MYRTLE BEACH — Buddy Gore still can imagine the Clemson huddle.
Tell you whose teammates’ hands he was holding and where the rest of them were standing.
He pops out of his chair at his investment firm, Buddy Gore and Associates Inc., and bends at the waist to simulate his position in those huddles more than 40 years ago. In the blink of his eyes — particularly the surgically repaired right one — you know he has drifted back four decades.
He sees Jimmy Addison and Edgar McGee and Jacky Jackson.
Gore’s smile tells you he always will remember those glory days.
And how glorious they were.
Gore elevated himself as one of the best prep players in the state during the 1960s. He helped an enigmatic Conway football program escape the shadows of obscurity, and he helped himself by earning a football scholarship to Clemson.
There, he became the first player to lead the ACC in rushing in consecutive years and etch his name in Tigers history.
“I had some sweet, sweet times,” he said.
When Conway native Buddy Sasser returned to Horry County to coach at Conway High in 1960, he knew Buddy Gore.
Four years earlier, during the summer before Sasser’s senior year of college, Sasser worked near the beach selling peanuts. Gore, then 12 years old, served as his future coach’s “peanut boy.”
Sasser believed he understood the kind of person he was getting in the young running back. Seeing him in action only furthered Sasser’s knowledge.
“Speed,” the former coach said in recalling Gore’s greatest attribute. “He could run. He had great speed.”
That speed led Gore and his teammates to some impressive victories. In one game, Gore scored five touchdowns.
In another, Conway defeated an A.C. Flora team ranked in the top 10 nationally by nearly three touchdowns. Those kind of opportunities were not only necessary, they were the norm. Sasser, who also served as the school’s athletics director, was responsible for scheduling high-profile games to ensure bigger gate receipts to pay the bills.
Without the luxury of playing in a conference, Conway had to take on big-name opponents.
It worked in Gore’s favor.
“Back then, in the lower part of the state, we didn’t have any newspapers,” Sasser said. “There were some good athletes, but they just didn’t get the coverage.
“But if you’re good, they’ll find you.”
Even though the first full daily newspaper in the area was a decade away, college recruiters discovered Gore. One by one, recruiting letters rolled in.
The Citadel, his father’s alma mater, came first. Then N.C. State, and Georgia, and Wofford. And on and on.
One day, he opened one from Clemson.
“I said, ‘Where the heck is Clemson?’” Gore said. “I mean, here I am in Conway, South Carolina. My folks, we just didn’t go anywhere. We came over to the beach. We just didn’t travel.”
Still, during the 1963 Shrine Bowl, Clemson assistant Art Baker got into Gore’s ear.
Soon after, the tailback talked to Tigers coach Frank Howard.
Gore was headed to the Upstate.
Gore derived much of his speed from extra motivation, especially after arriving at Clemson.
“I told everyone I ran scared,” he said. “(It was like) I had the boogeyman growing up.”
Gore was no pretty boy on the football field. Sure, some of his teammates jokingly would tell coaches the tanned beach native had been snagged by a girl if he was even one minute late.
But between the white lines, Gore took and gave his share of hits while piling up 600 career carries.
McGee, a split end on those Clemson teams, contends Gore was not “scared of anybody.” At the same time, he admits Gore’s perception of himself was an unfortunate side effect of being so fast.
“He came in with good credentials,” McGee said. “He could make a guy lose his athletic supporter in a hurry.”
In that respect, Gore was only doing what he was told.
Howard consistently instructed Gore to run toward the open field. Gore bounced outside time and time again, executing the sweep right and the sweep left.
With his ability and Clemson’s scheme, Gore found himself in the perfect situation.
“It just kind of evolved. It was being in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I was on a team that didn’t throw the ball a lot.”
Gore’s 2,571 yards rushing is seventh in Tigers history. His junior season — 1,045 rushing yards, nine touchdowns — ended with him being named the 1967 ACC player of the year.
He finished his three seasons with 3,273 all-purpose yards, sixth in school history.
After college, Gore received an invitation to try out with the Miami Dolphins. But a detached retina sustained at Clemson from repeated hits left him partially blind in his right eye for some time — and prevented him from pursuing an NFL career.
Gore shrugs it off. He’ll always have his huddle.