When Perry Orth looks back on his South Carolina career, he won’t think first of the athletic achievements.
He’d have a right to, rising from walk-on to starting quarterback. He’s started games in Williams-Brice and played on national TV. But he’ll first think of the little things.
“When I remember college, it’s not going to be so much maybe athletically,” Orth said. “It’s going to be the random Tuesday nights staying up playing Xbox with my buddies and hanging out with my girlfriend and doing fun stuff around Columbia.”
Orth had one of the last stopping points in finishing his USC career Monday morning. The fifth-year senior was one of 28 Gamecocks that took part in an athletic ring ceremony at the Dodie Academic Enrichment Center, as he and other graduating student-athletes were honored hours before winter graduation ceremonies.
Orth got to stand beside the likes of receiver Jamari Smith, a high school teammate of his brother who he’s known for seven years and used to stay over at his house Friday nights after games. Orth said he’s weighing several jobs in the business field and plans to settle on one before the bowl game.
There might be a bit of trepidation getting ready to take a step out into the world, as with any college student comfortable on campus. Linebacker Jonathan Walton said every next step in life brings some scary feelings, but fellow linebacker Larenz Bryant said he was in some ways ready.
“These four years and the coaching and just the life coaching that I’ve been through,” Bryant said. “I feel like I’m prepared. It’s going to have some bumpy roads, maybe starting off and throughout, but I’m excited about the next phase of my life.”
Volleyball player Megan Kirkland won’t be moving too far as she’ll be entering a 2-plus year physician assistant program at USC’s medical school. But as she prepared to exit college with many of the athletes she came in with, she had to marvel at how they, some close friends and some she doesn’t know all that well, changed over the years.
“It’s just a surreal moment,” Kirkland said. “It doesn't feel real that it’s been 3 1/2 year and that we’re done. But it’s just a proud moment, definitely, to say that we’re Gamecocks and we’ve completed this chapter.”
The athletes all took lessons from their team’s fortunes. Some got to head out on a high note, including women’s soccer players. Some, especially the football team, had bumpier roads, joining a program on a high and seeing it through a fall and rebirth.
The lessons are the larger sort one gets in four years on campus.
“It’s humbled us a lot, coming from victories to losses,” Gamecocks linebacker T.J. Holloman said. “But I feel like we can all look back on our careers and say we’ve enjoyed our time, and we’ve learned a lot from success and failure.”