Paul Dietzel remembers him as "one of the slowest you'll ever see - he couldn't outrun our coaches," a small-town kid with "big, flat feet" and thick eyeglasses. Hardly what one would expect as a description of one of South Carolina's greatest wide receivers.
But Fred Zeigler was - along with quarterback Tommy Suggs and fullback Warren Muir - among the Gamecocks' primary weapons during their 1969 ACC championship season. No one made more big plays or more spectacular catches than the kid from Reevesville.
"Any ball that came near him he was going to catch," Dietzel, USC's coach, said of the senior split end. "He had glue hands, and he and Suggs knew each other so well; we would run the sprint-out, no pattern called, and they'd both read the defense. He was almost unstoppable."
"It's nice of him to say that; he must be getting old," Zeigler said dryly. "I was a first-down receiver, not a breakaway threat."
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Zeigler ended his career in 1969 with a then-record (sixth all time now) 146 receptions for 1,876 yards. He caught 52 balls for 658 yards that season.
"I grew up in a sports town, and I was always the last one picked" for games, Zeigler said. "But a big part of sports is concentration, and I was able to do that under any circumstance. I didn't have a lot going for me, but I could do that."
The most obvious example clinched USC's 14-6 win over North Carolina in the season's second game. Leading 7-6, defensive back Bo Davies intercepted the Tar Heels' Johnny Swofford (now the ACC commissioner), and on third down from the UNC 26, Suggs threw to a double-covered Zeigler in the end zone.
Defender Rusty Culbreth deflected the pass, but Zeigler also tipped it and then pulled in the touchdown catch as he fell. A case of superb hand-eye coordination?
"I tipped it, fell on my back and it fell in my hands," Zeigler said, laughing. "I hit the deck and the ball followed me down. (It was) 90 percent luck, 10 percent concentration."
Zeigler, a lawyer, moved to New York City five years ago because "I like baseball and art-house movies, and I like to travel," he said. He's also found a "Gamecocks bar" - Van Deiman's on Third Avenue - where he watches his old team on Saturdays.
"We get a good crowd," he said. "It's fun, drinking beer and watching the Gamecocks."
- Bob Gillespie