August 2016 magazine
Hereâ€™s a health, Carolina, forever to thee!
When to expect Spurs & Feathers for the remainder of the 2016 year Thank you so much for your support of Spurs & Feathers. Per our contract with the Gamecock Club, below are our remaining edition dates for the 2016 year. Spurs & Feathers schedule Aug. 24 magazine Sept. 7 newspaper Sept. 14 newspaper Sept. 21 newspaper
Sept. 28 newspaper Oct. 5 newspaper Oct. 12 newspaper Oct. 19 bye week (no newspaper) Oct. 26 newspaper Nov. 2 newspaper Nov. 9 newspaper Nov. 16 newspaper Nov. 23 newspaper Nov. 30 newspaper Dec. 21 magazine (end of year)
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langston moore: A new kind of training camp By langston moore Contributing Writer
and the same work ethic that’s been displayed on the football field is still a key to success in this field. Many of us have different goals and wants with this program, much like many players on each roster had different wants from the game. Some see themselves as a Hall of Fame players, some just want to win and be a part of a good team, others don’t have a clue at all. This camp gives many of us a clearer picture on what our next careers could look like and the steps to take to get there. Not only did this intensive camp give us a baseline of tools to work with once it’s over, it also gave us some confidence. Just like any other training camp no one is crowned “champion” once fall camp is over, it only means you’re ready for the season. As former players moving into the next phase (season) of our lives, this camp gave us reps, direction, and some confidence to attack this much like we’ve attacked our opponents in the past. Even though we no longer have training camp in the traditional football sense, having the camp life mentality is an asset. Something we learned by playing the game of football but is useful in the “game of life.” The importance of coaching, reps, and being put in uncomfortable situation is where growth and change happen. The game has changed for us, but the lessons from our playing days still continues to serve us the rest of our lives!
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It all started the same way: a desire to be good at something. A group of alpha males who are high achievers on the football field trying to do the same in a completely different vocation. Our imposing physical statures, and athletic ability that ranks us in the top percentiles of the population is limited in our new uniforms, suits. We’re handed a playbook, not with routes or defensive schemes in them but a binder full of articles and tips on being an ethical, competent broadcast journalist. We’re all armed with our new piece of vital equipment: pen, paper, and an Internet connection. No helmet to hide behind or mouthpiece to grind on when the pressure raises. Just our ideas, stats and experiences of having played this game at a high level. Every year the NFL offers a bevy of courses and professional development tools for current and former players to take advantage of. One of the most popular is the NFL broadcast boot camp, where selected applicants spend 3-4 days at the NFL Films headquarters immersing themselves into broadcasting training. The parallels between this camp and a traditional football training camp are similar. Minus the 100-degree heat, pads, physical contact, whistleblowing (OK maybe it’s not that similar) that you witness during a training camp session. These camp days are jammed packed with instruction from the best coaches, talent producers from various networks. Coaching us all the while evaluating our abilities in real world scenarios for our new game. Much like training camp, this three-day intensive made us confident physical titans for our ability and preparedness in this new field. Being on the other side of the microphone, reporting on the game that made and brought us all so much, makes some of us sweat like it was an actual football practice. Players who were Super Bowl Champions, first-round picks, reality tv stars, all-pros have the confidence and poise of a free agent trying to make a roster. Sitting at the news desk of journalists who have been in this arena sharpening their skills while we tried to make tackles and interceptions is apparent. Some of us have carried over our experience from our past lives as players that may erase some of the jitters, but the experience and talent gap is evident. We’re all reminded that we are rookies in this game and have a long way to go. The sense of anxiety and “unknown” is there, just like the first time we stepped on the field. To help quell some of this nervousness the NFL surrounded us with a host of mentors/ coaches to work with during this camp. Players who’ve made the transition to full -time broadcasting stars like Solomon Wilcots and Brian Baldinger to the impeccable James Brown. A former athlete himself who continues to perfect his craft and has worked in every arena from broadcasting hockey games, to Super Bowls, to the Olympics. Showing us that we don’t have to just be football talking heads, encouraging us to be open to other sports and platforms to work from. Surrounding us with our peers made it seem like this desire to be a broadcaster can be a reality. But much like the reality of making a 53-man roster there’s only so many spots at the anchor desk at ESPN. Theses mentors and former players who serve as our sherpa’s this week show us how this industry is changing with social media and new emerging media platforms. Encouraging us like the “old vets” on a team to take advantage of every opportunity to get in the “game” this way. The same speech most of had with veterans on how to stay in the NFL when we first arrived: “you wanna make the team, do everything to make yourself valuable.” The challenge now isn’t to tackle or out jump the opposition to make a catch. It’s tackling the story lines of the day and jumping in front of the camera to convey the news to the audience. Some echo this is more nerve-wracking than playing the game itself! Working your delivery, trying to have a clear and concise point, all the while looking in the correct camera and trying to not sweat so your makeup won’t run! You’ll find players walking, talking to themselves trying to get the right mix of energy and delivery for the broadcast similar to the days when they would stay after practice to get the techniques just right. It’s quality reps we’re after during this camp,
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s r e h t a e F & Spurs chad Holbrook h t i w w e i v r e t n i e exclusiv course of time over the majority of the games that we played, I’m very proud of the team. Obviously there are quite a
few Gamecocks representing the program at the next level both in the minor leagues and in Major League Baseball, but having a former Gamecock start an MLB All-Star game in Jackie Bradley, Jr. has to be special for your program. What are the kinds of benefits your program can receive from having a starter in an MLB All-Star game? **Editor’s note - Jackie Bradley Jr. donated an All-Star Game practice jersey for Holbrook’s Win Anyway Foundation annual auction. The jersey was sitting on a table in Holbrook’s office during the interview (above photo courtesy of Win Anyway Foundation)** We had a recruit in here yesterday and he was sitting here looking at that jersey. Obviously when you have one of your former players on the national stage at the pinnacle of the baseball world representing themselves, the organization that he currently plays for (Boston Red Sox), but also the college that he went to, it can’t do anything but help us. And it does help us. We’re awfully lucky to have a number of guys in the major leagues that want to see the Gamecocks do well and win. We love hearing from them all the time. Not only Jackie, but Sam (Dyson), (Michael) Roth, Steven Tolleson and Steve
photo by jenny dilworth
Pearce (for example). There are so many great players that have played here. We like to pride ourselves in the recruiting pitch standpoint that not only are you going to have a great experience and you’re going to get a great education, but we’re going to do our best
to prepare you for a great career in professional baseball. When you see guys experience great careers it makes our recruiting pitch ring true. You always talk about Tyler Johnson as one of the hardest workers on your team. How CONTINUED ON PAGE 7
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Spurs & Feathers executive editor Brian Hand recently caught up with South Carolina baseball head coach Chad Holbrook to talk about the 2016 Gamecock baseball season, and also to start looking ahead to the 2017 season. You have talked a great deal about how proud you were of your team this past year, but now a little bit removed from the season, what do you think most about when you think to your group this past year? It was a close-knit group. It was a group that enjoyed being around each other. I think it was a group that played hard and accomplished a lot of really good things over the course of our regular-season and had a little magical run in the regional part here after losing the first game. I think I look back on it and say, ‘man, the camaraderie, the closeness, the togetherness, having such an incredible regular-season and winning 20 games in the SEC, winning the East when we weren’t really predicted to do those things, those are the things are what I look back on.’ I hope we look back on it and say that was a team that got another special run started. They certainly had great character, and they were a joy to be around. They worked hard every day, and did everything well in the classroom. They had a terrific run. Is there a little bit of a bad taste in our mouths the way we ended as far as not being able to get out of our Super Regional that we hosted? Yes. You still feel a little bit like we fell a little bit short, but at the same point in time over the
nice was it to see him continue can be. to take advantage of his opIt’s no secret the MLB Draft portunities that he has afforded comes at an awful time, but himself and earn a spot on the now that you know which playUSA Baseball Collegiate Naers have moved on and decided tional Team? Also, do you have to stay, how does it shake up a defined role in your mind for things for your team heading him next year, or do you think into the upcoming year? he is someone that could factor We’ve been very lucky in in many different ways for the many ways. We only lost one pitching staff? high school kid to the draft in It will be an important role. Joe Rizzo (second round, 50th There is no doubt about that. pick overall to Seattle MariKids like Tyler are what create ners) (as well as getting) Carlos the joy of coaching and why Cortes, who many think is the you coach to see kids grow, to best high school hitter and is see kids develop, to see kids one of the top prospects to turn see the benefit of hard work, to down professional baseball. be around kids that are yes sir, That bodes well for our team no sir, very respectful, do their this year. work in the classroom, handle You have a Wil Crowe that’s their business. He’s all that what not quite ready in his mind, is right about being a studentand wants to be back here and athlete. wants to return. I think that says It makes it even that much a lot about the culture of our more gratifying for a coach to program. When you have a guy see those types of kids enjoy that has been here three years, success. For him to be able to and he has the opportunity to represent the country is a great go play professional baseball, testament to his work, his charbut he’s not ready to leave, I acter, how he performs, the type think that says a lot about the of kid he is. I’m sure it’s a dream enjoyment that kids have playcome true for him, and it’s a ing baseball here. That’s pretty dream come true for me to be neat. able to coach kids like him. The draft is a very unpredictAs far as the year, we’ll see. able thing. It’s part of what we Tyler will obviously be an impor- do and how we handle it. Some tant part of our staff. We’re goyears you might lose a little ing to probably go into the year more than you think you would wondering if we’re going to use lose, and some years you might him like we did Matt Price. Is he dodge it a little bit and see the going to help us win two games benefits on the field. on a weekend, or do we just We lost some that we would start him and let him focus on probably like to have back as helping us win one. That’s a difar as our current team, but lemma that we have, but a lot of we also kept some of our high it depends on Tyler’s teammates school kids that we thought as well, and what ultimately we might lose. We’re happy for will help make our team better. Gene (Cone), Dom (ThompsonTyler is open. He just wants the Williams), Taylor (Widener) and ball. He just wants to pitch. And all of the kids that have moved we’ll certainly put on to play profeshim in a role that sional baseball. not only shows They were ready, what he can do and they had and showcases great years and his talent, but they were deservAll Gamecock baseball also will gives us ing. We certainly coverage sponsored by wish them well. the chance to be DiPrato’s the best team we Speaking of Wil
