South Carolina lost a legendary player on Friday when James Seawright died after a battle with cancer. He was 53.
Seawright, from Simpsonville, played for the Gamecocks from 1981-84, finishing his career as a first-team All-American. The leader of the “Fire Ants” defense that helped bring “Black Magic” to the team in its first 10-win season, Seawright ended his career with 384 tackles, still the fourth-highest mark in USC history.
“He was definitely one of the catalysts on that Fire Ant defense,” said Mike Hold, one of the two quarterbacks USC used in 1984. “He was just a great player. His knees were so bad in college that had he been a healthy guy coming out of college, there’s no doubt he would have played in the NFL for a long time. He was that kind of player.”
Hold remembered a happy-go-lucky guy in the locker room, always smiling and leading by example. Seawright combined with Carl Hill and Bryant “Mookie” Gilliard as the generals of the defense, which propelled the Gamecocks to a No. 2 national ranking.
Elected to the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003, Seawright holds the school record for tackles in a game. He had 29 stops against NC State in that magical 1984 season as the Gamecocks survived a shootout, 35-28.
Hold recalled the savage hit Seawright posted on Georgia’s Andre “Pulpwood” Smith in a 17-10 win over the Bulldogs in 1984. Trying to make the lead last with less than nine minutes to play, Seawright broke through the line and smacked Smith just after he received the handoff.
“That Georgia game, he hit that running back and stopped him cold in his tracks,” Hold said. “I’ll never forget that play.”
Seawright was a stranger to USC since his departure, not attending a 25-year reunion for the team in 2009. He was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and passed away at Greenville Memorial Hospital.