Among the 40-plus football players that attended Monday’s reunion of former USC alumni that played in the NFL, several are still perfecting their craft and earning a living chasing a team.
One was offensive lineman Jamon Meredith, who currently is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his fifth NFL team since ending his USC playing career in 2008.
“I’ve bounced around but only missed one week of football since I left school,” Meredith said. “People might knock it because you move around a lot, but being able to keep a job in a profession that you absolutely love is a blessing. I will never complain. I’ve learned a lesson every place I’ve lived.”
According to ESPN.com, there are 29 former South Carolina players currently on NFL rosters. Many of those were unable to attend Monday’s event, which is trying to bridge the gap between former players and the current administration, but about a dozen were on hand.
Never miss a local story.
Offensive lineman Travelle Wharton is rehabbing an injury that forced him to miss the entire 2012 season. He played eight seasons with the Carolina Panthers before signing a free agent contract with the Bengals last offseason. He looks forward to returning in 2013.
“I’ve just been working, trying to rehab my knee and hanging out with the family,” Wharton said. “I want to get my knee right so I can get back and play. It’s been a long process, but I feel great.”
Cornerback Sheldon Brown is a free agent after spending the 2012 season with the Cleveland Browns. He has yet to sign a contract for next season, but he gave a hint where he wanted to close out his 10-year career.
“We’ll see what opportunities are presented to me,” Brown said. “I’d like to finish up in Carolina but you never know.”
A couple of players have been in the NFL for a couple of seasons but have yet to make the impact they wanted. Tori Gurley has spent two seasons in the NFL but has yet to be on the active roster. He has spent time with Green Bay, Minnesota, San Diego and currently is with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
“I’m happy being with the Baltimore Ravens and I’m looking forward to giving them everything I’ve got,” the Rock Hill native said. “As long as the checks come in, I’ll keep doing it.”
A couple of guys that have tasted playing in the NFL has elected to continue their career’s in the CFL. Na’shan Goddard won Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints and currently is playing with the Calgary Stampeders. One teammate is former USC defensive back and NFL veteran Fred Bennett.
Goddard hopes to play again in the NFL.
“I had no clue that Canada was so awesome, so I’m definitely headed back,” Goddard said. “To get back to the NFL is the master plan, but if I don’t, that’s alright. There is great support in Canada, and if I don’t get back, I will still have a complete career.”
Several players recently ended their careers. Defensive back Andre Goodman was able to land on his feet back at his alma mater. He called inquiring about buying season football tickets in the future and was told the player development position recently left vacant by former player Terry Cousin was open. He jumped at the opportunity to return and be close to football.
“I was looking to stay involved in it, and this was a perfect opportunity for me to do it,” Goodman said. “To be able to share the knowledge that I gained and help these guys not only grow as players but as functional members of society is a blessing.”
Defensive back Ko Simpson last played with Detroit in 2010 but has retired due to micro-fracture surgery on his knee. He owns a janitorial business back in York County and helps coach at Nation Ford High.
“Any time I can go out and share my knowledge and help some kids out on what I learned, to see what they can do with it, is great,” Simpson said.