Crowe, he has now been drafted twice to go along with having to sit out a long period of time due to injury. Obviously being a Gamecock means a ton to him. How proud of are you of the way that he has continued to do the right things to get himself back in position to be a key part of the 2017 season? He told me when he got hurt, “I know you’re not going to believe this, but I’m going to be your Opening Day pitcher in 2017.” And that was before the surgery ever happened, and I laughed at him and said, “Wil, first of all, you’ve got a 12-month rehab in front of you. Secondly, you’ll be 100 percent next April (2016) and the draft is in June and you’re a high draft pick, so we’ll support you whatever you want, but you might be ready for pro ball at the time.” I never really believed it, but he was steadfast and he never wavered, (saying) “I’m pitching in 2017. I want to do great things at South Carolina,” and kudos to him for having that type of attitude. Obviously we’re the beneficiaries of that, but he’s another kid that is a joy to coach. The kid loves the atmosphere here, doesn’t want to see it end and wants to make the most of his opportunity and he feels like he has some unfinished business with how his sophomore year ended. He wants to leave here on a high note. I think he’s certainly going to do it. He’s worked his tail off. He looks great. I think we’ll see a 100 percent fresh and ready to go Wil Crowe in 2017. When it comes to summer leagues, you have said before that every player focuses on different things. Was there anything in particular you wanted to accomplish as a whole from your group during summer league play, or as you have kept up with things is there anything that has stuck out to you? Just go play and get experience, and try have fun playing
and try and work on some of the things that you need to work on. We’ve had a number of guys do pretty well, but yet at the same point in time if you’re on the baseball field and you’re working every day, you’re going through batting practice and you’re trying to improve your game, that benefits our team. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a great summer per se, and if you have a bad summer it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a bad (college) season. It doesn’t really correlate. It’s just getting out there on the field, getting a little bit more confident and trying to turn your weaknesses into strengths. That’s what we talk about with summer ball, and hopefully the guys that are playing this summer will come back even more confident in themselves and ready to help our team this year. Generally speaking, that’s how it happens, regardless of what they hit (for example). Very rarely does that even have an influence. But the mere fact that they get out there and have some experience, and those guys that play all summer tend to come back in the fall ready to go, a little bit more confident, a little bit more sure of themselves and grateful for the experience they just had. Last year, you were open and honest that you were going to change some things in regards to the approach with practices and strength and conditioning going into the 2015-16 athletic year. Is there anything you expect to change in this regard this year, or were you pleased with how things went in preparation for the 2016 campaign? I don’t think you are ever content. Last year, we needed a jolt to the system so to speak with the way 2015 went. Our players are going to come into this year (1) thinking they are pretty good and (2) feeling like we have a chance to be one of better teams in college baseball, CONTINUED ON PAGE 8
and it’s going to be our coaches’ jobs to push them even harder and to practice even harder. We felt like we pushed the envelope a little bit last year because there was certainly added motivation with the way 2015 went, but I think there is even more motivation this year to even get over that last hurdle. I told them at the end of (last) year, “you set the tone, you got us back on the right track (meaning the 2016 team), and we’re going to do everything in our power from a work ethic standpoint to make sure that we keep that ball rolling and that we’re ready to be one of the last teams standing in college baseball.” I think even though we were that this year, we don’t want to be one of the last 16. We want to be one of the last eight, four, two, one. We certainly have the talent to do it. I think the guys are going to be in for a little bit of a shock because we’re probably going to work harder this fall than last fall and that’s because I don’t want them to think just getting to the NCAA Tournament and hosting a Regional, a Super Regional is good enough because around here that is not good enough. One of the things that kind of got lost in the success of the 2016 season on the field was the success off the field with the best in-season team GPA in program history. I know this is something you really cherish. How proud of you are that your team not only worked hard to win an SEC East title on the field, but also took care of business in the classroom as well as working hard in their community service endeavors? This team (2016) was terrific. In all aspects. If you judged us by every single game that we played, we played darn good in the majority of them and we won our fair share. I’m just as proud of them for what they did off the field. Their GPAs, I think our APR that year was 1,000, and the commu-
photo by allen sharpe
nity service they did when the floods hit. They were a joy to be around in every way in each and every day. Whether it was on the field, off the field, in the community, in the classroom, wherever we went they were a joy to be around. I think that contributes to the success we had, and if you recruit kids that are good kids with high character, that have a great work ethic, that are good teammates, love being around each other, it makes it very, very enjoyable for all involved in coaches, players, managers and support staff. That was the type of group that we had. Finally, plain and simple, as you look forward to the upcoming year, what excites you the most? The type of kids that we have and that we are going to be able to coach, that we are going to be able to put out there and represent this University. I
think they’re going to be a very talented group. They’ve worked extremely hard, and I think they’re high in character. I’m expecting great things. I’m expecting a great season. I’m expecting that every time we step on the field that we know if we play our best baseball that we’re going to have a chance to win, and we should win. They should have the utmost confidence in themselves to think and believe that they have a special team, and they are part of a special team. It’s going to take a lot of work ethic, it’s going to take a lot of camaraderie and it’s going to take a lot of togetherness, but they have the character to have all the intangibles that we had last year. I think also with the players that we have maybe we’re going to be a touch deeper in spots, maybe we’re going to be a touch more talented
in spots (this year) and maybe we’ll play better toward the end of the year when it comes to a Super Regional standpoint. That’s the tough thing about college baseball, which I refuse to kind of get involved in. I’m going to judge my team on what we did the entire year. It’s a very difficult sport - and even though I have a bad taste in my mouth it’s a very difficult sport to judge your team on two games. That’s why ultimately I’m proud of the team and who they were each and every day. From Sept. 1 to the last game that we played, they were a terrific group. Did we have some bumps on the road? Yeah, we had a few bumps. Was the biggest bump at the end when we were so close to making it to the College World Series? Yeah, and that makes it tough. But when you judge them on the whole body of work, it was a special group.
gamecock football game-by-Game preview By kyle heck Reporter Sept. 1: @ Vanderbilt After a season in which the Commodores showed improvement, particularly on defense, they’ll enter their season opener against South Carolina on the first day of September with high expectations. On offense, Vanderbilt returns its top two leading rushers from last year in Ralph Webb, a preseason All-SEC pick, and Darrius Sims. Six of the top seven wide receivers also return, as does C.J. Duncan, who missed last season with a torn ACL. Sophomore Kyle Shurmur won the quarterback job this summer after playing in five games last year. Shurmur threw for 503 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions during his limited playing time. Head coach Derek Mason is known as a defensive mastermind, and the Commodores will return a lot of talent from a unit that was top-30 nationally on that side of the ball last season. Linebacker Zach Cunningham, another preseason All-SEC pick, will anchor the defense after recording 103 tackles last year. In the defensive backfield, Torren McGaster and Oren Burks will lead a talented group, and there will also be improved depth on the defensive line with players like Nifae Lealao
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and Adam Butler. The Gamecocks have won the last seven meetings with the Commodores, including a 19-10 win in Columbia last year in the most recent meeting. The last meeting between the two teams in Nashville came in 2014, when South Carolina defeated Vanderbilt, 48-34. Sept. 10: @ Mississippi State The Bulldogs enjoyed a successful season in 2015-16, winning nine games under quarterback Dak Prescott, who was a Heisman Trophy contender for much of the season. However, Prescott graduated and Mississippi State enters this year picked last in the SEC West by the league’s media. The Bulldogs tangle with the Gamecocks in week two of the season as they try to prove they can still be relevant without Prescott. As of right now, there isn’t a clear answer as to who will take over at quarterback. At SEC Media Days, head coach Dan Mullen said he hopes one or two players separate themselves from the foursome of Damian Williams, Nick Fitzgerald, Elijah Staley and Nick Tiano. Prescott was the leading rusher last season, but Mississippi State will return virtually all of the rushing yards after that. Whoever wins the quarterback job will have the benefit of senior Fred Ross at wide receiver after CONTINUED ON PAGE 10
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a junior year in which Ross led the SEC in receptions per game. On defense, six of the top seven tacklers return, including senior linebacker Richie Brown and senior defensive lineman A.J. Jefferson, both of whom are preseason third-team All-SEC selections. The Gamecocks have won the previous six meetings with the Bulldogs, having not lost to Mississippi State since the 1999 season. The last meeting came in 2011 in Starkville, where South Carolina picked up a 14-12 victory. Sept. 17: vs. East Carolina East Carolina enters this season in the same boat as South Carolina in that the Pirates are also breaking in a new football coach in Scottie Montgomery. After a five-win year last season, East Carolina rolls into Columbia for the Gamecocks’ home opener looking to pull off an upset in the first year of the new era. On offense, the Pirates have little experience at the quarterback position. The leading returning passer is James Summers, a former receiver who’s going back to his old position this year. However, East Carolina does have Isaiah Jones at wide receiver, a player on the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list after a 1,000-yard season in 2015. The Pirates will have to replace Zeek Bigger and Montese Overton on defense, and linebacker Jordan Williams is the leading returning tackler after recording 81 stops last season. In the secondary, Travon Simmons is back after a team-high nine pass breakups last year. South Carolina currently owns a three-game winning streak against East Carolina. The last meeting between the Gamecocks and Pirates came in 2014 at WilliamsBrice Stadium, where the home team won, 33-23. Sept. 24: @ Kentucky A trip to Lexington will cap off a tough stretch for the Gamecocks, as the visit to the Bluegrass State will mark the third away game in the first four contests of the season for South Carolina. The Gamecocks will be looking for revenge as Kentucky has won the last two meetings between the two teams, with both games decided by seven points or less.
