Trojans' Papadakis Has Gift of Gab
Oct. 15, 1998
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The USC Trojans' Petros Papadakis is a Greek-American bearing gifts _ including a gift of gab.
He can knowledgeably discuss literary figures ranging from Shakespeare to Jack Kerouac, from Victor Hugo to Joseph Heller, from Henry James to Sylvia Plath.
The Trojans' tailback also has a knack for one-liners, referring to the location of his family's Greek restaurant in a blue-collar neighborhood as, ``You know, Sixth Street. It's like the Fifth Avenue of San Pedro.''
A most unusual scholar-athlete, Papadakis also has a gift for running with a football.
Filling in for injured tailback Chad Morton last weekend, Papadakis rushed for 118 yards against California, including a 65-yard touchdown dash. He had another long run for an apparent touchdown called back because of a penalty.
Humility also being one of his attributes, Papadakis was confounded at the amount of attention his performance brought him, particularly since the Trojans lost 32-31 to the Golden Bears.
``It's one game, that's the thing,'' he said. ``Maybe if I had 709 yards and wasn't averaging like 0.2 yards a carry, I would bask in the glory. But it's one game.
``It was a very deflating loss.''
USC coach Paul Hackett was among those impressed, nevertheless.
``Petros stepped up. He played magnificently, but it wasn't enough,'' Hackett said of the defeat.
Trojans quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst said many people probably didn't realize Papadakis was so fast.
``We've all seen him run the 40, and we knew. All he needed was a chance to get into the open,'' Van Raaphorst said.
Papadakis is expected to start again Saturday night when the Trojans face Washington State at Pullman, Wash., although Morton, out with a back strain, may be able to play some.
Papadakis, a junior majoring in, not surprisingly, English and literature, is the third member of his family to play for the Trojans. His father, John, was a linebacker in 1970-71. His brother, Taso, also lettered as a linebacker, in 1994 and 1996.
Petros, however, first attended Cal, where he said he envisioned himself becoming a ``Berkeley poet-sage.'' But he left there after only a week or so of practice his freshman year and walked on at USC, later earning a scholarship.
There's still a lot of the poet-sage about him.
``When I was in high school, I was obsessed with Jack Kerouac. I loved the beatnik thing,'' he said. ``Then I got into Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller, that's why I wore No. 22 (as in `Catch 22') when I first got here.
``I read things like Henry James now, I read `Moby Dick' for the first time. John Updike, that was depressing. ... I'm more interested in social things, not so much action.''
Asked if he enjoyed classic Greek literature and philosophy, Papadakis shook his head no and replied, ``The dead Greeks are way beyond me. That doesn't move fast enough for me. My dad's into that.
``He says, `Become a philosopher, like the Greeks, be a man.' He thinks he's Achilles or Agamemnon,'' Petros said, adding with a laugh, ``He's nuts.''