Justice Is Served
Oct. 9, 2002
Winston Justice sits outside of Heritage Hall with two breakfast burritos and a hamburger. The soft-spoken Justice is preparing for an upcoming class, but he must first take care of business.
'I don't have too much free time,' said the 6-foot-6, 305-pound freshman offensive tackle. 'In between football and classes, I have just enough time to eat.'
Unwrapping his first burrito, Justice adjusts his glasses and puts down his books. This is a rare moment to unwind for Justice, but not everyone can sympathize with him.
'People don't understand how hard we have to work,' said Justice, who celebrated his 18th birthday against Colorado by becoming the first true freshman to start on the USC offensive line since 1996. 'My roommates don't understand why I get a scholarship and food to play football. They don't understand the hard work that we actually have to do. We have to wake up at 7 a.m. to lift. Then, during the off-season, we still have to lift and work hard. It's a year round thing.'
Justice's commitment to his academics is one of the reasons why he chose to come to USC and one of the reasons why he is at the school after being heavily recruited, while some of his friends are still trying to get into college.
'Some of my friends didn't focus too much on school,' said Justice. 'It's hard to do both, but you have to find that balance. You have to find a balance with football, school and your social life.'
Despite his size, Justice never participated much in athletics as a child, focusing more on his academics. In fact, Justice didn't even begin playing football until his sophomore year at Long Beach Poly High.
'Growing up, my parents weren't into sports,' said Justice. 'My parents are from Barbados and they never really emphasized sports. They emphasized school. I really got into sports by myself.'
When Justice did get into sports, his first love was not football, but basketball. He played for the basketball team at Poly for two years before a friend told him he should consider switching sports.
'I wasn't sure how much I would like it but it worked out kind of well,' said Justice, who claims he can still do a 360-degree dunk. 'It took me about a year to adjust, but after that football just grew on me.'
After a stellar three-year career at Long Beach Poly, where the Jackrabbits went 39-1-1 and won three CIF Division I titles, Justice was one of the highest-ranked offensive lineman in the country and received interest from some of the nation's top teams.
After seemingly changing his mind every other week between USC and UCLA, Justice finally joined Poly teammate Hershel Dennis and a long line of Long Beach Poly players who have attended USC.
'I think USC has a Poly tradition going here,' said Justice. 'Recently, you've had Willie McGinest come here and then Kareem Kelly. Ever since we were at Poly we were always told about them, so going to USC has always been a dream.'
Although Justice is a freshman, he has held his own as a starter on the Trojans' offensive line. It was a goal he set for himself coming in, in large part because of the level of competition he faced at Poly and the amount of attention he received while playing there.
'I wanted to start and I thought if I could start I could help the team,' said Justice. 'I think playing at Poly really helped me to not be afraid of big crowds and being used to being on TV or in the paper because Poly is like a mini college.'
While Justice faced high school national powers such as De La Salle and Mater Dei, nothing could have prepared him for playing for a college football power like USC, which consistently plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
'In college, every player is big and every player is strong and every player is fast,' said Justice, who enjoys to dance the calypso with his parents when he goes back to his Long Beach home. 'In high school, the players probably weren't as good. You had 220-pound defensive ends and now you have 270-pound defensive ends, who are faster and stronger. And they're older too and have tattoos on their arm for intimidation. It was new, but after a game or two, all the trash talking and all the tattoos fade away and you're just playing football.'
By Arash Markazi
Thu 1/25 | 6:30pm PTLive