photo by allen sharpe
Drew Barker will enter the year as the starting quarterback after starting the final two games of the year last season. Overall, Barker completed 35-of-70 passes for 364 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He’ll have plenty of help in the backfield with the return of Jojo Kemp and Stanley “Boom” Williams, a preseason third-team All-SEC selection. The Wildcats have a lot of production to replace on defense, as the top three tacklers from a year ago are now gone. The leading returning tackler is safety CONTINUED ON PAGE 12
a buzz for Gamecock basketball By bill gunter Contributing Writer
ootball season may be nearing, but there is little doubt that excitement and anticipation for the 2016-17 Gamecock basketball season is also building by the day. Frank Martin’s ball club is coming off a record-breaking year with the most wins ever during the regular-season and the most wins overall since the 1969-1970 season. With three seniors back and a host of newcomers, the Gamecocks are looking to build upon the success of 2015-16 and they got that started this month by taking a summer trip to Costa Rica. That will be followed by a home schedule that features marquee games against rival Clemson and Big Ten foe Michigan, to go along with neutral site games against one of last year’s Final Four participants in Syracuse and NCAA Tournament participant Seton Hall. It is those facts that have created a new environment around the Gamecock basketball program. One that is filled with offseason enthusiasm for the coming season, and it has not gone unnoticed by Martin and his team. “It is a completely different animal than it was four years ago when I got here,” Martin told Spurs and Feathers. “This time four years ago, players, coaches, media, no one really wanted to talk basketball, let alone be interested in basketball season starting. Now it is a different deal. You go to a restaurant, stop at a service station, the’ 8K in 8 Days,’ people can’t stop talking about basketball. Our administration has been fantastic with people like Josh Waters, Eric Nichols, Emily Feeney. Everyone has worked really hard to build interest.” Last season, the Gamecocks averaged over 13,000 in regular-season attendance and just recently, ESPN basketball insider Jeff Goodman listed Colonial Life Arena as the seventh-toughest venue in the SEC. While that may not sound impressive at first, consider some of the games before Martin’s arrival when the arena was without any type of atmosphere or home court advantage. With excitement building for Gamecock basketball through the product put on the floor last year followed by a strong recruiting class that featured top-100 prospect Sedee Keita, fans made the trip over to Heathwood Hall this summer to check out the South Carolina Pro-Am. Commissioner and former Gamecock point guard Carey Rich has also noticed the anticipation resonating from the fan base when they have entered the gym. “As a basketball fan, I am just real excited because we are talking about basketball in July, we are talking basketball in August and that would have never happened three or four years ago,” Rich said. “There is no way that would have been brought up. I worked for a radio station a few years ago that was given directives not to talk about basketball, and that was disheartening and disappointing.” When it was announced that the Wolverines would be coming to Colonial Life Arena in November, both media members and fans treated it as big news with that being the topic of the day. For Rich, it was another sign the Gamecocks program has All Gamecock basketball taken the next step and the excitement has been coverage sponsored by Yesterdays built to another level. “The news coming out about scheduling the Michigan game and the excitement that one game generated, that would have never happened in the past,” he said. “That speaks to the success of the team and intensified interest, and now they are in a position where that interest is to sustain and people are interested all the time.” With renewed excitement and anticipation, that also causes fan and media expectations to rise. I have been on record as expecting the Gamecocks to take another step forward in the SEC and be in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth. Martin has built this program into a hard working, blue-collar unit that thrives on
photo by allen sharpe
defense and rebounding. With the additions of Khadim Gueye, Chris Silva, Maik-Kalev Kotsar and Ran Tut, he now has the height and length around the rim to really utilize his aggressive defensive mindset while having experienced perimeter players that can be the key to success in college basketball. Rich did not disagree with my assessment and offered his own thought on why believes the Gamecocks will be a strong team in 2016. “Frank has some pieces in place to be really good on the perimeter,” he said. “P.J. Dozier has to be P.J. Dozier and move forward from the struggles of last year. He needs to be really good. You know what you are going to get from (Sindarius) Thornwell. You know what you are going to get from (Duane) Notice. I look for them to play faster; the guards need to create offense. I think Martin has the personnel in place, and they are in position to be knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament again.” Tipoff may still be three months away, but there is little doubt that fans have taken notice of the job Martin has done during his four seasons in Columbia. Now armed with a new contract, a more talented roster and the support of an eager fan base already talking basketball, it appears Martin will have the Colonial Life Arena as the hot spot to be during the coming winter months.
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Minutemen do have a talented tailback in Marquis Young, who had 960 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2015. On defense, UMass will rely on the services of junior linebacker Shane Huber, who was named to the Bronco Nagurski Trophy watch list earlier this summer. The award goes to the best defensive player in the nation. Oct. 29: vs. Tennessee Two days before Halloween, the Gamecocks will host the Vols, who were the overwhelming choice to win the SEC East. Tennessee brings back a lot of talent, CONTINUED ON PAGE 13
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Marcus McWilson with 66. Kentucky also lost a lot of its pass rush, and defensive end Denzil Ware will be looked upon to step into a bigger role after recording a sack and 5.5 tackles for loss last season. As mentioned before, the Wildcats have two straight wins over South Carolina, having defeated the Gamecocks last season in Columbia by a 26-22 score in the most recent meeting. In the last meeting between the two in Lexington, the Wildcats pulled out a wild 45-38 victory over the Gamecocks. Oct. 1: vs. Texas A&M The Gamecocks will return back to Williams-Brice Stadium on the first of October to take on the Aggies in what has become an annual battle with the two teams permanent cross-division rivals. Texas A&M is coming off of an 8-5 year last season, and returns plenty of firepower on offense despite having to turn to a new quarterback. Trevor Knight, a transfer from Oklahoma, will take over as signal caller, and he’ll have the benefit of being able to throw to extremely talented receivers. Christian Kirk made the preseason first-team All-SEC squad as a receiver, return specialist and all-purpose player while Ricky Seals-Jones made the third-team as a receiver. On the defensive side of the ball, the Aggies are anchored by defensive lineman Myles Garrett, who is undoubtedly one of the best players in the country after recording 12.5 sacks and a whopping 19.5 tackles for loss last season as a sophomore. Texas A&M also returns safety Armani Watts, who was third in the SEC with 111 tackles last year. Texas A&M has claimed the first two meetings against the Gamecocks, both of which have come over the past two seasons. The last and only previous meeting in Columbia came in 2014, when the Aggies defeated South Carolina, 52-28, in the season opener. Oct. 8: vs. Georgia The second contest during what is a five-game homestand for the Gamecocks will be against the Bulldogs in what has grown to become a fierce rivalry over the last half-dozen years. The Gamecocks had a three-game winning streak in the series, but Georgia has rebounded to take two out of the last three meetings. The Bulldogs also enter the season with a new head coach in Kirby Smart, who, like Muschamp, is a defensive mastermind. Georgia lost a couple studs on that side of the ball in Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins from last year’s team, but still return plenty of talent on defense. Defensive back Dominick Sanders was a preseason second-team All-SEC player after notching a team-high six interceptions last season. Highly-touted junior linebacker Lorenzo Carter will look to take up the slack left by Floyd and Jenkins in the middle of the defense. On offense, freshman quarterback Jacob Eason has probably generated the most buzz around town for the Bulldogs. Rated by many services as the No. 1 quarterback in the country coming out of high school, he has an extremely talented backfield to help him out. Nick Chubb is coming off an injury-shortened year last season, but is certainly one of the best tailbacks in the country. He’s joined by Sony Michel to give Georgia a vaunted rushing attack. Those two will run behind a good offensive line that includes Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow, who were both on the preseason All-SEC team. As mentioned, the Bulldogs have won two out of the past three meetings between the two schools, including last year’s 52-20 victory in Athens. However, the Gamecocks won the last meeting in Columbia by a 38-35 score. In fact, South Carolina owns a three-game winning streak over Georgia at Williams-Brice Stadium. Oct. 22: vs. Massachusetts The Gamecocks will welcome in the Minutemen for the first-ever football meeting between the two schools in South Carolina’s second nonconference game of the season. The 2016 season will mark the first that UMass has been an independent program. The Minutemen compiled a 3-9 record last season, and will have to replace starting quarterback Blake Frohnapfel. The only other signal-caller to record any stats in 2015 was freshman Ross Comis, who attempted 21 passes in very limited playing time. UMass also lost the services of receiver Tajae Sharpe, who is currently with the Tennessee Titans after a 1,000 yard season last year. However, the
