A Californian Kid, Justin Dedich Uses his USC Platform to Give Back to the City That Raised Him

USC Trojans offensive lineman Justin Dedich uses his platform as a college football player to give back to the city that raised him.

The Cotton Bowl, Notre Dame Stadium, The Rose Bowl, and the LA Memorial Coliseum – in his six years with the USC Trojans, center Justin Dedich has played in some of the biggest arenas in college football. Yet, he hasn’t forgotten Puma Stadium, the home of Chaparral Puma football in Temecula, CA.

In fact, the Californian kid uses his platform to give back to the city that raised him.

Justin Dedich Uses His USC Platform to Give Back to the City That Raised Him

It’s July 23rd, and for the second time in 2023, USC center Dedich is surrounded by kids at the home of Chaparral football. Earlier this year, he held a charity car wash and fun day, raffling off autographed memorabilia to raise funds for his old high school.

This time, he’s holding a football camp for boys and girls from K-8th grade. Everything, from the football to the fun, is free. Dedich was once one of those kids from Temecula, and he hasn’t forgotten it. The USC center also hasn’t forgotten the role this place played in the position he’s in now, and he’s using his platform as much as he can to help give back to the community.

“Everything that place did for me, helped me get to where I am today,” Dedich says, passionately, during an exclusive sit down with College Football Network. “They have an elite staff there, from teachers through to coaches. The preparation and education side, and the athletic side, I was prepared coming into college.”

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“I can’t thank them or repay them enough for what they’ve done for me,” Dedich explains his gratitude. “I try to do all these things for them, but I don’t think they’ll ever understand how truly grateful I am for what they did. I can never fully repay them. I love that place so much. I’m so thankful that I’m in this position now that I can give back to them as much as I can.”

Located less than 90 minutes from the LA Memorial Coliseum he now calls home, Dedich has been able to maintain close community links with the city that raised him. As a kid, he’d go to USC games and formed a special bond with Los Angeles, but the SoCal kid revels in returning to the relationships he formed in Temecula, taking pride in passing down his experiences.

“It was an awesome experience,” Dedich says of the first of what will be annual football camps. “It was a huge turnout. I wanted to give back and led kids have some fun, bring that sense of community back to Temecula. Use my experiences throughout my life thus far to give back to those kids. Teach them a little about football, a little about life. I think those kids had fun.”

Football and Fun

Dedich uses his platform as a college football player to help kids in the local community have fun. The two play a huge factor in the charitable work that has seen the USC center receive national recognition in the form of a nomination to the AllState AFCA Good Works team while also being named to the Wuerffel Trophy watchlist.

That work has involved painting apartments, dressing up as Santa Claus — “I think I did a pretty good job, only two kids cried out of like 30, not a bad job” — and a visit to the Wilmington Boys and Girls Club that not only allowed Dedich to fuse his passions for fun, football, and community payback but also proved to be a two-way street of learning.

“I was never a kid who went to a Boys and Girls Club,” Dedich begins. “So, when I first went, it was a different experience for me. I got to see these kids doing after-school activities and getting to hang out, be at one with each other, they have fun. I thought it was an awesome experience for me to also have fun!”

“I really enjoyed sitting there and throwing footballs with the kids, playing games with super competitive kids. It was an experience that I was very grateful for, and I actually learned a lot about them — and myself.”

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Dedich was just a fun-loving kid himself growing up in Temecula when he learned the life lessons that guide his drive to give back to the community that raised him.

Family values instilled in him, and reiterated at every stop along the way of his football journey, ensured that a selfless attitude directed the USC center in all his endeavors.

“I was taught that the world doesn’t revolve around me,” Dedich explains. “It revolves around everyone and true happiness comes from giving back. That’s something that I’ve taken to heart, is giving back to those around me. Giving my time to others is one of the best things that I can do for other people.”

Furthermore, his personal experience as a child of the type of interaction his platform is now allowing him to have with the next generation of Californian kids prove a genuine motivation for his off-field actions.

“That’s what I wanted as a kid, right? I wanted some college or NFL guys — I went to all their camps — I wanted to learn from them. So, it’s important to give back to the younger generation.”

The Ultimate Team Sport

For someone whose upbringing instilled the understanding that the world didn’t revolve around them, Dedich found the perfect, selfless sport. Football, particularly in the NIL era, has allowed the USC center a platform to grow his brand and wield that for a greater good.

It’s also a sport where success is intrinsically linked to community, brotherhood, and being more than one man.

“My parents, coaches at USC, high school coaches, they’ve helped me understand that a big part of the game is giving back to the community. The reason I love playing this sport is that it’s a team sport. It’s not an individual sport, you know? It’s not just me, me, me; it’s all of us. I think that’s the coolest aspect of it.”

“You have to lean on your brothers day in and day out to perform well on the field. Relying on others and giving back to others is such a key aspect of football.”

It’s a crucial aspect of football that brings Dedich back to USC for the 2023 college football campaign, his sixth season in college football. The Trojans’ center arrived in Los Angeles in 2018 after a standout career at Chaparral, where he earned multiple honors in his final two seasons and has slowly worked his way up to being a key cog on the o-line, starting the final four games in 2022.

The program went through a resurgence last season after some tough times, returning to national relevance under head coach Lincoln Riley and with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams lining up behind Dedich and his four o-line compatriots. It was a year that reinforced many of the aspects that the USC center loves about the sport and led to his return.

“There is more that this team wants to go get, and I want to be a part of that,” Dedich explains his decision to forego the NFL Draft. “I had so much fun last year playing football. I really enjoy the culture of this team. Just the respect everyone gives each other and how fun of an environment it was. That was something that I really wanted to be a part of for one more year.”

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Dedich heads into his sixth season as the starting center for the Trojans in 2023. During his time at USC, he’s played at pivot and both guard spots. Some would call it versatility. Others might call it a selfless commitment to the greater good, something inherent in his upbringing and his character.

Either way, the ability to play anywhere on the interior, to be able to play wherever his team needs him, is something that Dedich takes great pride in.

“It started in high school,” Dedich reflects on his versatility. “My offensive line coach would switch me all the time. It’s been a normal part of my game, just being called upon where I’m needed. I’m really thankful that I’ve been known as that guy who can go at all three spots inside; it’s a cool aspect.”

Raised on the values of the world not revolving around him, Dedich is quick to follow up with praise for his brothers on the offensive line. More so than at any other position, the offensive line is a brotherhood that relies on cohesion, working as one, not working as individuals, for success.

“With some of the guys that I play with, it’s super easy,” Dedich continues. “You’ve got Jonah Monheim, who’s one of the best tackles in the country. Last year we had Brett Neilon, who’s one of the best centers in the country. Guys like that, even if my technique is a little off, I know they’re going to be there to help me and coach me up. Wherever guys are needed, they go.”

The irony of shifting attention away from himself to his o-line brothers is that, in those final two sentences, Dedich could be talking about himself, and in particular, his off-field work and commitments.

At the “Justin Dedich Football Camp” or at the Wilmington Boys and Girls Club, the USC center is going to be there to help or coach up the next generation. He’ll go wherever he’s needed, but he’ll never forget to return to Temecula, back to Puma Stadium, the place that raised him, the place where he uses his platform as a college football player the most.