John Wayne Always Repped His College Colors, Even Though He Dropped Out

by Josh Lanier

Before he was John Wayne he was Marion Morrison. And before he was the most famous movie star in the world, he was a standout offensive tackle at the University of Southern California.

Wayne graduated high school in 1925, and his big 6-foot-4-inch frame caught the attention of the USC Trojans. They offered him a scholarship worth $280 a year, which only afforded him a meal a day. So, he and several other players took part-time jobs at Hollywood studios to make ends meet. It helped him kickstart his movie career years later.

John Wayne wouldn’t graduate from USC. He broke his collarbone surfing and lost his scholarship his junior year, according to the school’s website. But that wouldn’t stop him from repping the Trojans for the rest of his life. Whenever he wasn’t wearing a white Stetson, he was wearing a Trojan cap. The college eventually honored him with an honorary doctorate in 1968 as well.

Even as he was dying in 1979, Wayne was a Trojan until the end. As Wayne was dying of cancer in 1979, doctors at UCLA Medical Center cared for him. Out of respect, he wore a UCLA Bruins cap as he walked the halls. But whenever he’d pass a doctor, he’d tip his cap to reveal he was wearing a USC Trojans hat underneath.

John Wayne Family Donates $50K to USC

After his death, John Wayne’s family donated $50,000 to start a scholarship for football players who planned to go to graduate school and not the NFL. The students were chosen based on their abilities in the classroom rather than the football field, the school newspaper said.

The scholarship would range from $3,000 to $8,000, the paper said. It would depend on several factors. Wide receiver Jay Champlain was the first recipient of the scholarship. He now runs a wealth management firm in Los Angeles.

The Wayne family said they would donate the money after learning it would go to a good cause that John Wayne would have cared deeply for.

The family donated a great deal of his movie memorabilia to the school after Wayne’s death, as well.