and will be expected to do big things this season. Joshua Dobbs returns to take the reins at quarterback, and he was named preseason second-team All-SEC at the position. Tailback Jalen Hurd was also named preseason second-team All-SEC after rushing for nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. No receiver had more than 409 yards last year, but the Vols still have threats at the position with players like Josh Malone and tight end Ethan Wolf. Tennessee is stacked on the defensive side of the ball as three players were named to the preseason All-SEC first-team, tied with Alabama for the most in the league. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin returns after racking up 105 tackles, 14 of them for loss, and six sacks in 2015. Defensive lineman Derek Barnett is also back after leading the Vols with 10 sacks last year. Headlining the secondary is veteran Cameron Sutton, a shutdown defensive back who broke up six passes and deflected seven more a season ago. After South Carolina picked up three straight victories over Tennessee from 2010 to 2012, the Vols have responded with three straight wins of their own, including a 27-24 win in Knoxville last year. The last meeting in Columbia resulted in a 45-42 victory by the Vols in overtime. Nov. 5: vs. Missouri South Carolina will host the Tigers in the finale of a five-game homestand for the Gamecocks. Since joining the SEC, the games between the two teams have been close affairs for the most part. The Tigers, in their first year under the direction of Barry Odom, have a promising young talent at quarterback in Drew Lock. As a freshman, Lock took over the starting job from Maty Mauk and started the final eight games of the year, finishing with just over 1,300 yards passing. The Tigers also return their top rusher and receiver from last season in Ish Witter and Jâ€™Mon Moore, respectively. As always, Missouri is expected to have a talented defense, headlined by preseason All-SEC second-team selection Charles Harris, a lineman who led the team with 18.5 tackles for loss to go with seven sacks last season. Missouri has taken the last two meetings with the Gamecocks, including a 24-10
win at home in the most recent meeting last season. Before that game, the last two meetings between the two were decided by a total of four points. The Tigers escaped with a 21-20 victory in 2014 in their last trip to Williams-Brice Stadium. Nov. 12: @ Florida The Gamecocks will travel to â€œThe Swampâ€? in head coach Will Muschampâ€™s return to Gainesville. That will be an intriguing storyline prior to the game, as will the fact that South Carolina will be playing at the newly named Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. With both Will Grier and Treon Harris transferring from Florida, the Gators will be breaking in a new quarterback this season. Walk-on Luke Del Rio is currently the favorite, but highly touted freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask are also in the mix, along with Purdue transfer Austin Appleby. The Gators also lost Kelvin Taylor at tailback, but will return receiver Antonio Callaway, who had 678 receiving yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. On the offensive line, both Martez Ivey and David Sharpe were preseason second-team All-SEC selections. On defense, Florida is led by defensive back Jalen Tabor, a preseason first-team All-SEC selection who tied for the team lead with four interceptions last season. On the defensive line, Bryan Cox and Cece Jefferson will help anchor a talented pass rush. In the middle, linebacker Jarrad Davis is the teamâ€™s leading returning tackler after making 98 stops last season. Florida snapped a two-game winning streak by the Gamecocks in the series with a 24-14 win at Williams-Brice Stadium last year. South Carolinaâ€™s last trip to Gainesville resulted in an exciting 23-20 overtime victory over the Gators. Nov. 19: vs. Western Carolina For the first time since 1989, the Gamecocks will take on Western Carolina on the gridiron in what will be South Carolinaâ€™s home finale and Senior Day. The Catamounts are coming off a 7-4 season in 2015. Offensively, Western Carolina will have to replace quarterback Troy Mitchell, who started every game last year. However, returning is tailback Detrez Newsome, who CONTINUED ON PAGE 22
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S&F ExcLUSIVE: Tanner starts year No. 5 as athletics director photo by allen sharpe
South Carolina athletics director Ray continues to grow. There is passion. You Tanner took some time out of his busy can talk about it and you can use those schedule to talk with Spurs & Feathers words, but to live it and to live in it is difexecutive editor Brian Hand in his office ferent. It’s true here, and that’s exciting to about the start of his fifth year as athletics be a part of that. director and much more. As we try to move forward to do things You officially began your duties as ath- the right way it’s paramount we have the letics director four years ago (Aug. 2, 2012) enthusiasm from our fan base, and the at South Carolina. What are you looking excitement about the University. forward to the most as you start year No. You obviously stepped into a new role 5 on the job? altogether when you took over as athI continue to look forward to the growth letics director at South Carolina. Do you of our student-athletes and our athletics feel as your fifth year begins that you department. I’ve been passionate about have more of an understanding of your this school for a long, long time, and to role overall, or do you feel like the athletics have been a coach here for many years director position at a top-level institution and now heading into my fifth year as like South Carolina is forever evolving? athletics director, the growth and the Without question, it evolves. This is my investment is what excites me. fifth year, and that’s what makes it excitI think we have made a lot of progress ing. Every day is different, and there are here over the years and so many people some challenges along the way, but those have been responsible for that with great challenges never bother me. Challenges coaches and you go back to (former ath- are those days that give you an opportuletics directors) Mike McGee and Eric Hy- nity to grow and to do things differently, man, and now I’m working hard with our and maybe to do things better. administration to continue to invest in I want to recognize the athletic adour student-athletes and coaches to give ministration here with (deputy athletics them an opportunity to be successful at director) Charles Waddell, (chief operata high level academically and athletically. ing officer) Kevin O’Connell, (executive What excites me the most is continued associate athletics director/sport and risk growth. management/SWA) Judy Van Horn and When you look back on your first four our senior staff, the people that feel about years as the athletics director, what sticks our student-athletes the same way that out to you the most, or I do. I express very ofwhat makes you the ten that it is our job to proudest? put our young people I think that what in positions to be sucsticks out more than cessful. anything else is the All Gamecock swimming Under your watch, and diving coverage positive excitement the athletic facilities sponsored by Aquarian at South Carolina are that we have across Pools of Columbia our fan base, and it joining the elite in the
area in the SEC and the nation. In addition to the Football Operations Center that is scheduled to hopefully begin construction in the near future are there areas where you feel South Carolina can still improve with facilities? I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but there continues to be some areas that we need to shore up, and we’re heading into phase two – we’ve completed phase one – of the Football Operations Center. The soccer building is open. Our (still under construction) track (facility) will host the 2017 SEC Track and Field Championships next spring. That’s exciting. We have a $4 million basketball project underway. We’re going to make some improvements over at Founders Park during the offseason. We’re looking at doing some other things at a couple of other facilities as we move forward to enhance their opportunities. Sometimes people will bring up whether there is an arms race (with facilities). I don’t look at it that way. We live in a great country, and college sports is excting and you invest to give young people an opportunity to be successful. Facilities is a part of that investment. One of the facilities particularly that officially opened in your first few months in charge of the athletics department in 2012 was the Rice Athletics Center. How much of an asset has it been for you and your department to have the Rice Athletics Center right across from the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center in the Roost Athletics Village? It’s wonderful. It really is exciting. You mentioned that when I first became athletics director, I got to move into this brand-spanking-new office right away. I
had lived in the Roundhouse for 12 years and I was in Founders Park for a few years and then I got a chance to be here. This is a wonderful facility, and special thanks to Joe and Lisa Rice for giving the lead gift to make this a reality. This is a venue that not only houses our administration and coaches, the Gamecock Club and the ticket office, but it’s a place to visit. It’s a place we bring recruits, and it’s one of the best facilities in the country. Last year was the first year of the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series sponsored by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture with South Carolina winning the inaugural year of the competition. You mentioned when it was first announced how you wanted to make sure and set the tone by winning year one of the competition. How special was it to see that come to fruition? We have a very strong, healthy rivalry with Clemson, and the fact that we’ve never really kept score, I thought it was neat. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers and I talked a few times and when this all came to fruition, I thought it was great. Of course you want to win the first one. We were able to get 10 of the 15 points (available). That’s exciting. Like I said, it’s a very wholesome, healthy rivalry and we were able to win the first year. We’ve had a really good year here in athletics at the University. One of the best in a long, long time, and we want to continue to be successful and be even better than we have been. The Under Armour deal finalized earlier this year puts South Carolina near the top CONTINUED ON PAGE 15
