Andrew Provence spent his football career inflicting misery on opponents from his defensive tackle position. He set records that stood for more than a generation at the University of South Carolina and spent seven seasons in the NFL.
Today, his focus is on the opposite side of the spectrum. A licensed professional counselor, he meets with people experiencing the dark side of life — addiction, anger management, depression — and strives to help them overcome those miseries.
He received honors for his former life Thursday night, joining seven other former USC stalwarts in their induction into the school’s athletic hall of fame.
In the grand scheme, his work today means more than the 401 tackles, 35 tackles for loss and 26 sacks he recorded in three seasons (1980-82) at USC.
“(The work) can be hard, but (success) is very satisfying,” Provence said Thursday. “Helping people is what I’m here to do. It’s what I’m able to do.”
In his Christian-based counseling, he meets with families or individuals to work through their challenges. His post-football work had its roots during his college days.
“We had a strong Fellowship of Christian Athletes group, and I became motivated to have my life put in the right direction,” he said. “Then, the Falcons drafted me and the team had a strong Christian group.”
After football, he went to work with a former teammate’s ministry, earned his master’s degree in professional counseling at Liberty and began to make a difference in lives. He can inspire hope, provide motivation, coach, train, counsel and team build.
Thursday night centered on the years at Carolina for the inductees: Provence and John Saunders (1957-59) in football; Doug Allison (1984-87) in soccer; Aleen Bailey (1999-2003) and the late Weems Baskin (1948-69) in track and field; Ashley Edlund-Heidtke (1995-98) in volleyball; and Kristy McPherson (1999-2003) and Fred Wadsworth (1980-84) in golf.
Provence followed his brother Jerome, a standout offensive lineman, from Savannah to Carolina and compiled his eye-popping statistics in three varsity seasons. His record for sacks and tackles for loss stood until Eric Norwood (2006-09) topped them. Only J.D. Fuller (1979, 81-83) made more tackles for the Gamecocks.
“The Hall of Fame is a wonderful honor, but there are so many deserving players,” he said. “You can’t do anything as an individual on the football field, and I feel as if I represent a lot of my teammates.
“We had such great defensive players and (opponents) couldn’t block everybody. They always had to double-team Rickey Hagood and Emanuel Weaver, and that allowed me to make some tackles.”
Provence is too modest. Linebackers — not defensive tackles — dominate the list of leading tacklers at almost every school, and Andrew Provence is the only lineman among the top 10 in Carolina history.
“I’m being recognized for something that happened 27 years ago and it’s nice to be remembered,” he said. “But sometimes fans forget that college players are a bunch of 18-21 year-olds, not grown men, and they’re going to make mistakes.”
Provence and Angie, his wife of 27 years, have nine children ages 9-25 and live in Metro Atlanta. The location — coupled with the Gamecocks’ 17-6 victory over Georgia on Saturday and the Hall of Fame induction — has made this a satisfying week.
“A lot of our neighbors have red flags with a big, black ‘G’ in the center, and there aren’t many Gamecocks around,” he said.
But those two Carolina flags flying from his car reminded that one Gamecocks lives in their neighborhood — and he ranks with the best, both then and now.