LOS ANGELES -- Nickell Robey ran out of the southwest tunnel out of the Coliseum before Saturday's game against Washington like a man on a mission.
It turns out he was.
USC coach Lane Kiffin dedicated the game to the late mother of the USC cornerback, Maxine Robey, who would have turned 46 on Saturday. Kiffin asked Robey to lead the Trojans out of the tunnel and awarded him the game ball afterward for his "awesome" play in USC's 40-17 win over Washington.
Robey's younger sister, Maranda, and younger cousin were in attendance at the Coliseum, along with his aunt, uncle and grandmother. It's the second straight season they've come out around this time of year to celebrate the life of Robey's mother, who died on February 18, 2010 from a massive heart attack 15 days after he signed with USC.
Kiffin had talked Robey up all week and made sure he felt special from the start of Saturday's game, leading the team out for the opening kick. He embraced it.
"It was great leading the guys out of the tunnel, man," Robey said. "I got my team behind me, and I knew we were ready to play.
"I felt like I had an 'S' on my chest."
Robey didn't have any big plays in the game, as he has a lot of late, but he provided his signature lockdown defense as the Huskies passes for only 198 yards on the day. Washington No. 1 receiver Jermaine Kearse, Robey's most often matchup, finished with two catches for 10 yards.
And USC, of course, won -- comfortably.
"My emotions were great," Robey said. "My family was at the game, I was happy for that, and it was just an amazing win for us.
"It was a great team win."
As he walked out of the USC locker room on Saturday, one of the final Trojans to emerge, Robey was carrying the football that Kiffin presented him and four game programs for his family members who came out to L.A. for the game.
He was heading to meet the five of them just outside the Coliseum, where they would head to a nearby restaurant for a postgame dinner and then back to his off-campus apartment to relax and catch up.
"They're not too much into sightseeing and all that good stuff," Robey said. "They just came here to see me and see me play football. They just love the Trojans."
He hadn't seen anyone in his family since July, and it'd been several months before that. Since he left home for USC in the summer of 2010, he's spent barely more than month back in Florida.
He's not the type that wanted to get out. He just wanted to find himself the best opportunity. And he believes he's found it here in Los Angeles, as evidenced by the ball he continued to hold tightly beneath his left shoulder as he spoke to reporters.
He was moving around often -- as he usually does -- but he made a point to keep hold of the ball that Kiffin had presented him.
"I can't drop it," Robey said. "Can't drop it."