SPARTANBURG — The word “celebration” was mentioned early and often during Wednesday’s funeral for Brian Wofford.
It seemed an apt description of the proceedings that were far from somber in remembering a vivacious individual who was lost at an early age.
The 34-year-old former Spartanburg High and Clemson football star and City of Spartanburg Parks and Recreation Superintendent was laid to rest in front of a large crowd at Evangel Cathedral after being killed Friday in a motorcycle accident.
“When I pulled up, I didn’t know if I was at a Spartanburg-Dorman football game, the county track meet or a Clemson-Carolina game,” longtime Spartanburg High coach and counselor Glover Smiley told those assembled. “I looked at all the cars and thought how Brian would’ve wanted it this way. We’re going to celebrate.”
Wofford impacted many people, first as a popular wide receiver standout then returning to his roots to aid the growth of his hometown. Among those in attendance were many city officials, along with former Vikings and Tigers teammates, teachers and administrators.
Along with his civic and athletic feats, the one topic that arose time and time again was the power of Wofford’s high-wattage smile and how he was one of those rare few with the ability to make others feel better after having talked to him.
“He was always smiling, always happy and always had something positive to say, so he always brought smiles to the faces of others,” former Clemson quarterback teammate Brandon Streeter said. “That’s what I’ll always remember most, how he made everybody feel good and what a credit to him.”
Mayor Junie White described Wofford as “a great human being, always with a smile on his face. He did anything you asked of him and had a great rapport with people. We can put somebody else in his position, but there will always be an empty spot in the community. He’s going to be greatly missed and we’ll never replace him and never forget him.”
His casket was flanked by his framed No. 25 jerseys from both high school and college. Colorful flower displays were as abundant as the uplifting music, clapping and nonstop “hallelujahs.”
Even with mentions of helping lead the Vikings to state football championships and being a major force on Smiley’s track squads before going on to a successful college career from 1996-1999 and a brief pro football career, this was more about the man than the athlete.
After spending five years with the Florence County Parks and Recreation Department, Wofford was named Spartanburg Parks and Recreation Superintendent in 2008. In less than two years, he was selected the S.C. Recreation and Parks Association Young Professional of the Year. His former director at the Florence parks and recreation, Joe Eason, was one of Wednesday’s featured speakers.
Wofford was instrumental in many city ventures, including restructuring the Little League football program and helping to launch the $650,000 “Hot Spot Skate Park” and the $6 million C.C. Woodson Community Center.
Wofford’s elder brother, James Wofford Jr., gave one of the more heartfelt and elegant speeches in saying people always thought Brian was the older one but Brian would quickly set the record straight.
“I always counted it as a joy to look up to him even though I was older,” James said. “When I came home (from military service) I didn’t know the many things Brian had been doing, but isn’t that just like him not to make it about himself but to make it about everybody else.
“I told my wife we’ve had an angel among us and didn’t even know it. Everybody he touched he influenced and impacted them. He gave them something. He was a motivator and a strong individual that I’m proud to say I knew.”
Wofford is survived by his wife, Dr. Boisha Wofford, and 11-year-old daughter, Kaelyn.