Kyle Heck/Contributing writer
Back in the fall of 2010, South Carolina wide receiver Tori Gurley was preparing to face the No. 1 team in college football — Alabama. As he rode toward the stadium and walked toward the locker room, Gurley took in the atmosphere around Williams-Brice Stadium and began to think that it could be a special day.
During pregame warmups on the field, Gurley continued to soak in everything and his eyes drifted over to some of the players on the Alabama sideline. Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Greg McElroy were all over there, players that were used to winning. In fact, quarterback McElroy hadn’t lost a football game since middle school.
As he was looking toward the star players, a thought crossed Gurley’s mind.
“You’re gonna take your first L tonight,” Gurley thought.
The rest, as they say, is history. Gurley helped the Gamecocks to a monumental upset of undefeated Alabama that night in October, and South Carolina went on to win the SEC East and play in the SEC Championship game that year.
Gurley spoke about that game and other highlights from his athletic career during the Charleston County Gamecock Club kickoff Friday night at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant. In front of a sold-out crowd, Gurley and fellow former Gamecock Perry Orth prepared the crowd for a football season that will start in just two weeks.
While Gurley shared memories with the crowd, he also thanked the donors and everyone who made it possible for him to accomplish several dreams. The first was playing in the NFL, which came true when Gurley signed a undrafted free agent deal with the Green Bay Packers in 2011. He spent parts of four seasons in the league, mostly on practice squads, but did register his first NFL reception while with the Cleveland Browns. He then went on to the Canadian Football League, where he led the league in touchdown receptions one season.
“I was able to become a vested veteran and I get my pension from the NFL,” Gurley said. “Also while I was in the league I was coming back and taking classes and I was able to graduate. I was able to double-dip and make two things happen at once. My mother was so proud, and that’s why I did it. She always said that no matter how much money I made or how much success I had on the field, she always wanted me to put that degree on the wall.”
Gurley graduated from South Carolina in 2017, six years after he finished his playing career. It was a remarkable amount of dedication that is now paying off.
Ever since his playing days, Gurley wanted to pursue a broadcasting career. He attended the NFL broadcast boot camp, where he excelled, and started making appearances on the Paul Finebaum show on SEC Network.
“It was a passion that came about from being around the game,” Gurley said of his ambitions. “At Carolina, I was the team spokesman. Whenever someone didn’t want to talk to the media, they would come up and say, ‘Hey Tori, go up and do what you do best.’”
This fall, Gurley will take the next step and travel to London to be part of the NFL’s broadcast team during the NFL regular season games played over there.
“I’ll be in London covering Alshon when the [Eagles] play there later this year,” Gurley said. “I’m very excited about the opportunity. Everything is falling into place.”
Along with Finebaum, Gurley credits CBS studio analyst James Brown as a mentor and someone he speaks to often. Recently, Gurley used his platform to make a bold prediction on the Paul Finebaum show. He predicted that South Carolina would take down the Georgia Bulldogs the second week of the regular season this year.
The Bulldogs are coming off a national championship game appearance, but Gurley is confident in a growing Gamecock team taking on a Georgia team looking to replace quite a few playmakers.
“Georgia lost a lot of guys to the draft and South Carolina had a lot of underclassmen last year,” Gurley said. “Now with these guys being a year older, playing them at home the second week of the season in that hostile environment at Williams-Brice Stadium, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Gurley fondly remembers those days at Williams-Brice and how much an impact the stadium can make when it is rocking and swaying. He received a refresher course in the passion of Gamecock fans at the Charleston County Gamecock Club kickoff and will never forget what the University did for him in his quest to accomplish his dreams.
“Tradition never graduates,” he said. “Once a Gamecock, always a Gamecock. Forever to Thee. I’m so thankful for the opportunity of someone giving me a scholarship so I could live out my dreams of playing football. The only thing I can do is thank Gamecock Nation and thank the University for being so great to me.”