Gamecock great Tori Gurley says diploma honors his mother
When Winnipeg Blue Bombers teammates started asking Tori Gurley for advice, he knew it was time to finally finish up that college degree.
“I started to look around the locker room and I’m one of the oldest guys on the team,” he said. “I’m the old guy. I’m 29. Guys were coming to me for advice, and I realized there were things I needed to do to complete myself as a man.”
He has checked off one of those things now and Tuesday participated in a ring ceremony for graduating USC student-athletes at Williams-Brice Stadium along with dozens of athletes from many of the school’s intercollegiate sports.
“Breathtaking, beautiful… My eyes are just….,” Gurley’s mother Tonja Childers said as her voice caught with emotion and tears formed in the corner of her eyes. “I’m just happy because I know Tori has been striving for this for so long. I’ll never forget when he told me he was coming to South Carolina, he said, ‘Mama, I promise you, I will get my degree.’ I call it a carpet ride. I just told him, ‘Stay on that carpet ride, stay on that carpet ride.’ Yes, we have had some challenges, but, all in all, Tori has stayed focused.”
Gurley earned a degree in psychology with the help of South Carolina’s Degree Completion Program nine years after he first enrolled at the university out of Rock Hill High School. He played two seasons for the Gamecocks and Steve Spurrier, catching 75 passes for 905 yards and six touchdowns in 2009 and 2010.
“The main reason I came to college was to graduate,” Gurley said. “My mother sacrificed so much to get me to this situation that I had to repay her by putting in the work and walking across the stage.”
Gurley posed for pictures on the field at Williams-Brice with his mother, father Kenneth Gurley and fiancée Brie Dixon.
“This is where it started, in this stadium,” his mother said wistfully.
Gurley was only a sophomore academically when he left USC, so completing his degree took a large combination of online and in-person classes. After leaving South Carolina with two years of eligibility remaining, he spent time on NFL practice squads with the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns. He played in two regular season games with the Browns.
In 2015, Gurley signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and had 58 catches for 791 yards and a league-high 10 touchdowns. After being cut by the Argonuats, he had 40 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns in 2016 with the Blue Bombers. He’s currently a free agent.
“If the opportunity comes about I would love to go play again in Canada or the NFL,” he said.
If not, Gurley will pursue his next goal of being a college football coach. He has spoken with South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp about his interest in coaching, but there are no plans at the moment for Gurley to join South Carolina’s staff in any capacity, Gurley said.
“Obviously, I would love the opportunity to do it if it came about,” he said. “Whatever it takes, I just want to coach ball.”
“I have witnessed Tori grow as a young man as far as him wanting to go out and see what he can offer to the people in the world, that’s what I am so proud of,” Childers said. “It’s just not about I. It is always about all of us and what we contribute to this universe here.”