USC Placekicker Mario Danelo Found Dead

Jan. 8, 2007

USC junior Mario Danelo, a school and NCAA record-setting placekicker, was found dead Saturday (Jan. 6) about 120 feet down a rocky cliff near Point Fermin lighthouse in the San Pedro, Calif.

Danelo, 21, and the son of former NFL kicker Joe Danelo, appeared to have suffered traumatic injuries, according to LAPD.

Authorities have ruled out foul play.

Danelo made 15 of 16 field goals in 2006 and led the Trojans in scoring with 89 points. The junior made two field goals in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 to help USC beat Michigan 32-18.

Speaking on behalf of Trojans coach Pete Carroll, USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said: 'We were stunned to hear about this tragedy. This is a great loss. Mario was a wonderful young man of high character.

'He was one heck of a kicker. He was a key ingredient in our success the past two years. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Trojan family go out to the Danelo family on this sad, sad day.'

'Anytime you were around him, it was nothing but smiles,' Dustin Varela, a 22-year-old San Pedro resident, told the Daily Breeze. 'None of this feels real. I'm trying to put it all together.'

A former San Pedro High linebacker and soccer player, Danelo made the Trojans as a walk-on in 2003. In 2005, he received a scholarship and earned the starting kicking job.

He only missed two field goals in his career, going 26-for-28, and was 127-of-134 on extra points. In 2005, he set NCAA, Pac-10 and USC single-season records with 83 extra points and 86 attempts.

A 2005 Pac-10 honorable mention selection, he was 17th nationally in scoring in 2005 (8.9, sixth in Pac-10) and won USC's Co-Special Teams Player of the Year Award.

He set his NCAA season records for PATs and PAT attempts against UCLA in 2005 when he hit 9-of-9 PATs (as well as a 35-yard field goal).

He nailed a 2005 season-long 43-yard field goal and hit all 5 of his PATs against Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl. He hit a career-long 44-yard field goal against Arkansas in the 2006 season-opener.

-- From AP and staff reports

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