When Ryan Brewer and Andrew Pinnock saw each other Friday night for the first time in years, it was almost as if the two former USC running backs had not missed a beat since their playing days.
They hugged and shared memories. But more importantly, they were in town to support a far greater cause than reliving their former gridiron glories.
They joined other former Gamecocks athletes to support the Andrew Pinnock Celebrity Benefit for Haitian Earthquake Relief at the AMF Park Lanes in Cayce.
"When this crisis happened, I was in San Diego and was so touched by it and I was inspired by it," Pinnock said. "I'm a big believer in hope and faith. I knew this was something I wanted to find a way to help out."
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Brewer said he would never miss a chance to reunite with former USC players, and he wanted to do his part for this worthy cause.
"I haven't seen some of these guys in years," Brewer said. "To be able to see them and give back to a worthy cause is even more reason to be out. These guys don't have to do something like this, but it's great to have this cause and put money in the pockets of people that need it."
Other former USC football players in attendance were Na'Shan Goddard (New Orleans Saints), Rod Wilson (Tampa Bay Bucs), Lance Laury (Seattle Seahawks) and Travelle Wharton (Carolina Panthers). Former Lower Richland standout Jonathan Goodwin, the starting center for the Saints in their Super Bowl victory against Indianapolis last month, also was in attendance.
Even though he didn't play at USC, Goodwin knows most of the players through Laury, his high school teammate.
"I feel like I'm in a position to give back, and whenever I have a chance to give back, I have no problem doing it," Goodwin said. "It's a good cause and a good time."
The Relief effort continues tonight with Pinnock's birthday bash to be held at Rust nightclub in the Vista. Jasper Brinkley, Jonathan Joseph and Fred Bennett also were expected in town to help with the relief cause.
Pinnock is currently a free agent after being released by San Diego in August, 2008. He briefly joined Denver at the end of that season, then had microfracture surgery on his right knee after the season.
He played last year in the United Football League with the Florida Tuskers to show NFL teams he is healthy. He has had no setbacks from the surgery, which normally keeps people out of action for about a year. Pinnock turned 30 Friday and feels he has four or five more years to play.
Pinnock plans to make his home in the Columbia area after his career ends, but he would love to have a chance to play close by.
"I would love to come back and play in the Carolinas," Pinnock said. "I know the Panthers have an opening since they released Brad Hoover, so I'm hopeful something works out there. Columbia will always be home to me. I can't explain the goose bumps I get when I get off the plane and smell that Carolina air."
Anne Lisle, the wife of USC video coordinator Joe Lisle, has been a part of the South Carolina athletic community since 1997 through three USC head coaches. She has gotten to know several of the players during their time here, and she says the effort to support in the Haitian Relief shows the character and enthusiasm they bring.
"I have never met one of these players that didn't know where their roots came from," Anne Lisle said. "The good thing about this event is they just aren't giving back to the community but they are giving back to a world-wide charity."
The bowling left something to be desired, but the trash talking was as good as expected. Goddard, who has won Super Bowls with the New York Giants and the Saints, was a quote machine during his time with the Gamecocks. He threw the gauntlet down as soon as he arrived at the bowling alley.
"I don't know how good I can bowl, but I guarantee you I can out trash-talk any of these guys." Goddard said.