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Five Gamecocks chosen in NFL Draft; three sign as undrafted free agents

A batch of playmakers begin their professional careers.

NCAA Football: Charlotte at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks didn’t have a particularly busy NFL Draft, but still saw five players selected to begin their professional careers throughout the multiday event: Defensive back Cam Smith, defensive lineman Zacch Pickens, cornerback Darius Rush, offensive lineman Jovaughn Gwyn and receiver Jalen Brooks came off the board.

Smith, chosen 51st overall in the second round by the Miami Dolphins, became South Carolina’s 32nd defensive back taken in the NFL Draft. Smith put together a strong career for the Gamecocks, making multiple All-SEC and All-America teams while compiling 91 tackles, six interceptions, and 18 pass breakups in 33 games played, which included 19 starts.

The Chicago Bears next made Pickens the first pick of the third round, selecting him 64th overall; Pickens is the first Gamecocks chosen by the Bears since program great Alshon Jeffrey in 2012. The tackle, who played four years for South Carolina, appeared in 47 games — starting 32 — and collected 131 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks.

Rush was the next Gamecock to go, as the Indianapolis Colts made him their fifth-round choice at No. 138. The cornerback, who originally came to Carolina as a wide receiver, tallied 78 career tackles — a high of 38 in his senior season — while also nabbing three interceptions, 15 pass breakups, and four tackles for loss. Rush and Smith became the first pair of Gamecock defensive backs to be taken in the same draft since Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu in 2021.

Gwyn and Brooks came off the board in the seventh, with the guard Gwyn going at No. 225 to the Atlanta Falcons and the receiver Brooks chosen at No. 244 by the Dallas Cowboys. Gwyn, an All-SEC selection, is tied for second in program history with 47 consecutive starts; Brooks made 58 catches for 785 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 24 games played throughout his Carolina career, and enjoyed a solid senior season with 33 catches for 504 yards.

South Carolina alums have been active after the draft as well, with three Gamecocks signing as undrafted free agents thus far. Tight end Nate Adkins (Broncos), receiver Josh Vann (Panthers) and center Eric Douglas (Buccaneers) will look to make the most of their shot in training camp.