USC Gamecocks Football

August 23, 2014

50 reasons to love the Gamecocks

Jim Carlen recruited George Rogers to South Carolina with the promise of playing time, and Carlen was good to his word. As a freshman, Rogers carried the ball 143 times. That number went up each year of his collegiate career, peaking at 324 as a senior when he led the nation in rushing with 1,894 yards and won South Carolina’s only Heisman Trophy.


Jim Carlen recruited George Rogers to South Carolina with the promise of playing time, and Carlen was good to his word. As a freshman, Rogers carried the ball 143 times. That number went up each year of his collegiate career, peaking at 324 as a senior when he led the nation in rushing with 1,894 yards and won South Carolina’s only Heisman Trophy.

“One thing you knew when you played the South Carolina Gamecocks is you didn’t have to worry about what we were going to do,” Rogers said. “We were going to run the football.”

Rogers, who was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in 1981, remains the school’s all-time leading rusher with 5,204 yards on 954 carries.


In 1983, South Carolina was 5-6. In 1984, the Gamecocks finished 10-2. How else to explain it but magic?

“I just didn’t see that coming,” former Gamecock quarterback and current radio analyst Tommy Suggs said. “I felt like we had good talent, but not great talent. That was a surprising year, which made it probably more euphoric and enjoyable.”

South Carolina started the season with eight consecutive wins, including victories against No. 12 Georgia, No. 11 Florida State and at Notre Dame.

“The frenzy that was going on was sick,” said Mike Hold, who helped quarterback that team. “I still get chill bumps when I think about it.”

The Gamecocks rose to the No. 2 ranking in the country before losing at Navy in the ninth game. They would bounce back to beat Clemson and then lose to Oklahoma State in the Gator Bowl.


For 41 years, he was known as The Voice. Nine football coaches and 10 basketball coaches worked under Fulton’s watchful eye, but none of them came to mean as much to South Carolina’s fans as their beloved play-by-play radio voice. First hired in 1952, he called Gamecocks athletics until 1995 (with a two-year break in 1965 and 1966).

“It was the easiest decision we ever made,” former sports information director Don Barton (a member of the committee that hired Fulton) said at the time of Fulton’s death in 2010. “Bob’s voice was head and shoulders above everybody else’s. God gave him a voice that He doesn’t give many people.”

Fulton’s last game was on Jan. 2, 1995, when he called the Gamecocks first bowl win, a 24-21 victory against West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl.

4. 2001

You know the music. Heck, everybody knows the music. And, by now, almost everyone knows it’s South Carolina’s entrance music at Williams-Brice Stadium.

But did you know that it’s nearly 120 years old or that an Elvis Presley concert is the reason it’s now a Gamecock staple? It, of course, is known as “2001.” The actual name of the music is “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” and it was composed in 1896 by Richard Strauss. It gained its popular title in 1968 when it was used in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

In 1981, Suggs, who was captivated by the tune when he heard Presley use it as introduction music during a 1970s concert, suggested the school use it as entrance music. After a couple false starts, it was officially adopted in 1983.


In nine years, he has won 7.5 percent of all games won by South Carolina. Pretty good for a guy who has worked fewer than one percent of the 121 years the Gamecocks have played football.

“South Carolina was really the best opportunity I could ever ask for,” he said. “It was a school, you could probably describe their football tradition as mediocre, they had a losing record overall, way under .500 in SEC games. Nowhere to go but up.”

Spurrier made his name in 12 seasons with the Florida Gators and then spent two disappointing years as coach of the Washington Redskins before being hired at South Carolina prior to the 2005 season.

“After the two years with the (Redskins), I said, ‘This isn’t for me,’ ” Spurrier said. “So the South Carolina opportunity came up and that’s how I ended up at South Carolina. Some people ask, ‘How did you end up there?’ I said, ‘I was available and they were the only ones who offered me a job the end of 2004.’ I wanted to coach again. I wanted to go out a winner, not a loser. It’s really been a fun nine years.”


He came and went on top.