of the SEC and in the top-10 in the coun- GPA of 3.0 or better for 19 straight semestry among apparel deals. How important ters, and this year they had over 11,000 was it to get this done, and, secondly, what hours of community service. The record does it say about the athletics department streaks in these areas keep extending in your opinion that you were able to final- every year. How unique is that, and how ize one of the top deals in the country in proud are you that your athletics departthe area? ment can truly promote the Gamecocks It’s special. It sends a really good mes- being student-athletes? sage to us that your brand is important. It It’s why we’re here. was also important to me because we’ve We’re all going to be excited with been with Under Armour for quite a while. (women’s) soccer opening the athletic The original deal (April 2007) was about 10 year on (Aug. 18) and football kicks off years ago. We were part of their brand for Sept. 1, which is just a month from today a long time, and I’m excited now that we’ll (Aug.1).Wethinkabouttheeventsandthe continue to be part of their brand. excitement of college athletics and when They have evolved in a way. You look at the Gamecocks are participating, but all the outstanding athletes that they have it’s about the experience of the studentinvolved with Steph Curry, Jordan Spieth athlete and that’s getting a college degree andothers.Ithinksomebodysaidrecently, while you get a chance to play sports. It’s “it’s cool to be with Under Armour.” That’s something you’re going to do for the rest special for us. That relationship has been of your life. You don’t get to play sports great for a long time, and that’s part of for that long. There is a handful – two to the partnership. Do you have a good re- three percent maybe – that get a chance lationship? I feel like with Under Armour to make a living playing their sport, but we have had one for it’s about acquiring a long time, and it will a college degree continue. to prepare you for The South Carolina life after sports. But student-athletes have All Gamecock golf coverage it’s awfully exciting posted a cumulative sponsored by Jeffers-McGill to get to play while
you’re doing that. The job that (senior associate athletics director/academics and student development) Maria Hickman does is phenomenal. She’s very special. She has embraced the experience of the student-athletes academically along with her staff. I think a lot of athletics director would say how great their support is, but I can’t imagine that anybody has a staff and a senior associate athletics director like Maria Hickman that gets that kind of results. Now, we all know that the credit goes to the students that go to the classrooms, take notes, take the tests, but the environment that we have for academic excellence and the resources that are provided are very special. It’s exciting to continue to see that run of 3.0s across the board from our studentathletes continue. That’s exceptional. We talk about all of the hours and how we’re at the top of the SEC in community service hours, but it’s not about going out and trying to do the most hours. It’s about theculturethat’s created,and our studentathletes love being in the community. They love giving back, and being a part of the community for all those different entities that come out and support them while they’re playing their sport. It gives
them a chance to be in the community in a different way than being on a field, in a pool, or on a basketball court. It’s gives them an opportunity to have that kind of relationship in a different aspect. I know you consider the Gamecock Club a vital part of the athletics department. Moving forward, how important is it to continue to sustain or even increase the record numbers the Gamecock Club has reached over the past few years? It’s very important to us to continue to grow the support of the Gamecock Club. For many years now the money that comes in from the membership pays for all of the athletic scholarships for all of our student-athletes. We’ve got over 500 athletes now, and over 300 of those are on scholarship, so that’s important to have those types of funds to take care of that. Then there’s money beyond that from the Gamecock Club that we contribute toward our academic enrichment, so it’s very special. We have a very enthusiastic, great fan base, and our membership is great, but we want to continue to grow it. Things are going to continue to be challenging financially, and they’ve helped us meet those needs.Welookforwardtocontinuingthat.
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By Andy Demetra Contributing Writer Pursuit of happiness: Jake Williams made one of the greatest plays in Gamecock history. Then he left. Now, five years after his epic throw in Omaha, Williams has once again found baseball and a whole lot of enlightenment along the way. 4,389 miles from Columbia The sounds are the same. They always are. The crisp thwack of a bat striking a ball. The crunch of dirt underneath cleats. The snap of a glove fielding a hard throw. The stream of chatter burbling from the dugout. The sights are not. Jake Williams stands out in centerfield, at this ballpark built over an old slaughterhouse, with its wooden bleachers and grassy embankment behind home plate, and its uneven, weather-beaten wood slats for a fence, and its cavalry of pines towering behind the outfield. A hundred fans at most will watch Williams play. Afterwards he’ll slide into his car, a well-worn, forest green Volkswagen Golf with giant team logos plastered on each side. A teammate taught him how to drive stick. His commute takes five minutes up the hill; the town doesn’t have any traffic lights. Soon Williams arrives home, to a cabin set on the property of its owner, a painter and fiddler whose son also plays on the team. Jake Williams considers his surroundings - what he’s done, where he’s gone,
the darkness and discovery that have knitted together his last five years. “I know,” Williams said, “that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.” ** “This” is Rättvik, a lakeside village of 4,700 three hours northwest of Stockholm and home to the semi-pro Rättvik Butchers of the Swedish Elitserien (Elite Series). For the past two months, Williams, a Greer, S.C., native, has served as the Butchers’ player-coach. It marks his first time playing competitive baseball since he started in left field for South Carolina’s 2011 College World Series championship team. “I kind of had an open-ended feeling that I never quite finished what the game had for me,” Williams said. “This was a perfect opportunity for me to come out to a new place and to still play this game, and see how it went.”
So far he hasn’t lost his touch. Through July 24, the Butchers – so named because their ballpark sits on the site of an old cow slaughtering facility – lead the six-team Elitserien with a 12-5 record. Williams, mostly batting fifth, has a .347 average with a home run and six doubles. In his first month he won the Elitserien’s Player of the Month award, even though he hadn’t faced live pitching since the fall of 2011. In addition to centerfield, Williams has played himself at shortstop and pitcher. “I found my groove pretty quick,” says Williams, who chose to wear #5 for the number of years he spent away from baseball. “We’re making a bit of a splash. My team is the youngest team in the league by far.” It is also undeniably eclectic. His players range in age from a 34-year-old to a pair of 16-year-olds. Several of his
players have aspirations of playing junior college ball in the U.S. Others hold down day jobs: landscaper, carpenter, afterschool teacher, maintenance man. One of his infielders worked at a factory that makes Swedish crispbread for IKEA stores around the world. As a semi-pro league, the Elitserien can go more than a week without games to accommodate its players’ work and school schedules. Williams’ coaching has gotten high marks from Rättvik’s homegrown players. “He has helped me a lot both on and off the field. I can tell from my own experience with Jake as a coach and friend that I have become a better baseball player and a much more mature and better human being,” wrote Tommy Lindell, the Butchers’ 19 yearold left fielder. CONTINUED ON PAGE 17
The Elitserien has been around since 1965, and for years its clubs have imported Americans to raise the level of play and provide more advanced instruction to its native players. Williams, 27, quickly learned what kinds of challenges that entailed. He had to rid his players of bad habits such as fielding ground balls to the side instead of playing them in front of their body. He didn’t realize until after the season started that the Elitserien follows a subset of Swedish baseball rules that differ sharply from the American kind. A runner, for example, must clear the base path immediately after recording an out. Several times, Williams says, he had gotten agitated with an umpire only to learn that a different, Swedenspecific rule applied. “You have to go with the flow a little bit,” says Williams, whose stories frequently begin with the phrase “another interesting thing…” Williams chuckles. Quirks and all, he loves it here, in this town that’s billed as a center of the Swedish folk music scene. He enjoys donning the black, red and white of the Butchers (the team’s logo is an avant-garde cartoon character with a five o’clock shadow and a baseball for a body, holding a bat in one hand and a slab of steak in the other). His players are coachable. He feels a joy for the game he never thought he’d recapture. With its quaint parks, small but hearty crowds, and communal, everyone-pitches-in spirit, Williams says the Elitserien reminds him of the summer he spent in Montpelier, Vt., playing in a collegiate wooden-bat league. He first mulled a return to the game around New Year’s. Williams talked with several friends who had played overseas, and they all spoke positively of their experiences. He created a profile on an international baseball jobs website and started canvassing its pages for contact information. Williams estimates he sent his résumé to 50 different teams around the world. Several months passed without a response. Then in early April, Williams received a message on Facebook from Lindell. He soon connected him with Magnus Höglund, a former Rättvik player with a peak Swedish name who now serves as the team’s de facto general manager. Three weeks before the
Butchers’ season started, he offered Williams a roster spot. Oh, and another thing. Could he manage them too? “I was not expecting that at all,” Williams said. It turned out Rättvik’s previous coach, another American, had opted not to return for the upcoming season. Williams wrote on his bio that he had coaching experience and would be willing to do it. What he failed to mention was that his “experience” consisted of 16 games leading a freshman-laden high school JV team. “I had to quickly put together some practice plans, some themes, some ideas for the games. I had to get my stuff together pretty quick” Williams said. Undeterred, he accepted the offer. For his summer in Rättvik, the club has taken care of his lodging (he shares his
cabin with the team’s other American, a former player at FIU. They’re not exactly roughing it – the place has WiFi and a flat-screen TV). They’ve also provided him with a loaner car (the aforementioned logo-festooned VW Golf), gas money, a gym membership, free meals at one of four local restaurants, and a small stipend of Swedish krona. Williams arrived in Rättvik May 6, three games into the Butchers’ season. By the time he landed, his players had already done some research on him, eager to learn the credentials of their newest head coach. Which explains how a group of Swedish semi-pros became familiar with one of the greatest moments in South Carolina baseball history. And one of the lowest moments in Jake Williams’ life. ** Omaha, Nebraska
