JUSTICE MIGHT GO PRO USC TACKLE SUSPENDED FOR TWO SEMESTERS.
USC offensive tackle Winston Justice will explore turning pro after being suspended for two semesters by the university on Wednesday for flashing a pellet gun at another student.
The decision to suspend Justice, a sophomore, eliminates any chance of him playing at USC next season. He could turn pro, redshirt next season at USC or transfer to another school.
But sources said there was a 60 percent chance Justice would turn pro.
Justice is ineligible for next month's NFL draft because underclassmen had until March 1 to turn pro, and a league spokesperson said it was too late for any other players to enter the draft.
But Justice could attempt to enter an NFL supplemental draft in the summer.
Perhaps in a sign of his intentions, Justice was accompanied to Wednesday's meeting at student affairs by NFL agent Jerome Stanley, a USC graduate who also represents Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Dennis Northcutt.
``He's just a friend,'' said Justice's father, Gary.
The decision by student affairs surprised Justice, who was hopeful before the hearing that he would either receive no suspension or at worst be forced to sit out the remainder of the spring semester.
But according to sources, the university also cited an academic violation as a reason for the two-semester suspension.
``We have nothing to say now,'' Gary Justice said after the hearing. Winston Justice declined to comment.
Justice's attorney, John Negel, suggested at the end of the hearing that Justice be allowed to stay in school for at least the spring semester and sit out next fall. Student affairs is considering the request.
However, even that won't allow Justice to play football at USC next season, and the Long Beach Poly graduate now faces the option of either turning pro or not playing football for at least 18 months.
There could be a slight hitch for Justice's NFL ambitions. Last week, the NFL announced it canceled its supplemental draft because underclassmen were allowed to enter the regular draft in April after the recent court ruling in favor of Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett.
A prominent sports agent, who asked not to be identified, disputed that Justice would not be able to turn pro.
``I don't think the NFL is in any shape to do a whole lot of excluding under any circumstances,'' the agent said. ``I think it would put the NFL in a bind to exclude him. If I'm the NFL's (attorney), the last thing in the world I would say is, `There is no supplemental draft.'
``I would go to the NFL and say we want in, we're in no different a situation than (former USC wide receiver) Mike Williams, and we're in better shape than the high school seniors who applied. We couldn't know we could be in this situation. It didn't occur until after the declaration date.''
Cleveland Browns running backs coach Kennedy Pola, who recruited Justice to play at USC, said he believed the 19-year-old offensive tackle should remain in school.
``He should redshirt. I'm concerned about him,'' Pola said. ``His situation is not good. All the other (NFL) stuff will work itself out.''
USC coach Pete Carroll could not be reached for comment.
Also, on Wednesday, Justice was charged with three misdemeanor counts of exhibiting a replica firearm. Each count carries a sentence of 30 to 180 days, according to Frank Mateljan, a spokesperson for the city attorney's office.
Justice is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Scott Wolf, (818) 713-3607
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 25, 2004|
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