Emotional Hayden Hurst in his final alma mater at Williams-Brice
It was the last time on the field at Williams-Brice Stadium for one Gamecocks stalwart, and likely the last time for the other as well.
As South Carolina players gathered for the final alma mater at home after Saturday’s 34-10 loss to Clemson, linebacker Skai Moore and tight end Hayden Hurst cut different images of the anguish of seeing things come to an end.
Moore lingered on the edge of the group, seemingly fighting back emotions. Then, as the music started playing, he turned toward the locker room and started going, the No. 10 on his back getting smaller and smaller as jubilant Clemson players and staffers raced past.
“It definitely hit me out there,” Moore said. “Definitely wish I could’ve gone out in a different way. Definitely felt it. It was the last one.”
Hurst stayed with the group, but his head dropped over. By the end of the alma mater, he was wiping away tears.
It’s not guaranteed Hurst will depart, but at age 25 with expectations that he would be one of the top players at his position in next year’s draft, he’s considered a long shot to return. He also walked on Senior Day.
Both players took starkly different paths to become stars in Columbia.
Moore broke into the lineup as a freshman, played three years and nearly left before an injury kept him around two more. He’ll leave with at least a share of the school interception record and likely having lead the team in tackles every season, a star throughout.
Hurst was an oddity. A big guy who played minor league baseball and came to USC as a walk-on (facilitated by former Gamecock Perry Orth), Hurst was shifted from tight end to receiver in the tumultuous 2015 season. A new staff installed him at tight end permanently, and he took massive steps each of the past two years.
Both played key roles in jump-starting South Carolina’s turnaround the past two years, and both will be missed whenever they’re gone for good.
They’ve left a mark, one Gamecocks football hopes it can carry forward.
“All the hard work that they’ve done, they kind of set the foundation for us,” Gamecocks guard Zack Bailey said of his seniors. “Bettered our team and how it’s going to be for the last couple years. Hopefully, next year we’ll set that same foundation.”