Standing out in left field, the buzz of 25,851 fans growing louder and louder, Jake Williams felt intuition whisper at him. “It was a bizarre little premonition that I had beforehand that this ball was going to be coming to you,” he said. South Carolina was facing Florida in Game 1 of the 2011 College World Series championship series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. The game, played on a razor’s edge throughout, was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 10th inning. South Carolina had just escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam the inning before, highlighted by an incredible dive-glove-throw home by second baseman Scott Wingo for the first out. Now, though, Florida was threatening again. The Gators had a runner on second with two outs and right-hander Mike Zunino, the future #3 overall pick of the Seattle Mariners, at the plate. Zunino took the first pitch from reliever John Taylor and laced a sharp liner into left. Runner Cody Dent darted feverishly toward third. Watching from the first base dugout, head coach Ray Tanner saw a potential walk-off loss flash before his eyes. “I can remember and see this play as we speak,” the now-USC athletic director recalls. “When that ball went in that hole, you had a left fielder in Jake Williams who knows he can make that play. It’s never easy, and it’s never a sure thing, but you’ve got a player there that knows he can make it.” Williams confirmed Tanner’s belief. The 6’1” junior charged toward the ball, scooped it, and in one swift, fluid motion unleashed a low-flying missile toward home plate. Catcher Robert Beary caught the ball approximately 10 feet up the third base line and brushed the tag on Dent as he slid by. TD Ameritrade Park erupted. It was the first outfield assist of Williams’ South Carolina career. The Gamecocks scored the game-winning run the next inning, and hoisted their second straight national title a night later. “All of a sudden I ran into the dugout. Everybody is high-fiving me, going crazy. Then all of a sudden there are these ESPN cameras in my face, and I’m on national television too,” Williams said. “It was a really bizarre feeling – a very CONTINUED ON PAGE 18
high, intense feeling.” Yet it couldn’t overcome the feelings that had been plaguing Williams for years. Unbeknownst to his teammates and coaches, Williams was in the grips of what he calls a “dark, severe depression.” He has never talked about it until now. “You would’ve looked at me and seen a smiling face. You would’ve seen a bright, young, athletic college kid who seemed to have everything going for him,” he says. He pauses. “That was a Jake Williams who was at one of the worst points of his depression that he had ever been through, during the College World Series.” He traces the beginning of it to his freshman year at Wofford, where he played two seasons before transferring to USC. Williams had always been an intellectually restless type, more likely to read an enlightening book than go out and party. “I was always seeking knowledge. I was always seeking more than just baseball,” Williams said. Added pitcher Michael Roth, his teammate at USC and Greer’s Riverside High School: “He always liked to be doing something. He wasn’t the type of guy who just wanted to lay around and watch TV on the couch.” Williams had a successful first season at Wofford, batting .348 and earning Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors. But the tightly structured life of a college athlete had begun to wear on him. All around him, at all hours of the day, Williams felt suffocated by routine. He saw the same kids walking to class every day. He ate the same meal at the same dining hall every day. He played a sport that is built on, and sometimes celebrates, tedious, single-minded repetition. “That sort of pattern just shut in my soul,” he said. He confided his depression to his parents and hoped that a transfer to USC would offer some relief. Instead, as Williams sat out the 2010 season under the NCAA’s transfer rule, he felt his depression worsen. He bonded with his new teammates and practiced with them throughout the fall, but as a transfer Williams couldn’t practice during the season. He was also prohibited from joining the Gamecocks on game days
and road trips. Being left out gave him an even more intense feeling of isolation. “It was still a lack of connection there, that I wasn’t quite on the team yet, especially being a transfer. It was very difficult being in that setting alone and going through some profoundly awful times,” he recalled. Williams started 58 games for the Gamecocks in 2011, batting .268 and establishing himself as a regular on the defending College World Series champions. Before his heroics in Omaha, he belted a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the rubber game of a hotly contested rivalry series against Clemson. But no amount of success, either for himself or his team, could scrub away his emptiness. Williams loved his teammates, but pride kept him from sharing his feelings with them. He tried on his own to cope, to no avail. Those feelings carried over to the next fall. Williams says he barely left home other than for class or baseball. He still felt trapped by the ironclad routine that baseball forced upon him. His depression grew more crushing, pounding on him relentlessly like a hammer striking an anvil. It begs a difficult question: Did Williams’ thoughts ever turn suicidal? “Let’s say it got as dark as the night could get,” he admits. “I’ve absolutely had those thoughts.” Roth, like the rest of Williams’ teammates, never knew about the depths of his struggles. “Because we’re playing baseball doesn’t mean life stops,” he said. “You still have things going on at home. You’re still facing the difficulties of life. But you’re required and called upon to play the game. Sometimes that’s a good distraction. Other times it’s not the best distraction for you.” For Williams it wasn’t. Weeks before the start of the 2012 season, he decided to leave the team. It happened so close to Opening Day, his picture was already on the Gamecocks’ schedule posters. His teammates were surprised, though Williams expected it – he long ago had become an expert at hiding his feelings. Toward the end, Tanner says he gained a clearer sense of Williams’ mental state. He understood the decision. “I knew that I was going to miss Jake. You miss him as a baseball player, but you
miss Jake as a person. He was a delight to be around,” he said. Ironically, the part of baseball that caused Williams the greatest pain resulted in what Tanner called one of his best qualities: “He gave you the same thing every day.” Williams graduated in May of 2012 with a degree in visual communications and a minor in religious studies. While the Gamecocks pursued their third straight national title in Omaha, he moved to the Buckhead section of Atlanta with a middle school friend and took a job with a medical supply company working in marketing, social media and website management. Unhinging himself from baseball, however, didn’t bring Williams the peace he had hoped. He enjoyed his job and played plenty of golf - he and his roommate lived on a par-3 course - but he ate unhealthily and gained 20 pounds. He still hated himself, still felt unfulfilled. After two years, Williams’ roommate decided to move back to Greenville. At that point, Jake Williams decided to abide another intuition, one that was far different than anything he had experienced in Omaha. “I’m leaving this town. I’m going west, and I’m going to start taking care of myself,” he thought to himself. “That’s where my conscious dive into the deep end took off.” ** Northern California Jake Williams dabbled in spiritual books long before depression cut short his baseball career at Wofford and South Carolina. A religious studies minor, he loved learning about the
theologies of the world, how different groups thought, what they believed in. “Seeking out a means to my highest self,” he described his reading tastes. Now, after two unsatisfying years in Atlanta, Ga., Williams decided to seek once again. In August of 2014 he and a cousin, Derek Kiley, jammed their belongings into Williams’ Ford Fusion Hybrid and began a road trip. Their goal: to travel the country until they found a place they loved, then move there. For Williams, the journey was part physical, part spiritual. “I had bigger and better things to seek out. I didn’t know exactly what those things were, but I always had a calling to head west. Much like my favorite author Jack Kerouac – ‘Go west! Go west!’” he said. If he hated the feeling of confinement that baseball brought him, this constituted an open act of rebellion to it. For two months Kiley, Williams and Williams’ dog, a Shiba Inu-Jindo mix named Sensei, cut a winding path west, camping in national parks and staying with relatives, guided by nothing but curiosity and their own caprice. They watched a cousin win a flat-track motorcycle race in Illinois (Williams says he has 35 first cousins scattered like dandelion chaff across the country). They went riverboat gambling in Oklahoma and ate steak dinners in Omaha and camped in Moab along the Colorado River. Williams still worked his website job; his company allowed him to work from anywhere as long as he had an Internet connection. Along the way, Williams dedicated himself to what he had long just CONTINUED ON PAGE 19
coach at Eureka High. Giacone didn’t have a basketball opening, but - as fate would have it - his baseball program had recently gained enough players that he needed to create a second junior varsity team. He started looking into the background of his mysterious cold-caller. “It was obviously a pretty good résumé from an athletics standpoint. We’re in a small, remote area in northern California. We don’t have a ton of people around with CONTINUED ON PAGE 20
