Let's all close our eyes and remember what three years ago was like. We'd just come off of an SEC East title and a second consecutive win over Clemson, but the season was punctuated by a pair of deflating Georgia Dome losses. Twice denied our tenth win, it was easy to feel like we'd reached our ceiling. But a fleet of young, exciting players like Marcus Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery and Devin Taylor had us thinking there might be more fireworks in store. And help, as we'd soon find out, was on the way.
When Jadeveon signed with South Carolina on February 14, 2011—three years ago, today—it felt like the golden age of Gamecock football was nigh. Clowney had been annointed a once-a-generation recruit, even distancing himself from the other five-star players in the class. That South Carolina landed him seemed to signify an arrival of a program that was destined for greater things.
In ten years, non-fans may forget that Clowney never won a national title, never played in a BCS bowl, never even won a division. But without dispute, his time in Columbia paralleled a golden age for South Carolina football in so many ways—media regard, rivalry success, bowl victories. And he played a significant role in all three.
In a decade or more, we'll be able to determine whether Jadeveon Clowney's tenure signified the arrival of the golden age or simply was the golden age. Whatever happens, it's a three-year span that's already ingrained in Gamecock lore.