Jadeveon Clowney was a native son, a defensive end from Rock Hill, who not only was the top high school recruit at any position in his class but the best prep player many had seen in more than a decade. After a Valentine’s Day commitment in 2011, he lived up to the hype by setting the school’s single-season sack record (13) as a sophomore. He left school after three years with 24 sacks and 33 wins.

“He’s been a wonderful ambassador for the University of South Carolina,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “All you have to do is look at our record and all the national attention and recognition we have received. It’s been very beneficial for the entire university and for our state. Our state has benefited from what he has done here, definitely.”


Todd Ellis first noticed it in 1986. He had just led a scoring drive that put South Carolina ahead of Nebraska.

“I looked up and you could literally see the top deck moving,” Ellis said on the 100 Years of Gamecock Football.

Gamecock fans thought it was great – printing up bumper stickers that read “If it ain’t swayin’, we ain’t playin” – but school officials and those school officials’ insurance company weren’t as thrilled. In 1990, the school spent $300,000 to reinforce the moving upper deck on the East side.

Between the 1986 Nebraska game and the 1990 renovations, South Carolina officials banned bands from playing “Louie, Louie,” the song being played by the Gamecocks band when the swaying first was noticed, and turned away a request by the Rolling Stones to play a 1989 concert at Williams-Brice.


From the Cockabooses to the Key Road Tailgating Crew, South Carolina fans love to fill every inch of space around Williams-Brice Stadium before the Gamecocks kick off. In 2013, Bleacher Report named South Carolina one of the top 25 tailgating schools in the country.

“The folks in Columbia certainly know how to throw a party, and with their Gamecocks rising to the top of the SEC East over the past few seasons, there’s plenty to celebrate,” according to the website.

South Carolina’s tailgating took a big step up in the rankings with the completion of the fairgrounds and Farmer’s Market parking and tailgating area.

“They have ‘The Grove’ at Ole Miss, and now we have this,” Gamecocks fan Jeremy Lovell said in 2012.


Former South Carolina defensive coordinator Tom Gadd insisted his players sprint to the football. That, and the all-garnet home uniforms the Gamecocks wore in the early 1980s, resulted in one of college football’s great nicknames – the Fire Ant defense. “We were grading films and the kids were really hustling, getting to the ball. (Defensive assistant) Bill Michael said, ‘They look like a bunch of fire ants out there.’ Sports information director Sid Wilson heard the remark, and a nickname was born.


Long before South Carolina became well-known for playing the Thursday night ESPN game with regularity, the Gamecocks were famous for Big Thursday. Until 1960, South Carolina and Clemson played their rivalry game on Thursday at the state fairgrounds in Columbia.

“It was a state holiday, and it was a fashion show,” said Barton, South Carolina’s sports information director from 1950-1959. “Dress shops in Columbia did more business on Big Thursday than they did for Easter. The girls would come wearing hats. Their boyfriends or husbands would buy the corsages.”

Clemson put an end to the tradition after the 1959 game because it wanted to play the game on its campus every other year. The only time the teams have played on a Thursday since was 1963, after their regularly scheduled Saturday game that year was postponed because of the assassination of John Kennedy.


Fire and ice. Oil and water. Hawkins was the party boy who once claimed to have gotten three DUIs in a week as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. He was also the ACC player of the year in 1958 and the man Fulton called “the best football player Carolina ever had.” Dixon was the stick-straight soon-to-be Marine and then to be South Carolina athletics director who marveled at his teammate’s talent and shook his head at his shenanigans. “We always wondered what it would have been like if Alex really worked hard during the week,” Dixon said.


Steve Wadiak was a star, maybe South Carolina’s first real star. He was an All-Southern Conference running back in 1950 and 1951, and he ran with “style,” Barton said. “He had an unusual ability with the football in his hand,” said Hootie Johnson, Wadiak’s teammate. Wadiak, who rushed for 256 yards against Clemson in the 1950 Big Thursday game, became the first Gamecock to have his number retired, in 1951. A year later, he died in a car crash in Aiken while returning to Columbia from a party.