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dabbled in. He became more and more interested in conscious living – the idea that a person can free himself from outside influences and makes more spiritually aware decisions for himself. “The un-learning and re-learning of universal knowledge that is within each and every single one of us. The conscious choices to love not just yourself, but every living creature,” Williams described it. He pored over conscious websites, learning about holistic care, self-realization and rapid self-healing. He researched the chemicals in food and cosmetic products that claimed to sicken his body. Williams swore off food that contained GMOs and only drank water that was alkaline and had a high pH level. He laughs recalling his and Kiley’s endless search for electrical outlets so they could make smoothies with the fruit and vegetables they packed in dry ice in their car. He came to regard his body as a sacred, ancient temple containing infinite wisdom and knowledge, to be protected from enemies both foreign and caloric. “It just became clear as day to me that you’ve got to change everything in your life,” he said. As they pushed west, Williams felt a change take hold. The more he committed himself to conscious living, the more he felt his depression melt away, replaced by a sense of peace and self-love. His extra weight slid off, even though he rarely worked out. He says clean eating and positive thinking transformed his body instead. “Negative energy and horrible thinking are stored in the stomach. It’s been proven,” he explained. Williams and Kiley dubbed their road trip “Clownin’ Across America” and wore clown noses in pictures they posted online, but in reality the trip had turned into a spiritual awakening. In the rootlessness of that summer, Williams had found a new energy, a clarity, a purpose. Kiley stopped off in Denver while Williams and Sensei pressed on. He eventually landed in Los Angeles, where he split time between a cousin’s apartment and a multimillion-dollar house that a high school friend had rented in the Los Feliz neighborhood next to Hollywood. He was invigorated by hanging around so many creative types – musicians and filmmakers and fellow conscious thinkers who were pursuing their dreams. “Great people, great vibrations, great energy,” Williams said of his four months in L.A. From there he moved to Palm Springs, Calif., staying with a cousin who shared in his conscious leanings. His cousin from L.A. mentioned a town she had lived in before, an awe-inspiring place in the middle of California Redwood country. “You have to go there,” she insisted. Williams was intrigued. He also happened to have a friend from Columbia who lived up there. How fitting, then, that Jake Williams, spiritually and physically renewed, found baseball again in a town called Eureka. ** Like many practitioners of conscious thinking, Williams believes in synchronicity, or when two events appear related but have no discernible connection. They lead people to believe that more mysterious, mystical forces are at play in the universe. Synchronicity, Williams says, led him back to baseball. By late Spring of 2015 he had settled in Eureka, Calif., a lumber and commercial fishing hub 100 miles from the Oregon border. With its coastal beaches and lush, old-growth forests, he quickly fell in love with the area’s natural beauty. He also fell in “great, deep love” with a girl he met there, Zoë Ruhf; they moved in together after a few months. (Ruhf has a colorful backstory herself: in addition to being a doula, she works with non-governmental organizations for battered women overseas. She also comes from a family of world-class boomerang throwers.) “I’ve found the spot where I was meant to be,” Williams thought. One day, Williams says his mother called him and “tells me randomly out of the blue, ‘I think you should call the high school there. For some reason I think there’s a basketball job waiting for you.’” In addition to baseball, Williams was a two-time All-Region forward at Riverside High School in Greer, S.C. Williams left a voice mail for Eric Giacone, the athletic director and head baseball
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that experience,” said Giacone, a for- guys, still had my touch a little bit. mer pitcher at Division II Chico State. That’s when I started really knowing For all he had been through, Williams that I could still do this thing,” Williams never lost his love for baseball. The said. games, the camaraderie of the clubToward the end of the season, synhouse – even in his darkest moments, chronicity struck again. This time, in the he still cherished those things. Maybe form of a 19-year-old Rättvik player on now, feeling more spiritually whole, he Facebook. could jump back in. ** Williams joined the Eureka High Log“Spiritual enlightenment doesn’t gers this Spring, taking over a team that mean you still can’t get after it.” consisted almost entirely of freshmen. “One of my players was like, ‘Man, you They went 12-3-1 and lost to Eureka’s get pretty into these games,’” Jake Wilother JV team in the county tourna- liams jokes. “There’s still a switch. I want ment championship game. Williams what’s mine, and that’s to win.” also developed some coaching traits Less than a month remains in the Elitthat would prove useful down the road. serien’s regular season, Williams’ first in “In the beginning he kind of went into competitive baseball since the Gameit with a gung-ho mentality,” Giacone cocks’ 2011 national championship. recalls. “He learned that you have to He patrols centerfield for the Butchtake each individual kid and teach them ers weighing 175 pounds, the result of what you can, and get his newfound clean them as good as you eating habits. At his can day-to-day.” heaviest in Atlanta he When he practiced weighed 225. with his players, WilIf they watched liams would occasionhim play this sumally jump in the batmer, Gamecock fans All Gamecock baseball ting cage with them. coverage sponsored by might also spot some “I’d swing with my DiPrato’s familiar equipment.
For his first few games in Rättvik, until he could break in a new one, Williams wore the same black glove he used during his famous throw against Florida. He still wears a pair of Under Armour cleats with the Gamecocks’ interlocking SC logo on the tongue. His players have already prodded him about sending them some Gamecock gear when he returns home. Williams says he has nothing but love for his coaches and teammates at USC, even though baseball helped open the door to his depression. He recognizes that he was in the early stages of what he calls his “true path to consciousness.” Baseball and life are in harmony now, connected, feeding each other in a way he never felt in college. He views this summer as a chance to finish his career on his own terms.
Not surprisingly, his conscious beliefs have given him a fresh outlook on the sport. “Baseball is a spiritual game,” Williams says. “It’s definitely a superstitious game. There’s a lot in the energy of baseball that can come out.” To unlock that energy, Williams has added a new wrinkle to the Butchers’ practice plans: once a week he leads his players in a yoga/visualization session. His left fielder has become an unabashed believer. “I think that’s one of the best things that happened in my baseball career. Now I can focus on the right stuff instead of all the bad things that can happen in a baseball game,” Tommy Lindell said. Ray Tanner must be laughing. One of his favorite phrases as a head coach was heightened awareness. “I’m ecstatic,” Tanner said when told of Williams’ return to baseball – and the unlikely place where the newest branch in his coaching tree sprouted. His conscious education also continues. As part of his new routine, Williams meditates every day. He’s fond of a technique he learned recently, where he stares at his thumb and spins around CONTINUED ON PAGE 21
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to simulate the flow of energy in the universe. He listens to binaural beats, where tones of different frequencies are played in each ear to loosen his consciousness. Then there’s his water. Williams says he talks to it. “Water has been proven to be a conductor that can literally hear and feel your thoughts and energy and your intentions that you put into it. They’ve done different experiments with water, shooting different frequencies at it, and it changes into sacred geometrical patterns,” Williams explained. He knows people may dismiss his beliefs as kooky, New Age weirdness, but it’s clear they’ve brought him peace where there was little before. His conversations are deep and cheerful, cosmic and earnest, but hardly preachy or
dogmatic. He wants to be an example of the happiness one can achieve when living a conscious lifestyle. “A being of light and love,” he says. As for the constraints of baseball life, there’s little of that in Sweden. During the summer months, Rättvik bulges with thousands of vacationers who come for festivals or the giant Lake Siljan. The Elitserien is also currently on a three-week break as many of its players represent the country in tournaments across Europe. Williams has stayed busy - in addition to leading practices with his remaining players, he’s reading four different books and working a few hours each day for his medical supply company (for all his travels, Williams, admirably, has had the same job since he graduated from USC). He promised he’d dive into the Rosetta Stone soft-
ware the club bought for him so he could improve his Swedish. In recent years he has taught himself to play the guitar, piano, ukulele, harmonica and flute; the owner of his cabin loaned him a keyboard whenever inspiration strikes. His girlfriend Zoë comes to town next month. There are areas to explore, and places to get lost, and pieces of culture to experience. Given the twists of the last few years, the question of what’s next might be a slippery one to answer. Williams hasn’t ruled out the possibility of joining a major league tryout camp when he comes home (when asked about it, he gives an appropriately Zen response: “Gotta see where the path leads”). When the Butchers’ season ends, he’s eager to start his next project: the production of a 30 for 30-style documentary on
the Gamecocks’ 2011 national championship team. He became interested in it after meeting some filmmakers in Los Angeles. Williams says he’s already gotten commitments from more than a dozen former teammates to participate. He’s also written more than 100 pages of a memoir about his life experiences. He plans on calling it “Out of Left Field.” But first he has a title to chase, something Williams knows would truly make his baseball journey come full circle. As the season progressed, he learned of another quirk of living in Rättvik: in the summer months, the town has 24 hours of sunlight. The sun never dips below the horizon. All around him, Jake Williams sees light.
photo by allen sharpe
contender after passing for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns last year to go with 1,105 rushing yards and 12 more touchdowns on the ground. The Tigers also return tailback Wayne Gallman, who racked up 1,527 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago. Another offensive boost will be the return of wide receiver Mike Williams, who suffered a season-ending injury in the season-opener last year. On defense, Clemson will once again have to replace a lot of production. The Tigers lose their top two tacklers from last year and top two pass rushers. However, linebacker Ben Boulware returns after 82 tackles last season, as well as senior defensive back Cordrea Tankersley and sophomore defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Since losing five in a row to the Gamecocks, Clemson has taken the last two meetings in the rivalry series, including a 37-32 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium last season. South Carolina suffered a 35-17 loss to Clemson in its last trip to the Upstate.
