By Ed Girardeau/Contributing writer/Photo by SC Athletics
Football is not far away now and it’s the most wonderful time of year for football fans. The Gamecocks are undefeated and the sky is the limit.
One of the best parts is reminiscing about the past. The tailgating, the smells, the sounds, the plays, and the players who made them. Who are your favorite players of the past?
In the pro game, there are quite a few to pick from. Last year, there were 24 former Gamecocks that were on NFL rosters. It wasn’t always that way.
When I was a kid Bobby Bryant was the only Gamecock who played in the NFL in the early '70s. He played 13 seasons, mostly with the Minnesota Vikings. I can remember asking my dad why we didn’t have more. Kids of today don’t know how good they have it.
ProFootballReference.com has every Gamecock who was ever on an NFL roster for a full year and you can categorize them alphabetically or by position or years played.
It also has a category that gives a weighted career approximate value (CarAV). Apparently you have to go back to school and get a degree in mathematics to figure out how they do it, but they assign a number through their matrix. I wonder how many fans could guess who has the most points of any of the Gamecocks: George Rogers, Sterling Sharpe, Jadeveon Clowney, or maybe Bryant?
It’s John Abraham. He accumulated 91 points in 15 seasons in the NFL. He made five Pro Bowls. The only other Gamecock to make five Pro Bowls was Sterling Sharpe, who played only seven seasons before his career was cut short by injury.
Sharpe accumulated 69 points in the CarAV and is third in the category. Between him and Abraham is Bryant, who was second in terms of seasons with 13. Jonathan Joseph will equal Bryant’s 13 this season. Joseph has 62 points and checks in at fourth.
In the fifth position is a name you don’t hear too often. Tom Addison was a linebacker for the Gamecocks in the late '50s and played eight seasons in the pros and accumulated 61 points. Not too shabby.
The names on the list read like a Who’s Who of Gamecock lore. Sheldon Brown, Duce Staley, Travelle Wharton, George Rogers and Robert Brooks round out the top 10 in the CarAV category. Alshon Jeffrey is 11th and stands to move up into the top 10 next year.
Where’s Clowney? He’s only played four years but he has 28 points, so he’s coming on strong.
So are any of those your favorite professional?
For me, it’s George Rogers. I may be a little prejudice as George was a year ahead of me in school. If you think he seems like a nice guy but you never met him, he is. He always has been. It was an amazing time to be in school during his run to the Heisman.
If you haven’t seen the SEC Stories call King George narrated by Gamecock Darius Rucker, you need to see it. I watched it recently a couple of times. It brings back a lot of great memories and a few that weren’t so great. Rogers was the first selection in the draft in 1981 to the New Orleans Saints. He set the rookie rushing record at the time of 1,674 yards.
Rogers made two Pro Bowls in his seven years and won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins. As big an achievement as any of his records was correcting his mistakes of his youth to make himself a great ambassador for the University. George wasn’t a great talker when we were in school, but he has made himself into a very good spokesman and I think I’m as proud of him for that as any of the accomplishments on the field.
George Rogers was a great football player both in college and in the pros.
Which leaves us with my all-time favorite college Gamecock. First of all, number one for me is my dad, Ted Girardeau. He’s my hero and he played from 1956-58. He was a lineman and played on some pretty good teams, so everybody is playing for second behind him.
We’ve had some great ones. Conner Shaw is the winningest quarterback of all time and a great young man. His teammate was Marcus Lattimore. They don’t make people better than Lattimore.
Steve Tanneyhill had a flair for the dramatic. Brandon Bennett and Harold Green were exciting to watch run. Todd Ellis lit it up in the '80s and still has the all-time record for most passing yards for a career.
But there is something about the guys you watched as a kid. Jeff Grantz arrived when I was 12 in 1972. He was a fun guy to watch play. He could do it all. Grantz could run like the wind and he could drop the snap, pick it up and take off and make huge plays. He rushed for 1,577 yards and 26 touchdowns for his career, which included his junior year when he was injured and only gained 263 yards.
He could throw it, too, passing for 3,440 yards and 26 touchdowns. Grantz saved his best for last, leading the Gamecocks to a 56-20 win over Clemson, the most points ever scored against the Tigers by USC. Carolina scored a touchdown on every possession that day, a feat which Jeff is probably as proud of as any.
Oh yeah, he also played second base and shortstop for the baseball team and led them to the finals of the College World Series in 1975. He was some kind of athlete and I’m lucky to get to know him and call him a friend.
It’s time to tee it up and go again. This year’s group will be the favorites of the future. Here’s to a great season and lasting memories.
With loyal devotion, remembering the days …
— Ed Girardeau is a 1982 South Carolina graduate and has been a columnist for Spurs & Feathers since 2012. You can reach him at email@example.com.