There have been several memorable players to come through Columbia during my time as a fan. The most decorated at the collegiate level is probably Eric Norwood, who broke a number of records, spent his entire career on All-SEC teams, and finished as a first-team All-American his senior year. The most notable player at the pro level is probably Sidney Rice, who took his place among the NFL's elite WRs last season with a 1312-yard campaign en route to the NFC Championship Game. Some other very notable players have been Cory Boyd, Jasper Brinkley, Jared Cook, Kenny McKinley, and Captain Munnerlyn. Heck, I'm even willing to call Blake Mitchell a fairly notable player; 2008 sure did have me wishing he could have played one more year.
My favorite player to don the Garnet and Black, though, is probably Syvelle Newton. My favorite memories of Newton are from 2006. He was a big part of a fairly successful campaign that season, the last in which the Gamecocks won eight games, doing so against a conference slate that was, even by SEC standards, extremely deep. Coming back off a season-ending injury the season before, Newton did just about everything that year--he put his name on just about every stat line against Mississippi State, throwing for a TD on a trick play, catching for 21 yards, and running the ball a couple of times. After more of the same against Georgia, Steve Spurrier, despondent over Blake Mitchell's passing woes, decided to give the reins to Newton, and the results were generally positive and unquestionably exciting. Newton threw five TDs against Florida Atlantic, and then went on to nearly engineer an upset of second-ranked Auburn, a loss for which Newton deserved absolutely none of the blame after a breathtaking performance. Newton as QB was up and down from there, leading us to wins over Kentucky and Vandy but failing to engineer an upset over Tennessee with Gameday in town and then finally being benched during the Arkansas game in favor of Mitchell, who thrived late in the season with better offensive-line play. That wasn't the end of Newton's season, though. Proving that he really was a jack of all trades, he moved to safety, turning in great performances against Florida and Clemson to round out the season.
One of the things you really had to love about Newton, though, was his personality, which included a well-displayed desire to show up our rivals in the Upstate. After suffering repeated heartbreak against the Tigers for most of his career, he finally got his wish in his last try against them, helping us to a 31-28 upset at Clemson. As images sometimes speak louder than words, I'm going to end this post with a memorable video showing Newton's affection for our rivals.
Heck, let's do one more Newton video.