From the last decade alone, names for an all-time USC Top 5 list of defensive backs are plentiful.
Consider this quote from Josh Kendall's book, 100 Things South Carolina Fans should Know & Do Before They Die: “In 2011, five of the NFL's 64 starting cornerbacks were South Carolina graduates: Sheldon Brown, Johnathan Joseph, Andre Goodman, Captain Munnerlyn, and Dunta Robinson. Chris Culliver was a rookie.”
Add in Stephon Gilmore, who was the 10th player taken in the NFL Draft in 2012, as well as safeties such as Emanuel Cook and Ko Simpson and that’s a lot of great defensive backs.
So I have decided to invoke my 50-year rule and pick five Gamecocks who made their mark before Carolina became DBU.
No. 1 on my list is Dickie Harris (1969-71). Legendary for his returns, Dickie was a complete player. He made a combination of 162 punt, kickoff and interception returns during his career. He holds the top spots in seven return categories: most punts returned in a game (6), most punt return yards in a game and (143) for a season.
He is No. 1 in punts returned in a season (37), most punts returned for a touchdown (3) and most kickoff return yards. For a career, he leads in most punts returned (77), most punt return yards (825), and most punts returned for a TD (3).
The reason I say complete player, and the reason I have Harris first on my list, is that in 1970 he tied John LeHeup for leading tackler (50), and in '71 he was the team leader in interceptions (5).
Harris was an American Football Coaches Association first-team All-American in 1970. He enjoyed a 10-year career with the Montreal Alouettes which spanned 134 games. He was an 8-time all-star, and he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
What I remember most about Dickie, is that he made it look so easy. He was so fast that he never looked like he was running.
At No. 2 is Bobby Bryant (1964-66), who was also an outstanding pitcher for the USC baseball team (1965-67). Bobby holds the season record for best punt return average at 18.5 (13 for 242 yards). He was team leader in kickoff returns (9 for 181 yards) in '64, and punt return leader in '64 (10 for 128 yards), and in '65 (13 for 242 yards). He was the interception leader in '65 (3).
Bobby's school-record 96-yard punt return for a touchdown against N.C. State was key in the 31-21 victory over the Wolf Pack in 1966, the only game the Gamecocks won that season. He was the first pitcher in USC history to strike out 100 batters in a season.
He was first-team All-ACC in '66, and named a first-team All-American by the New York Daily News and the Detroit Sports Extra. After the '67 season, he won the Anthony J. McKelvin Award as the ACC's Most Outstanding Athlete.
Bryant was drafted by the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in baseball, but he went on to an amazing 13-year career with the Minnesota Vikings.
He is second on the Vikings all-time list with 51 career interceptions. He was named to the 1975 and 1976 NFC Pro Bowl squads, and is one of 10 Vikings to have played in all four of their Super Bowls in the '70s. Bryant was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
What I remember most about Bobby, is that pound-for-pound, he is still the toughest athlete (around 170 pounds) I have ever seen in a Gamecock uniform. He had tremendous instincts in regard to the ball, and he was always in the right place at the right time.
Brad Edwards (1984-87) comes in at No. 3. Brad was leading tackler in '87 (130), and is second on the all-time interceptions list (8) and third in passes broken up (13) for a season. He is number six on the career list for pass breakups for a career (21).
Two of Brad's biggest moments as a Gamecock came against Clemson. He returned interceptions for touchdowns in the '86 game in a 21-21 tie, and a 61-yarder in the 20-7 victory over the Tigers in the '87 contest. The best game of his Carolina career, however, was an incredible 21-tackle (14 solo), two tackles for loss, and one interception performance in the 13-6 upset of Georgia in 1987.
He was named second-team All-American by Untied Press International, and third-team by the Associated Press in '87.
Edwards went on to a 10-year NFL career with the Vikings, Redskins, Falcons and Packers. He was part of the Redskins' Super Bowl XXVI championship team. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
What I recall most about Brad, is that he easily made the transition from quarterback to strong safety, and his experience on the offensive side of the ball made him like a coach on the field.
The No. 4 spot goes to Rick Sanford (1975-78). Rick was punt return leader in '77 (14 for 44 yards) and the '87 season leader in interceptions (4). His senior season, he was the leading tackler in five of 11 regular-season games. His best effort was an incredible 11-tackle, two pass break up, and two interception day against Appalachian State.
Sanford was named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News in '87, and he became USC's first first-round NFL draft pick, when he was chosen by New England. He played six seasons ('79-'84) with the Patriots and spent the '84 season with the Seattle Seahawks. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.
What I remember most about Rick, is that he was one of those “blue collar, bring your lunch pail to work” type players. He was never flashy, but he was always steady, game-in, game-out.
No. 5 on my list is Terry Cousin (1993-96). While his name is not prominent among USC's all-time records, he was the kickoff return leader in '95 (26 for 617 yards), and '96 (14 for 285 yards). Terry set the bar for those who came after him. He finished his collegiate career with 203 tackles and five interceptions.
Terry was signed as a free agent in 1997 by the Chicago Bears. He played for the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns. During his career, he recorded 371 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 13 interceptions.
Cousin was a sideline reporter for the Gamecock radio network and served as student-athlete mentor for two years. In May of 2012, he was hired as Director of Player Engagement by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What I remember most about Terry, is that he was a tenacious hitter and one of the best cover corners to play for USC. Despite his aggressive attitude in the field, he consistently wore a big smile both on and off the field.