Buick and SB Nation are currently running a collaborative campaign to honor athletes who shine both on and off the field. When I was asked to choose a former South Carolina player who exemplifies the Buick Human Highlight Reel ethos, a name immediately came to mind: Eric Norwood.
Norwood, who holds USC records for tackles for a loss and sacks and is one of the most decorated players in school history, is known to football fans across the SEC for his dominance on the gridiron. Carolina fans will always remember his stunning performances in big games, such as when he scored two touchdowns against Kentucky in 2007, or when he had a sack party against Ole Miss's Jevan Snead in 2009.
Norwood, though, is also a remarkable person off the field. He exemplified the concept of the student-athlete by excelling in the classroom. It didn't always look like it would be that way. A self-described "immature" high-school student who only "did enough to get by" en route to a dismal 1.8 high-school GPA, Norwood almost cost himself his chance at football glory by nearly being denied entry into USC due to his poor academic record. He was, in fact, denied admission three times before gaining entry through a special admissions process. Carolina fans can only shudder at the thought of him never having played ball for us. Fortunately, Norwood didn't make the same mistakes twice. Once he had gotten his second chance, Norwood earned his criminal-justice degree in three-and-a-half years and earned many honors for his impressive work in the classroom. His academic turnaround is one of the more remarkable stories of its kind to come out of our football program.
Norwood has also contributed his name and talents to many community-service projects. While in Columbia, he frequently served as a volunteer reader, a tour leader, a motivational speaker, and as a youth mentor to troubled kids. I don't know about you guys, but when I was in college I found it difficult enough to maintain high marks in my classes without losing my mind. Norwood did that, gave countless hours to molding himself into a great football player, and he still found time to contribute to the needs of his community. That displays a remarkable dedication to being the best person he could be. He continues this admirable behavior as a Carolina Panther in the NFL.
It's oftentimes said that major-sport college athletes, particularly football players, only care about sports and enjoying their fame. Eric Norwood did what he could to prove that that stereotype doesn't always hold. Cheers to you, Eric.
To see the rest of the Buick Human Highlight Reel, go to www.NCAA.com/Buick.