File photo of Steve Smith.

File photo of Steve Smith. Credit: AP, 2009

One of Steve Smith's most prized possessions is a football he received from the Orange Bowl for catching a record three touchdown passes in the 2005 game against Oklahoma.

"That was one of my greatest games," Smith said with a sigh. "It kind of [stinks] for my stats to be erased."

Smith and cornerback Terrell Thomas - two products of USC - were taking a beating from Giants teammates Friday. A day after the NCAA ruled that it would vacate 14 of the school's wins from the 2004 and 2005 seasons, strip 30 scholarships and impose a two-year ban on postseason play, the two former Trojans could do little more than take the ribbing.

"People are making jokes talking about how the repo man is going to come and take my rings and that I'd better lock them up," Thomas said, shaking his head.

USC is still the 2004 BCS champion - for now. The NCAA could not take that away, but it appears that the BCS will eventually strip the team of the title. Thomas said that he and his teammates from that 2004 title squad always will consider themselves champions.

"We didn't lose it," he said. "You can talk to any player from USC and I'll guarantee you none of them will say we lost that national championship. You can ask any other team out there and none of them won it. We won that. Those so-called extra benefits, they didn't win those games. The heart and the sweat and the work that we put in . . . that's what won it."

Later he added: "We won it fair and square."

The wins and the title may be vacated, but the memory of those teams and those games cannot be. Nor can the memorabilia. No one will come knocking on the doors of Smith or Thomas looking for rings or reclaiming souvenir footballs.

But there's still a sting that comes with the decision, and those achievements shine a little less bright.

"It's awkward," Smith said. "I still know what I did. But I want to be officially in the record books. I don't want people 10 or 20 years from now to look at that and not see my name."

Notes & quotes: Super Bowl XLII hero David Tyree attended Friday's practice . . . LB Michael Boley sat out practice with a sore hamstring but said he "should be fine" for the start of minicamp Tuesday . . . WR Hakeem Nicks said he is "on track" for participation in the minicamp . . . DEs Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were not at the final voluntary OTA of the offseason . . . Third-round pick S Chad Jones has signed with the Giants, the first of the drafted players to do so. K Sam Swank was waived to make room on the 80-man roster.

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