A few weeks ago we talked about our favorite Carolina basketball players and today we’re doing the same thing for football. So, who is your all-time favorite Gamecock football player?
Connor Shaw. From being a three-star recruit and blossoming into one of the best QBs in USC history, Shaw quarterbacked the best stretch the program ever saw. His underdog story and steadiness through every situation was something I really admired about Shaw. The game that solidified his status as my favorite player? 2013 versus Mizzou…that game exemplifies the kind of player and man that Connor Shaw is.
I’ve already written my spiel about my affection for Connor Shaw in an earlier edition of Q&A, so I’ll go in a different direction. I attended USC from 2011 to 2013, and in that span one of my favorite things to do at games was yell, “BRUUUUUUUUUUUCE!” Bruce Ellington was an enormously fun player, especially in his final two years from 2012-2013. He caught key touchdowns in big games, whether it be the game winner against Michigan in the 2013 Outback Bowl or the 4th-and-15 to keep the game alive against 2013 Missouri. He was small, nimble and consistently made fools of bigger defenders. In the post-Alshon Jeffery receiving era, Ellington was the best pass catcher from 2012 to 2013 in my opinion.
This question really isn’t fair to me. I could easily be convinced to go with at least half a dozen different guys. But gun to my head, I gotta go DJ Swearinger. I’ve yet to see another Gamecock in any sport that can hype up a crowd like he could. I have no doubts that I’ll still be gushing about moments like The Taunt and him flipping the football into the student section after a pick-6 versus Arkansas decades down the road, and I’m perfectly okay with that. He may not be remembered among the ranks of Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw, Alshon Jeffery, etc., but when it came to swag, Jungle Boi was truly in a league of his own.
I've always been a guy to appreciate effort and toughness and seeing Marcus Lattimore play exemplified that. He was the RB I watched play for USC when I started watching football, and to see him go down more than one time was just heartbreaking. He was the best running back to every play at Carolina, hands down. Sure, George Rogers won the Heisman and we love him for it. However, Marcus was something special that I probably won't see for another twenty years for the Gamecocks. He is an outstanding young man to look up to for our future generations of Carolinians, and I can't wait to see where his coaching career goes. Damn, I miss watching him bowling ball people over on Saturdays.
Picking just one favorite is hard and, like Alex, I could easily pick any one of a handful of guys to answer this question. But several of them have been mentioned already and I’ve written adoringly about #Freisman in a Q&A before, so instead of overthinking it I’m going with the first person that came to mind: Jadeveon Clowney. Seriously, how has nobody said Clowney yet!? He makes it into the top tier of Gamecock football players just based on this one play. The Hit is probably the most iconic play in South Carolina football history. They played it on a loop for 30 minutes on the SEC Network this week! Do you remember how you felt when you watched it actually happen for the first time? It was the best!
But Clowney isn’t my favorite just because of The Hit. I remember skipping class and going to the Russell House bookstore to watch him commit to us and thinking how much fun the hype surrounding him was. And then it was even more fun to watch him live up to it. The Hit is the image I most associate with Clowney, but he gave us so many great moments. Remember when he sacked Tajh Boyd a bunch of times in the 2012 rivalry game? Remember when Clowney said at SEC Media Days that Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray, the quarterbacks for two of our biggest rivals, were scared of him and we all knew it was true? Remember how much fun it was to have the player that everyone in the country watched and talked about on our team? Jadeveon Clowney was fun and amazing and I miss seeing him in garnet and black.