If “2001” is the traditional theme of the Gamecocks, then “Sandstorm” is their modern anthem. A sans vocal techno piece, “Sandstorm,” sets Williams-Brice Stadium in motion at a moment’s notice. “To see 80,000 people jumping, I would be lying if I didn’t say how it warms my heart,” said Finnish artist Ville Virtanen, who goes by the name Darude. The song was written in 2000 and quickly got on the playlist for home games. “We play songs and watch the student section and see what they react to,” South Carolina marketing director Eric Nichols said.


The man who Spurrier replaced as the Gamecocks’ winningest all-time coach also had a career resume to rival, if not surpass, Spurrier. Rex Enright, who coached South Carolina in two stints, played for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame and Curly Lambeau with the Green Bay Packers. He won 64 games as South Carolina’s coach from 1938-1942 and from 1946-1955. Did we mention he coached the University of Georgia basketball team for two seasons?


For all the firsts Spurrier has accumulated at South Carolina, there remains one conference title in the school’s history, and it was an unexpected one. “Relatively speaking, it was as big then as it probably would be winning an SEC title now,” said Suggs, who quarterbacked that team. “It was huge.” Paul Dietzel was named ACC coach of the year for the accomplishment.


This will be the third year South Carolina has taken the field without Marcus Lattimore on the team, and Spurrier still can’t quit talking about him. In fact, Spurrier credits some of the past two year’s success to Lattimore, the running back from Duncan who took a chance on a team still in a rebuilding mode. Lattimore immediately led South Carolina to unprecedented heights, winning national freshman of the year honors in 2009 while carrying the Gamecocks to the SEC East title.


South Carolina fans still adore Fulton, but when they think about running back Brandon Bennett beating Georgia in 1993, they thing about Bulldogs announcer Larry Munson. “Lay down you guys,” Munson urged the Bulldogs as the clock wound down. But Bennett got one more chance and scored from 1-yard out by diving over a pile of players to give South Carolina a 23-21 win. “I’ve gotten that call sent to me so many times through email,” Bennett said. Munson “announced the heck out of that play.”


Like Spurrier, Lou Holtz came to South Carolina with a national championship ring. Unlike Spurrier, he never got the Gamecocks over the top. After an 0-11 first season, the coach who won it all at Notre Dame led South Carolina to 8-4 and 9-3 seasons with back-to-back Outback Bowl appearances, but the Gamecocks never built on that momentum and won five, five and six games in Holtz’s final three seasons. He left Columbia with a 33-37 record.


Ryan Brewer wanted to lead Ohio State to Big Ten titles. Instead, he led South Carolina to a 24-7 win against the Buckeyes in the 2001 Outback Bowl. Starting in place of the suspended Derek Watson, the Ohio native gained 214 all-purpose yards and was named the game’s MVP. That it was the final game of Buckeyes coach John Cooper’s career probably felt like payback to Brewer, who was Mr. Football in Ohio but could never coax a scholarship offer out of Cooper.


Tim Frisby walked onto South Carolina’s football team in 2004 hoping for a shot. He got that, plus stardom. “It’s not something I sought out,” said Frisby, who was 20-year Army veteran, father of six and 40 years old when he played for the Gamecocks and Lou Holtz. “I thought I could come in here and try out and, if I was capable of playing, play.” He did play, catching a pass in 2005, but his bigger fame came from appearances on The Tonight Show and more.


It’s become a happy tradition thanks to 33 wins in the past three years – Spurrier and the entire South Carolina team gathering on the field in front of the band after games to sing the school’s alma mater – “We Hail Thee Carolina.” It’s something Spurrier has come to embrace and even use as an enticement for students to stay to the end of games. “The students, I think they should stay,” he said. “They got nothing else to do all night, except party around a little bit. They are going to be up half the night or all night anyway. So, students, sing the alma mater with us, but the other people, I appreciate you buying the ticket.”


