USC Gamecocks Football

Norwood’s football journey brings him back to SC – to teach

Eric Norwood gives back at football camp

South Carolina football great Eric Norwood gives back at his first football camp in the Columbia area, held Saturday at Swansea High School.
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South Carolina football great Eric Norwood gives back at his first football camp in the Columbia area, held Saturday at Swansea High School.

The world has plenty of options for Eric Norwood. With his first football camp in the books, he said hopes to open some options for younger athletes.

Retired from football after rehabbing from a catastrophic knee injury while playing for the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger Cats, he focuses principally on his trucking company in Georgia.

On Saturday, he and some former teammates were working on Norwood’s football camp at Swansea High.

“It worked out great. We had a good turnout, 50-plus kids,” he said. “It’s definitely a learning experience.”

Former Gamecock and now Swansea head coach Gregg Wright helped Norwood run the camp, along with former teammates Larry Freeman and Denver Broncos safety Darian Stewart.

Stewart went undrafted in 2010 but worked his way into a long-term starting position with the Broncos, winning a Super Bowl ring in 2016. He said camps are important to teach fundamental skills and show what it takes to train to be an athlete.

“It’s important. It’s only right for us having that experience to make sure that they know what it takes to get to that point,” said Stewart, who has hosted several camps at his home in Alabama. “We’ve got drills for the O-linemen, drills for the linebackers, the DBs, we’re teaching the game, to be an athlete.”

Norwood knows about expectations.

As a 6-foot-1, 240-pounder, he crashed into USC fame as a freshman defensive end from North Cobb High School in 2006 when he made 30 tackles, nine for loss, and had seven sacks. That made him a First Team Freshman All-American and All-SEC by The Sporting News.

Norwood kept his presence along the defensive line, and was moved to linebacker his junior year and garnered first team All-SEC honors throughout his college career and finished his senior season as a First Team All-American.

The Carolina Panthers selected him in the fourth round in the 2010 draft, but the career in Charlotte never materialized. He was released in 2012.

“It was a crazy experience,” Norwood said. “In my head I didn’t think I was going to go in the fourth round, but Carolina was a great experience for me. It didn’t pan out exactly how we all wanted to, but in the end it was my foundation for when I got to Canada.”

After a stint in the now defunct Unified Football League in 2012 and two seasons in the Arena Football League, he signed with the Tiger Cats. Norwood found his niche in Hamilton, making 114 tackles in 42 games over three years.

He was named an East Division All-Star in 2014, but while playing in the 2015 East Division Final, he tore four ligaments in his knee.

“It was pretty gruesome,” he said of the injury. “I tore my ACL, LCL, PCL, and my IT band all at once, and I was just coming off a torn MCL.”

Rehabbing the knee was successful, Norwood said, but while playing with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in early 2016, he said something about his play wasn’t right.

“After playing in two games, I sat out the last four games of the season and went home,” he said. “When I came home, I felt like, I can’t keep fooling these people, I can’t keep fooling myself. They thought I could make plays, but it just wasn’t my plays. I couldn’t play to my standard.”

Today the company he founded in 2011, Norwood Logistics, LLC, in his home of Stockbridge, Ga., gets most of Norwood’s time.

Norwood knows he has football options he intends to keep open.

“I’m still thinking about it,” he said of possibly coaching. “The only thing that’s holding me back at the moment is I’ve got a baby girl on the way. So I’m like, I’ve been selfish for a long time, let me at least wait a couple of years.”

Former South Carolina and current Denver defender Darian Stewart recalls his playing days with the Gamecocks.