The man with his own statue and a street that bears his name is ready to share the spotlight.
George Rogers played a mayor’s role Saturday during South Carolina’s spring football game, shaking hands, taking pictures and sharing laughs with about everyone he came across on the Williams-Brice Stadium sideline. From “George Rogers Boulevard” to his bronzed likeness, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner has long-established popularity in Columbia. It’s a cemented legacy that’s rivaled by few others in USC history.
Last Monday, A’ja Wilson’s decorated Carolina career came to an end as the Gamecocks fell to Connecticut in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. All the All-American forward has done since is collect a half-dozen national player of the year awards. Wilson’s run – highlighted by the 2017 national championship – has caused debate among USC fans.
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Rogers thinks so.
“To me,” he said, “she's probably the best athlete to ever come through South Carolina.”
Wilson is a three-time SEC player of the year and four-time All-American. The Heathwood Hall product scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in USC’s 67-55 win against Mississippi State last April, landing her Final Four most outstanding player honors.
Rogers is South Carolina’s all-time leading rusher and only Heisman winner.
He’d put Wilson over himself?
“Oh, there ain’t no question,” Rogers said. “I ain’t done nothing for four years straight. I mean, I played for four years straight, but that was it. But All-American two years, that ain’t good enough.
“If they can make a statue of me, they can put one up of A’ja.”
Rogers said he’s had brief interactions with Wilson over the years.
“I’ve talked to her a few times,” Rogers said, “but only, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ She doesn’t need me to say something to her. She’s knows what she needs to do.”
But now what will South Carolina do for Wilson? Surely, a jersey retirement is in the near future. Rogers is eager to help beyond that.
Asked whether Wilson should have a street name after her, Rogers, who’s also connected to “George Rogers Avenue” in his hometown of Duluth, Ga., smiled and said: “She can have one of mine.”
When told he lost in the final of The State’s “Gamecock Madness” competition to former USC quarterback Connor Shaw, Rogers grinned again.
“I should have lost to A’ja,” he said. “That’s who you should have been saying is most popular, the girls basketball player that got four-time All-American and three times SEC player of the year.”