Spurrier’s teams have won plenty of games thanks to the contributions of Georgia players, but Mike Davis, etc., certainly weren’t the first Peach State natives to cross state lines. One of the first, and best, was Dan Reeves, who was lured to South Carolina by assistant football coach Weems Baskin and head coach Marvin Bass. Reeves led the Gamecocks in passing in 1962, 1963 and 1964 before going on to participate in the Super Bowl a record nine times as a player, assistant coach and head coach.


When Fred Zeigler played for South Carolina, he was known almost as much for his practical jokes on his teammates as his football, and he was a pretty good football player. Despite being what coach Paul Dietzel called “one of the slowest (wide receivers) you’ll ever see … he couldn’t outrun our coaches,” Zeigler caught a school-record 35 passes in 1967 and broke that record with 59 catches in 1968. In three years, he totaled 146 catches for 1,876 yards, the most in school history at the time. “Any ball that came near him, he was going to catch,” Dietzel said. “He had glue hands.”

24. R.J. MOORE

For almost as many years as R.J. Moore attended South Carolina football games (and he once saw every home for a 30-year span) his R.J. Moore 66 station in Rosewood was a gathering spot for Gamecocks. “Coach Paul Dietzel would stand out there and fold his hands and talk. He would come in here and speak to my wife,” Moore told WLTX when he finally closed up shop in 2012. “Joe Morrison would come in here to see my wife Ann and give her a smack on the forehead.”


Why did one of the nation’s most highly recruited quarterbacks, who could have gone to Alabama, Florida State, Miami or UCLA, come all the way from Altoona, Pa., to play football for South Carolina? “The opportunity to play right away probably won out over everything, wanting to get on the field as fast as I could,” Steve Taneyhill said. When he arrived, teammates and fans weren’t so sure about Taneyhill and his trademark mullet. As they watched him pass for almost 9,000 yards and 62 touchdowns, they fell in love.


He’s been the star of an ESPN College GameDay episode, spooking analyst Kirk Herbstreit almost out of his seat with an impromptu appearance. He has his own Twitter account. And he has a lot of miles under his wings. Sir Big Spur IV, who is owned by husband and wife Ron Albertelli and Mary Snelling of Aiken, is a constant presence on the sideline at football games and at many other athletics events. “It’s been quite the labor of love,” Albertelli told the Aiken Standard.


There were plenty of growing pains, but it’s been worth it. After joining the Southeastern Conference in 1992, the Gamecocks didn’t post a winning conference record for nine seasons. “South Carolina was a good match for the SEC, but it had a long way to go and a lot of things had to be generated to be competitive,” said Mike McGee, the athletics director at the time. “The bridge between where we were and the SEC was an interesting challenge.” The bridge has now been crossed as South Carolina has won 18 conference games in the past three years.

28. “MIC MAN”

The frenetic leader of the Williams-Brice Stadium fanbase, South Carolina’s “Mic Man” has become a fan favorite. “Being Mic Man is an incredible opportunity to be able to set an expectation of what it means to be a great fan, to be the most spirited, to be the most relentless and to lead one of the most impressive stadiums of fans in the country,” outgoing Mic Man Chase Mizzell told The Daily Gamecock in 2014.


Like the spark of South Carolina’s recent athletics success, Cocky’s rise began in Omaha, Neb. After a cold reception at his unveiling during the 1980 football season that led to the new costume being closeted, Cocky made a comeback during baseball season, following the team all the way to Omaha and a spot in the College World Series.

Given a second chance by a fan base that had grown fond of his predecessor – the more fearsome Big Spur – Cocky caught on and grew to today’s prominence. In 2003, the mascot was named the nation’s best in the Capital One Bowl Challenge, and the Gamecocks are regularly referred to as “Cocky” on ESPN’s College GameDay.

“Very few mascots get that kind of recognition as the face of the university,” said John Routh, the first man to wear the Cocky costume.


If he hadn’t quarterbacked South Carolina to its only conference title (which he did in 1969) or helped “2001” become the team’s iconic introduction music (which he did in the early 1980s), Suggs still would have a spot on this list for his more than 40 years as the team’s radio color analyst. Suggs had a scholarship offer to play basketball for Lefty Dreisell at Davidson when Dietzel persuaded him to play football for the Gamecocks. It worked out well for South Carolina.


