After being hired by South Carolina earlier this month, Clyde Wrenn asked Ray Tanner about having lunch with a few former Gamecock quarterbacks. South Carolina’s athletic director envisioned a meal with three or four lettermen.
Monday, Tanner addressed 24 former South Carolina quarterbacks in what he and his staff hope is a first step toward better relations between the school and its former athletes in all sports.
“It’s not something we’ve done a great job of in the past,” said Jeff Crane, USC’s senior associate athletics director in charge of development and the Gamecock Club.
School officials are trying to change that and hired Wrenn for his ability to reach out to athletes from the recent and distant past. His title is special assistant in the development office, and his chief qualification is knowing lots of folks. He has served as a football recruiter for both Clemson and South Carolina and most recently served as Ellis Johnson’s director of operations at Southern Miss before resigning on Thanksgiving Day.
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“Only Clyde could pull this off,” Tanner said to the crowd at Monday’s luncheon at Seawell’s.
Quarterbacks as recently departed as Syvelle Newton were in attendance alongside lettermen from the 1950s such as Johnny Gramling, the first Gamecock passer to throw for more than 2,000 career yards and a member of the USC athletics hall of fame. Anthony Wright, Corey Jenkins, Todd Ellis, Jeff Grantz, Mike Hold, Tommy Suggs and Ron Bass were among those in attendance.
“As former athletes, you always want to have that connection with that university you played for,” said Wright, who started at South Carolina from 1996-1999 and played with five NFL teams. “That was four or five years of your life that you dedicated to that place. It feels good to see the university showing you some love for all the stuff we did as athletes here. I am very appreciative.”
Grantz said he’s never sensed a problem between the school and its lettermen: “But there can always be improvement, and I think that’s what Clyde Wrenn is here to do.”
Wrenn solicited ideas from the players in attendance Monday for ways to improve relationships.
“We want to let people know we are not just talking, we are doing some things,” he said. “The quarterbacks being the leaders of the football teams, we felt like this would be a good start, bringing the quarterbacks in.”
Crane called the quarterbacks “a test group” for the school’s plans to reach out to all its sports’ lettermen.
“We want to build a bridge,” he said. “We are going to communicate with you more than you have ever been communicated with. We are going to invite you back more than you have ever been invited back before. Before you know it, it will be a room like this full.”
The school’s football lettermen have been splintered at times in the past because USC has had so many coaches in the last 60 years, Wrenn said.
“You had coach (Paul) Dietzel’s crowd and coach (Joe) Morrison’s and coach (Jim) Carlen’s, and coach (Steve) Spurrier has his group that he has coached and he doesn’t know a lot of the other guys. That’s where I come in,” he said. “We are trying to unite all those groups together and let them know what we are doing. When I thought about it, it wasn’t what can they give back to us, it was what can we do to show them what we’re doing. If they want to give money, they can do that.”
South Carolina hosted 24 former quarterbacks Monday, a first step toward better relations between the school and its former athletes in all sports. Hear below from Blake Mitchell, Anthony Wright, Corey Jenkins, Mike Hold and Ron Bass.
Years at USC: 2004-2007
Years at USC: 1995-98
Years at USC: 2001-02
Years at USC: 1984-85
Years at USC: 1973-74, 76-77