As South Carolina prepares to honor 21 seniors Saturday before their final football game in Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks have only two regular starters from the recruiting class that entered school four years ago.
One is linebacker Jonathan Walton. You probably can’t name the other one.
Drew Williams understands.
“Long snapper is a position that most people just don’t pay attention to,” Williams said. “Usually a long snapper isn’t known unless they mess up.”
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Williams will finally get some recognition Saturday as the Gamecock seniors are introduced before the Western Carolina game at 4 p.m. in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“I told (the seniors) in front of the entire team how much I appreciated them,” first-year South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “There have been a lot of examples in this class of guys who have been very unselfish in their attitude and really put the team first. That’s hard to do nowadays. I am very appreciative of it. Our team understands how I feel about it and how important this game is for our seniors and how important it is for our young players to understand they will be sitting in that chair soon.”
Williams can tell the young players how fast the time flies.
“I have been so blessed and fortunate to play here over the past four years,” he said. “It’s been a dream come true.”
Williams, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, came to South Carolina as an invited walk-on out of Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, where he played some quarterback and wide receiver as well as long snapper for the Silver Foxes. He might never have ended up a Gamecock if his mom hadn’t dragged him out of bed one day in the summer to attend a USC special teams camp on campus under former special teams coach Joe Robinson.
“I didn’t really want to go, but the next day I got a call,” Williams said. “I never thought I’d be in this position. I have been very fortunate to be here. It’s just cool to grow up being a Gamecock and finally see my dream come true.”
Williams snapped for punts his first two years and has snapped for punts and field goals and extra points the last two years.
“Drew works his tail off,” offensive tackle Mason Zandi said. “That’s probably the hardest-working long snapper I’ve ever known. He loves his craft and he goes out and tries to perfect it every day.”
The Gamecocks’ other offensive linemen attempt to long snap sometimes before practice, mostly as a gag, center Alan Knott said.
“I’m not very good at it,” Knott said. “I sit there and snap 5 yards every play, but he has to snap it 20 plus some plays so it’s definitely way harder than regular snapping.”
Williams has been one of the Gamecocks’ best at it. He was placed on scholarship before his junior season and has been steady ever since. His best moment in garnet and black, he said, came this year when he snapped for the kick that made Elliott Fry the school’s career scoring leader.
“We put in a lot of hard work,” he said. “It was the perfect snap and perfect hold and perfect kick.”
He hopes to have a perfect ending to his South Carolina home career Saturday with a victory that would make the Gamecocks bowl eligible.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I am jealous of the younger guys because of this coaching staff now,” Williams said. “The future is very bright here, and I look forward to watching them be successful in the years to come.”
What happened to the 2013 signing class?
The players who signed on scholarship and qualified for 2013, listed in order of their 247Sports Composite star rating. Those still on the team now are in bold. An “x” denotes the three expected to be honored on Senior Day.
▪ x–DL Kelsey Griffin – Reserve with two career starts
▪ x–LB Larenz Bryant – Reserve with two career starts
▪ RB David Williams – Reserve with six career starts (now a redshirt junior)
▪ OL D.J. Park – Reserve with three career starts (now a redshirt junior)
Three star signees
▪ OL Na’Ty Rodgers – Transferred
▪ QB Connor Mitch – Transferred
▪ LB Skai Moore – Redshirting (injury)
▪ DE Devin Washington – Medical DQ
▪ DE David Johnson – Transferred
▪ WR Pharoh Cooper – Early NFL entrant
▪ OL Bryce King – Transferred
▪ OL Alan Knott – Redshirt junior starter
▪ LB Gerald Turner – Transferred
▪ WR Jamari Smith – Reserve with one career start (now a redshirt junior)
▪ OL J.P. Vonashek – Transferred
▪ CB Ali Groves – Medical DQ
▪ CB Ronnie Martin – Transferred
▪ S Jasper Sasser – Reserve with no career starts (now a redshirt junior)
▪ x–LB Jonathan Walton – Starting LB
▪ LB Mohamed Camara – Transferred