In 1920 and 1921, Tatum Gressette earned the best nickname in South Carolina football history. He hit a 25-yard, dropkick field goal in a 3-0 win in 1920 and captained the 1921 team which beat Clemson 21-0. For that, he will forever be called “Tiger Killer.” “We wanted to beat Clemson just as bad then as the players do now,” Gressette said on “100 Years of Gamecock Football.”


Dietzel coached South Carolina to its only conference title, the 1969 ACC crown, but finished his career with a 42-53-1 career record from 1966-75. Dietzel made just as much, if not more, impact on the Gamecocks’ program in his role as athletics director, said those who knew him. “He may not have won as many football games as a lot of people wanted, but he sure did some things for the athletic department that were vitally needed,” Suggs said. “Coach did things here no one else could have done.”


When Sterling Sharpe left South Carolina, he was the school’s all-time leading receiver with 2,497 yards on 169 catches, and he did it all draped with defenders. “He was our big-play guy,” coach Morrison told The Christian Science Monitor as Sharpe prepared for the NFL Draft. “When things got tight, he was the one we were looking to get the ball to. Sterling understood that the defensive folks were keying on him, yet he went out there time after time and made things happen.”


All-American offensive lineman. World famous professional wrestler. No Gamecock reached such heights in two different pursuits as Del Wilkes. The Columbia native and Irmo High graduate paved the way for the offense on the 1984 Black Magic team and then went on to a lucrative career as The Patriot, a star in the WCW and WWF. “When I was a kid, there were two things – football and pro wrestling – that occupied my every waking thought,” Wilkes said.


When South Carolina beat Florida 36-14 to clinch the 2010 SEC East title, Spurrier found defensive lineman Ladi Ajiboye, a Georgia native, and said, “Ladi, we’re going to Atlanta.” “That was our recruiting pitch all along,” Spurrier said. “Our goal is to win the game in Atlanta. That’s still our goal, and we have a chance.” They didn’t win that game, but it doesn’t erase the memory of that run, capped by thumping Spurrier’s former team.


Long before Connor Shaw was born, Jeff Grantz was putting the “dual” in dual-threat quarterback at South Carolina. Grantz, who also was a middle infielder for the Gamecocks baseball team, “was the perfect quarterback” for Jim Carlen’s veer offense, Carlen said. Grantz was named a second-team All-American in 1975 and is in the school’s all-time top 25 in passing (3,440 yards) and rushing (1,577 yards).


A center and linebacker from 1940-1942, Lou Sossamon was South Carolina’s first football All-American and one of the university’s greatest cheerleaders after that. “It meant the world to me to go to the University of South Carolina,” Sossamon says on a video that plays on a constant loop in the Gamecocks memorabilia section of Safran’s Antiques. “I met so many fine people who have been a joy in my life.”


Joe Morrison never intended to be known as “The Man in Black,” he said, but when his closet had a clean all-black outfit the day he was announced as head coach, that’s the nickname he earned. “He was silent and strong,” said Todd Ellis, who played for Morrison from 1986-1988. “You looked at him and you saw 14 years of NFL play and experience. He was a football player more than he was a football coach. He just oozed that experience.” Morrison, the New York Giants captain for seven seasons, led the Gamecocks’ 1984 Black Magic team. He died in February of 1989 after having a heart attack at the team’s facility.


Dom Fusci’s nickname was “Dynamite,” and he did the name proud. An All-Southern Conference lineman in 1943, he served in World War II and returned to town to become one of Columbia’s great characters. “He was one of a kind,” said Barton. “Dom’s funeral was the most fun funeral I have ever been to.”


The Gamecocks’ history book is dotted with athletes who could do a little bit of everything, and it’s possible none did them better than Billy Gambrell, who was All-ACC in 1961 and 1962 while playing running back, receiver, kick returner and even quarterback for the Gamecocks. “Billy Gambrell was the best all-around athlete I ever played with, by far,’’ former Gamecock Dan Reeves told the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald when Gambrell was inducted into Athens’ sports hall of fame in 2000. “He could dunk a basketball, run the football, play wide receiver, return kickoffs and punts. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.’’


