As a freshman linebacker at USC, Osa Masina's transition to the college game has gone remarkably smooth up to this point in just about every way imaginable -- except that is, when it comes to one small detail.
Keeping his helmet on during games.
"I’m about to go in to the equipment guy right now and ask for a new helmet," a laughing Masina said this week following practice. "This thing has popped off three times in four games. It’s the perfect size. I don’t know what’s going on. I just make a tackle and it falls off. I keep going over to Todd, our equipment guy, and I’m like, 'What’s going on?'"
There isn’t any mystery surrounding Masina’s production on the field, though.
Showcasing strong instincts, a physical brand of play and 6-foot-4, 245-pound size, he’s made his presence felt for the Trojans in a hurry, contributing as a backup at the 'will' linebacker position. He’s No. 8 on the team in tackles with 12, and he caught everyone’s attention in USC's opening-night victory against Arkansas State with a thrilling 46-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Of course, as one of the biggest names in what was a loaded Class of 2015 recruiting haul for the Trojans, the Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton product’s performance hasn’t exactly come as a surprise. But as he views it, his early success has come about because he hasn’t allowed himself to buy into that hype.
"You can’t come in here and think you’re a superstar," Masina said. "I knew it was going to be hard, and you just have to work at it hard, and that’s the only way you’re going to get better."
It’s that level-headedness that has helped Masina jump right in and make an impact at one of the most physically and mentally demanding positions on the defense.
"It was definitely hard to learn, but the thing is that the coaches here care, and they’ll spend as many hours, days of the week and time with you as you need," Masina said. "That’s one thing that I love about my position coach, Coach [Peter] Sirmon. He takes his time to really make sure that everybody knows what they’re doing. And as a defense that’s important -- that everybody knows their own job and is able to rely on each other."
Less than six months removed from high school, not only is Masina growing as a player, he’s also enjoying every aspect of being a Trojan.
"I would say that my favorite moments have been the games and running out of the tunnel at home," Masina said. "Or just practicing out here every day with the guys. There’s something special about being out here. You build great relationships with everybody, and I love all of my coaches."
One new experience that he soaked up came last weekend when he took part in his first road game as a Trojan, making four tackles in what was a big 42-14 USC victory against Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona.
"That was the best feeling ever," Masina said. "That stadium was so loud, and then it went to nothing ... to quiet. And as an away team that’s just the best feeling, knowing that you did your job in someone else’s house."
After a bye this weekend, Masina and his USC teammates will be back at home in the Coliseum on Thursday when they face Washington. Part of a defensive unit that is hoping to build on of what was an improved effort against the Sun Devils last weekend, he continues to make strides with each practice, providing evidence to believe that he just might have what it takes to develop into a star for the Trojans.
But Masina isn’t thinking in those terms just yet. Instead, he’s determined to take it day-by-day -- a mindset that has worked for him so far.
"People expect a lot from you, but you just have to know what to expect from yourself, and the work you put in every day," Masina said. "The way I kind of look at it is, if I work hard every day, and get better every day, then that’s all that I can ask of myself."