

In the video below, Quin Rodriguez (No. 11) contributes to the wild USC win over UCLA in the Rose Bowl.


The Obvious: Ryan Killeen (2002-03-04) was a standout placekicker on some of Pete Carroll’s most powerhouse teams.

One of the hallmarks of the early Pete Carroll national championship era was the placekicking of Ryan Killeen (photo by Getty Images).

The Not So Obvious: Ryan (5-11, 185) was a recruit from Norco (Calif.) High and Mt San Antonio JC.

During his three seasons at Troy, Ryan’s USC teams were a combined 34-3 and were national champions in 2003 and 2004.

Ryan appeared in the 2003 Orange Bowl against Iowa, which he had a field goal and five extra points. In the 2004 Rose Bowl against Michigan, he converted four extra points, and in the 2005 Orange Bowl, Ryan had made two field goals and converted seven extra points.   

One of the hallmarks of national championship teams is a powerful and accurate placekicker like the Trojans Ryan Killeen (photo above).

For his career, Ryan made 51-of-72 field goal attempts (70.8%) and converted 176-of-180 extra points.

After his USC career, Ryan was signed as a free agent by the Detroit Lions.

The video below is Ryan Killeen (No. 16) in the 2005 Orange Bowl when the Trojans trounced Oklahoma 55-19.


The Obvious: David Jonathan Buehler (2006-07-08) was a Trojans 2008 All-Pac-12 first team selection.

Continuing the Pete Carroll era dominance, David Buehler (photo above) was another all-time placekicker.

The Not So Obvious: Hailing out of Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon High and Santa Ana JC, David (6-2, 225), had a cannon for a leg. Not only was he a powerful field goal and PAT kicker, he also handled kickoffs.  

During David’s three-year Trojans’ career, his teams combined for a 34-5 record, and his teams won three consecutive Rose Bowl games (2007, 2008, 2009. In the 2008 and 2009 Rose Bowl games, David combined for one field goal (30 yarder against Penn State) and 12 extra points.

For his career, David connected on 26-of-33 field goal attempts (78%) and was 117-of 120 (97.5%) in extra point attempts.

USC kicker David Buehler (photo above) in action at Virginia. The No. 3 ranked Trojans whipped the Cavaliers 52-7 at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA on August 30, 2008.

After his three-seasons USC career, David was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round (172 overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft.

On a personal note, David’s father, John, was a shot putter for the USC Trojans. His uncle, George Buehler, was a former CIF Player of the year and played football for Stanford University and later the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.  Another uncle also played football at Stanford.

The video below spotlights David (No. 18) in the 2009 Rose Bowl beatdown game over Penn State.


The Obvious: In honor of the late Mario Danelo (2005-2006), the O/NSO has added him posthumously to this aforementioned four-man kicking group. Although his career was cut short by tragedy, the O/NSO believes strongly that with another season, he may have become USC’s first placekicking All-American.

Had an off-season tragedy not shortened his career, placekicker Mario Danelo (photo above) may have been Troy's first All-American kicker.

The Not So Obvious: Mario (5-10, 200) was a walk-on from San Pedro (Calif.) High.

In his two seasons with Pete Carroll’s Trojans, Mario's teams were a combined 23-3 and played in the 2006 and 2007 Rose Bowls.

In two Rose Bowl games, Mario booted five PATs and one field goal (43-yards) against Texas (2006) and against Michigan (2007), he had two 26-yard field goals and three extra points.

The late Mario Danelo (photo above) had extraordinary accuracy (92.9%) during his two-season USC career.

For his abbreviated two-year career, Mario connected on 26-of-28 field goals (92.9%) and was 127-of-134 (94.8%) on extra points.

In the video below, Mario contributes to the Trojans victory over Michigan in the 2007 Rose Bowl.


The Obvious: And finally, selecting a four-man Mount Rushmore for placekickers was an interesting exercise and did bring back many fond memories.

The Not So Obvious: Next Friday, we’ll release our four-man Mount Rushmore group of punters.

Below are the previous O/NSO USC Football Mount Rushmore position selections:

The head coach: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-football-mount-rushmore-series-edition-presenting-the-immortal-head-coaches/ 

The quarterbacks: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-quarterbacks/  

The running backs: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-tailbacks/  

The wide receivers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-wide-receviers/

The fullbacks: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-fullbacks/

The offensive tackles: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-offensive-tackles/

The offensive guards: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-offensive-guards/

The centers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-centers/

The tight ends: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-tight-ends/

The defensive linemen: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-defensive-linemen/

The standup defensive ends: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-standup-defensive-ends/

The inside linebackers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-inside-linebackers/ 

The outside linebackers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-outside-linebackers/

The safeties: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-safeties/

The corners: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-corners/

The kickoff returners: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-kickoff-returners/

The punt returners: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-punt-returners/