“Michigan at the 41. What a hit. Ball’s free, on the ground. South Carolina deserves to have it, and they do.” That was how The Hit sounded live when ESPN’s Mike Tirico called the action in the 2013 Outback Bowl. Jadeveon Clowney de-helmeted Michigan’s Vincent Smith, forcing a fumble that he recovered with one hand, sparking a 33-28 comeback win. It also turned Clowney from a star into a superstar.


When the members of Sigma Nu got the go-ahead from coach Marvin Bass in 1961, they got to work. “We practiced four or five nights,” participant Ed Hancock told the school’s website in 2011. “The secrecy was what was surprising.” The result was The Prank, in which members of the fraternity bluffed their way onto the field before the 1961 Carolina-Clemson game by wearing borrowed high school uniforms and mocked the Tigers with warm-up drills such as milking a cow.


Until “Remember the Titans” was released in 2000, Ron Bass’ wife and children had no idea his high school nickname was Sunshine, and he would have been fine leaving it that way. Instead, the Hollywood blockbuster told the story of Bass, the quarterback at T.C. Williams High in 1971, and his teammates desegregating their football team in the South. “It did bring that darn nickname back to life,” said Bass, who played quarterback for the Gamecocks in 1973-74 and 1976-77. “Any of the players who said, ‘Yeah, we knew we were doing something special,’ would be lying. We were just there. We were in the moment.”


“Twelve thousand customers sat in a broiling sun and watched the snake-hipped Gaffney youngster gallop through the vaunted Duke line … Duke nor its millions could have stopped him today.” That’s how the Charlotte Observer described Earl Clary’s first game, a 7-0 win against Duke. The Gaffney Ghost added a 3-0 record against Clemson to his resume by the time he left Carolina.


As the Gamecocks prepared to exit the locker room on Oct. 9, 2010 to face No. 1 Alabama and its 19-game winning streak, Spurrier told his team, “Let’s give fate a chance. If fate is going to smile on South Carolina, we’ve got to give it a chance. Who knows? If you give it a chance, something big might happen.” It did as South Carolina won 35-21 and went on to win the SEC East title.


It’s gotten to the point the Outback Bowl is a little bit of a disappointment for South Carolina fans, but not long ago it seemed like the Promised Land. After a 21-game losing streak dating from 1999-2000, the Gamecocks went to the 2000 and 2001 Outback Bowls. “We knew we were getting somewhere,” running back Ryan Brewer said. “We could feel something special was about to happen.”


It wasn’t too long ago that a five-game winning streak against Clemson seemed like a dream to Gamecock fans. In fact, it had never happened until South Carolina beat the Tigers 31-17 in November to make it five in a row. “It was a wonderful win for us,” Spurrier said. “We’re happy and very fortunate. They’re a good team but continue to not play very well when they play us for some reason.


Steve Spurrier has coached more than 400 football games. His wife Jerri has seen all but two of them in person. She is a regular attendee at Gamecock practices and at most of her husband’s work duties. “She is as committed and dedicated as anybody on the staff in terms of helping and encouraging and bringing a positive energy and attitude,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, a former Spurrier assistant and family friend.


Ed Dew was made famous by miscommunication. Dew, a defensive lineman from 1946-1948, was running off the field just before a play against Clemson when coach Rex Enright told him he was supposed to be back on the field. Dew turned around, coming off the sideline to make a tackle for loss. It was Tigers coach Frank Howard who referred to Dew as the “phantom.”


The Bluff Rd. restaurant, just down the road from Williams-Brice Stadium, is an institution for Gamecocks fans. Bernie’s is well known for its fried chicken (or grilled chicken if you are Steve Spurrier -- his photo is on the restaurant wall). Bernie’s has even been known to deliver chicken and fixin’s on its golf cart to tailgating fans.

Compiled by Josh Kendall

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