Josh Kendall

If college athletes were paid, these 10 Gamecocks could’ve made a mint

If the NCAA decides college athletes can be compensated for their name, image and likeness, it would open the door for businesses to offer money to active Gamecocks for sponsorships.

Think as a hypothetical example: Marcus Lattimore’s face on a billboard for Love Mitsubishi — while in college. How much a player would be paid for that endorsement would be completely up to the business.

“Marcus Lattimore probably could have helped sell a lot of cars, but I don’t think there is this abundance of riches where every football is going to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t think that market exists,” said Mark Nagel, a professor in USC’s department of sport and entertainment management. “I think some of the top players will get substantial money. I think what you’ll see a lot more of is say sometime in the offseason and a business says, ‘Hey, we’re going to have half dozen guys from the football team come out and sign autographs,’ and they’ll get a couple hundred bucks.”

Former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw supports the idea, he said, while acknowledging it could have potentially negative impacts in locker rooms due to jealousy among teammates.

“Yes, athletes get their education paid for and they are appreciative, but any kind of athletic sport is a year-round deal, you are not able to pick up a job and make any sort of income,” Shaw said. “Everyone is walking on eggshells scared to accept any sort of benefit and it kind of leaves the players handcuffed and meanwhile everyone else is reaping the benefits.”

Shaw and Lattimore probably would have earned more money from name, image and likeness than any players in the school’s SEC era, but we’ve put together a list of 10 who could have made serious spending money.

Marcus Lattimore

The first name on the list has to be the running back from Duncan, who signed with the Gamecocks in 2010 and sparked the program’s turnaround. Lattimore was the 2010 national freshman of the year and led South Carolina to the SEC Eastern division title that year. He was beloved by the fan base and has endorsed everything from BBQ sauce to the South Carolina lottery since leaving the NCAA’s umbrella.

Connor Shaw

The lightly recruited quarterback took over as “program savior” when Lattimore left the team. Shaw had in spades the quality most celebrated by South Carolina fans – tenacity. He was a dual threat who won more games than any quarterback in school history with a clean cut image to boot. Shaw would have given Lattimore a run for his money in the “top earner” category if he had had the opportunity.

A’ja Wilson

Local product. Elite recruit who spurns UConn for the home state team. Leads Gamecocks to a national title. Magnetic personality. Wilson and her story have all the ingredients that would make up a picture perfect pitch person. She could sell South Carolina fans pretty much anything.

Jadeveon Clowney

Another elite recruit who stayed at home, Clowney didn’t lead South Carolina to any championships, but his national fame would have made him an intriguing figure for marketing efforts. Given that he was widely and correctly assumed to be an eventual No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Clowney more than anyone on this list could have gotten a national sponsorship deal while still in college. Think: Dodge Ram and Jadeveon can both bring you The Hit.

Stephen Garcia

Garcia was the first high-profile recruit of Steve Spurrier’s tenure in South Carolina, and he was never far from the headlines. Garcia’s popularity would have appealed to a niche market but not a small niche market in a football-crazy college town.

Michael Roth

The former Gamecocks pitcher wouldn’t have attracted any attention early in his career but after shutting out Clemson and then following it up with another great effort against UCLA to boost South Carolina to its first College World Series title, Roth would have been a hot commodity when he returned to the team the next season.

DJ Swearinger

Swearinger’s physical play made him a South Carolina fan favorite, and he had a big personality to match. The safety was not necessarily the best player on any of the teams he was on, but he was one of the most recognizable, and that’s what advertisers are looking for.

Steve Taneyhill

Taneyhill is second all-time in school passing yards with 8,782. More importantly, he was locally famous from the minute he stepped on campus. A charismatic quarterback always is a good pitchman. One with 62 career touchdown passes is even better.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Most Outstanding Player in the 2010 College World Series, Bradley would have been very marketable in 2011. He’s doing OK these days, though.

Kenny McKinley

He’s the school’s all-time leading receiver but it was his smile that most endeared him to South Carolina fans and would have made him a great pitch man.

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