Guarding Tommy Trojan on the Overnight Shift

Taylor Hellam has a bell to alert 10 sleeping sentinels of suspicious Bruin activity

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    NEWSLETTERS

    USC's Taylor Hellam watches for any signs of suspicious Bruin activity as he guards Tommy Trojan at USC during the overnight shift. Hellam talks about what it takes to keep the statue safe.

    USC's Tommy Trojan statue remained unscathed for another night thanks to dedicated guards like Taylor Hellam, a lot of duct tape and a fortress of sleeping bags.

    Hellam, from Fresno, is one of about 10 students who drew the overnight shift to guard the statue -- a favorite target of pranksters with blue and gold paint -- during the week before the USC-UCLA football game.

    "That's a big no-no," Hellam told NBC4. "We don't want any paint on Tommy Trojan. We have him duct-taped up and covered. All the major landmarks on campus are covered just like that. It's been going smoothly.

    "I have the graveyard shift. It's still fun and rewarding. It's just one other guy, but there are bunch of guys sleeping behind Tommy right now."

    Hellam has a bell to ring if the sleeping guards need to be alerted to suspicious Bruin activity. Campus security patrols and TommyCam help the guards keep watch 24 hours per day.

    Past pranks included paint on the bronze statue, unveiled in 1930 for USC's 50th jubilee. The first recorded paint prank occurred in October 1941, according to the USC athletic department.

    Tommy's sword has been stolen, and trouble bubbled up elsewhere on campus when detergent was poured in a fountain.

    There were reports of Bruins on the USC campus Wednesday, but Hellam said no rivalry week-related disturbances occurred.

    "If anything did happen you just have to ring that bell and they'd be out of their sleeping bags in a second," Hellam said.

    On the UCLA campus, the Bruin statue has been splashed with cardinal and gold paint during past rivalry weeks. The statue is enclosed in a box with a sign that reads, "The Bear is Hibernating."

    Earlier this week, a UCLA placard near the campus entrance was spray painted to read "USC," according to a report in the Daily Bruin.

    No. 16 UCLA and No. 21 USC play at 12:05 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl. USC defeated UCLA 50-0 last year.