Mackie Prickett, 82, started from 1954-56 at South Carolina, winning 16 games and being enshrined in the USC Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995. Today he lives in Columbia after retiring from running a farm in St. Matthews.
Q: Why USC?
A: “My father would have disowned me had I not gone there. He loved it. (Clemson coach) Frank Howard came down to recruit me and my father met him at the door. He told him, ‘You’re not welcome.’ I also went to Kentucky for a week when Bear Bryant was coaching. He took one look at me and said, ‘Son, you’re the worst passing quarterback I ever saw.’ ”
Q: The Gamecocks were still interested, though?
A: “Coach (Rex) Enright invited me up when I was in the 10th grade. He said he’d give me a scholarship, and said, ‘Even if you break your neck, you’ll have a scholarship.’ Everybody called him Daddy Rex. He was a good person.”
Q: Did you start right away?
A: “I came and I went down, down, down, down, down the depth chart. They tell the quarterbacks to drop back and pick out a receiver, right? I wasn’t doing too good so they moved me on to halfback as a freshman. I played halfback the last three games we played that year. (In 1954), with the varsity, they moved me back up to quarterback. Again I went second string down to fifth string. But I went to a quarterback clinic in Tallahassee at Florida State, and Bobby Layne, the all-pro quarterback, he said something that helped me more than anything. He said, ‘You get the ball from the center and you drop back and look and find an open receiver, right? You do that and you’ll get killed. You better know what you’re going to do when you leave the center. You better hope he’s open and if not, run, run, run.’ That helped me a lot and I was able to move back up.”
Q: Your first game was against No. 18 Army. Were you nervous?
A: “We scrimmaged one day and the second string tore the varsity up. A week or so later, we played Army. Oh, Lord - our unit went in when we were behind and we scored and tied it up, and I remember telling coach Enright at halftime, ‘You have nothing to worry about. They’ve seen all of our fullback they want to see.’ We took over the ballgame. That was my first bingo.”
Q: USC went 6-4 that year, the first of two winning seasons they had under you. What else do you remember about that season?
A: “The next game after Army, we played West Virginia. Our second unit went in and I ran the option one time. Sam Huff tackled me, the ball went one way and my helmet the other. Coach Enright asked what happened, and I said, ‘I don’t know. But I hope it never happens again.’ He didn’t touch me no more that game. I was looking out for him.”
Q: What were some of your other memorable games?
A: “Clemson. I think it was our fourth game (in 1954). You know how somehow everything goes right? That’s the way it went. I scored on a quarterback sneak early in the game, and then at the end of the game, they were marching on us with a minute or two to play. They threw a long pass and I went back and intercepted it. I ran about 50 yards with it but I didn’t gain but 5. I was running all over that field (USC won 13-8). I was first-string from then on.”
Q: Did you give pro ball a shot?
A: “I wasn’t that good. That’s when I went on with the horses. When I was 11, 12 and 13, they used to have racing here in South Carolina and I rode. What followed after college was the horses we had in training (at his St. Matthews farm), we took to New England. And we raced in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We did that for 10 years but because I wasn’t becoming a millionaire, I decided maybe I better come back and go into my profession, which was pharmacy. That’s what I took at Carolina.”
Q: And you stayed in pharmacy?
A: “I worked with Revco for about 12 years, and then I moved and worked with a private pharmacy in Elloree. The owner died and he wanted me to continue running it, but I didn’t want to be under that kind of pressure, so that’s when I went to work with Horse Necessities Inc. in St. Matthews for about 10 years.”
Q: And you stayed with the farm?
A: “We came back and settled back down on the farm, and started going to USC games and all that. We went to basketball, too, with the (Frank) McGuire era.”
Q: Your family continued the Carolina legacy, right?
A: “All three of my sons went to Carolina. And I have two grandchildren there now.”