BILL DWYRE

USC-Notre Dame matchup brings back memories for John McKay's son J.K.

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Nevertheless, McKay's famous quote was nearly accurate. His teams played Notre Dame nine more times before he left for the pros, and the Trojans won six, tied two and lost only the 1973 game in South Bend.

J.K. played against Notre Dame in '72, '73 and '74. In '72 and '74, the Trojans won national titles. In '73, the Irish did, beating USC in a game that remains embedded in J.K.'s psyche.

"Late in the game, I caught a pass right in front of our bench and fumbled," he says. "I almost never fumbled, but I saw the ball bouncing right there and I was trying to get to it and I remember I could see my dad's shoes. Notre Dame got the ball and my dad didn't speak to me for three weeks.

"I still have nightmares about it."

J.K. says his father loved the Notre Dame game because he respected the Irish as opponents and because he liked their coach then, Ara Parseghian. J.K. says that after his father died, his ailing mother wanted to pay a special tribute to her husband, so she went back to a USC game in South Bend.

John McKay died at age 77, June 10, 2001, at a hospital in Tampa. His sons, J.K. and Rich, were in his hospital room near the end. John was barely conscious, barely able to talk. But the quick, devilish mind was still there.

A nurse came in to tend to him.

"She had to go 5-foot-2 and 350 pounds," J.K. says.

As the fat lady hovered about, McKay's eyes opened ever so slightly. He looked at the nurse and said, "Please don't sing."

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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