recorded 1,109 rushing yards and nine touchdowns a year ago. Linebacker Daniel Riddle is back after a stellar 2015 season in which he racked up a whopping 129 tackles. Tyson Dickson will return alongside Riddle at linebacker after leading the Catamounts with 10.5 tackles for loss last year. As mentioned before, the Gamecocks and Catamounts havenâ€™t met since 1989, where South Carolina defeated Western Carolina, 24-3, at Williams-Brice Stadium. Overall, the Gamecocks have won all four meetings with Western Carolina. Nov. 26: @ Clemson As always, the Gamecocks will end the regular-season by taking on the archrival Tigers. Clemson is coming off a National Championship game appearance, and is expected to begin the season as one of the top teams in the nation once again. At the forefront of the team is quarterback Deshaun Watson, a Heisman Trophy
Inaugural Muschamp Ladies Clinic a big hit By brian hand Executive Editor
othing shocks Will Muschamp about the passion of Gamecock fans anymore. He knows South Carolina fans are second-to-none, and the fact that his inaugural Ladies Clinic was sold out before it even began was just another reminder to him of how special it is to be a Gamecock. “It’s like everything else at South Carolina - passion, energy, loyalty,” Muschamp said. “It’s been awesome.” The inaugural Will Muschamp Ladies Clinic was held on Saturday, July 30, at Williams-Brice Stadium with the day beginning with everyone in attendance having the chance to take a special oneon-one photo with Muschamp in The Zone. During this time, all of those in attendance also had the opportunity to visit with Gamecock football legend Langston Moore about his children’s book with former South Carolina teammate Preston Thorne, “#JustaChicken, and also see some of the great things Miss Cocky has to offer. Addam’s University Bookstore was also on site, selling Gamecock football Under Armour material and much more. After a highlight video that featured loud cheers from everyone in attendance when “2001” started blaring, Gamecock football director of high school relations Clyde Wrenn started the speaking portion of the day by simply relaying to all of the ladies there, “this is your day. If you’ve got problems, forget them for four hours.” That profound statement from Wrenn led into Muschamp taking the stage to thank everyone in attendance for being there for the fun-filled experience that
also featured many coaches’ wives and families in attendance. Muschamp’s wife, Carol, was in attendance for the clinic, and he considered having their families at Williams-Brice Stadium for the event very important. “It’s important for them to be asked questions if they want to ask questions about us,” Muschamp said. “It’s building relationships within our fan base that’s really important.” During the opening hours of the Will Muschamp Ladies Clinic, the South Carolina assistant football coaches also signed autographs for all in attendance. Muschamp’s coaching staff really embraced the opportunity to interact one-on-one with Gamecock fans at the Ladies Clinic. “We’re always going to be ourselves,” Muschamp said. “They’re a personable staff. That’s why they’re good recruiters. It’s an extremely hardworking staff representing the University of South Carolina the right way.” After Muschamp finished talking about his program and introducing his staff, Gamecock co-offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks Kurt Roper then took the stage. His talk was very unique in that he explained to those in attendance how South Carolina called in plays, and other important information about the offense. South Carolina special teams coordinator/linebackers Coleman Hutzler then explained the importance of special teams before defensive coordinator/ defensive backs Travaris Robinson broke down the nuances of defense. Many current Gamecock football players were also in attendance for the Will Muschamp Ladies Clinic, and they even took questions from the crowd and much more. After their players’ panel, everyone then headed to the Williams-
Brice Stadium playing field for special one-on-one instruction in different stations. All of this was just a part of a day that included a facility tour and much more. There was also a silent auction and a raffle. Assistant to the head football coach, Kim Fields was in charge of setting up everything for the Will Muschamp Ladies Clinic, and she was extremely pleased with how everything turned out at the sellout event that included approximately 425 ladies in attendance with Anne Barretta even coming all the way from New Jersey to participate in the clinic. “It’s awesome, especially this being coach’s first year,” Fields said of the event where they tried to make sure everything would be “more hands-on with more interaction with the coaches.” Gamecock Club external operations coordinator Hayden Lipham was on site at the event as well, and he also was incredibly impressed with all of the great things taking place at the inaugural Will Muschamp Ladies Clinic. “It’s great to be here to be able to promote Gamecock football at a well-run event that gives us a chance to maybe even introduce ourselves a little more to Gamecock fans that would like to know more about the Gamecock Club,” Lipham said. “It is just awesome seeing all of these people out here.” Melissa Riley and Sarah Riley of Aiken had heard from Muschamp on the #SpursUp Tour stop in the CSRA at the Houndslake Country Club on May 18, and they were excited to be at the Ladies Clinic to hear from him again. “This is the first time we’ve ever been (to a Gamecock football Ladies Clinic), and meeting him is really cool,” Melissa
Riley said. Darnisha Allen-Jackson, who is the mother of junior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, was in attendance at the event, helping with the silent auction and hearing from her son as part of the players’ panel. Allen-Jackson was thrilled to see so many ladies in attendance to support Muschamp and the football program. “I think it’s really exciting, and it shows that Gamecock fans really have faith and believe in the job coach Muschamp is getting ready to do with these guys,” Allen-Jackson said.
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Attendance swells at second annual Lexington women’s brunch By kyle heck Reporter
photo by kyle heck
with the Gamecock Club, especially when it’s in recognition of the women’s sports because it’s such a huge value for what we provide for our student-athletes, and on the flip side what the community gives back to us,” Moritz added. “To be able to represent our program in the way that we can in front of all of these supporters is a tremendous opportunity.” For Moss, it’s important to give the coaches and administrators a platform to celebrate their achievements in front of Gamecock fans. “They need to be recognized,” Moss said. “They work as hard academically and athletically as all the other sports, and we’re
just thankful that our University supports those sports.” The month of August is an incredibly busy one for coaches as they are usually preparing for a fall season or on vacation before things start to ramp up. However, during the first two years of the brunch, several coaches have taken time out of their busy schedules to come talk about their team to the Lexington Gamecocks. “I’m so thankful for those coaches and administrative personnel for being here,” Moss said. “I know this is a tough time for them with vacations and their recruiting. It’s great to have them here, and hopefully we can get some more next year.”
Carolina. I can’t thank them enough for being here.” All -in-all, there were around 160 people On Saturday, Aug. 6, the Lexington at the brunch, and they were able to hear Gamecocks hosted the “It’s a Garnet Girls from representatives of several different Thing” brunch that celebrated women’s women’s sports at South Carolina about athletics at South Carolina. their respective teams. It’s the second annual such event, but Once again, women’s athletic teams at evendespitebeingaroundforjustacouple South Carolina enjoyed another successof years, there was a packed house at the ful year during 2015-16. Beach volleyball’s Country Club of Lexington. Robbin Moss Moritz Moritz and cross country’s Andrew of the Lexington Gamecocks spearheads Allden were two head coaches that were the women’s brunch, and was incredibly able to make it out to Lexington, and they enjoyed their time inhappy with the turnout teracting with the fans. for year No. 2. “I think it’s a great op“I was so impressed,” portunity to spread the Moss said. “We grew good news about our from last year by about program,” Allden said. 40 or 50 attendees, and “That’s special for me.” it’s so wonderful to see All Gamecock “This is always aweall these ladies who beach volleyball coverage some to come out and support women’s ath- sponsored by James W. be a part of anything letic programs at South Smith Real Estate Co.
Staley pleased with team during summer workouts photo by allen sharpe
outh Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley has been busy this summer traveling around the country to camps, the Olympics and other functions, but she was able to see her team practice a bit earlier in this offseason, and was impressed with what she saw. “The times that we’ve had our team practices, I like what I’m seeing,” Staley said. “The pace is a lot better, and that’s one of the main things we’re working on is just playing with pace and reading and reacting.” The goal for Staley and her team pretty much every offseason is to pick up the pace on the court. The Gamecocks want to play fast all the time, both on offense and defense. To accomplish that takes a great deal of conditioning, but luckily for Staley, she believes her team is in good hands with sports performance coach Katie Fowler. “I think we have the best strength and conditioning coach in the country, and this is her time,” Staley said. “This is her time to get them right for the long haul. They’re enjoying it. They’re working out and getting in the weight room and getting better. We’re on course to hopefully have more success than we had last season.” The Gamecocks did manage to win 33 games a year ago, but they were upset by Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, just one year after advancing to the program’s first-ever Final Four. South Carolina certainly has the talent to make it back to the Final Four and beyond. The Gamecocks return both Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson to anchor the post, while they also get a couple of outstanding transfer guards that are finally eligible to play this season in Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray. Both players were AllACC players at Georgia Tech and North Carolina, respectively, and will bring an excellent shooting outside touch that Staley has been looking for. The Gamecocks also have a talented class of four freshmen coming into the fold this year. The new Gamecocks are Araion “AB” Bradshaw, Mikiah Harrigan, Tyasha Harris and Victoria Patrick. Patrick and Bradshaw were both on campus for earlier All Gamecock basketball workouts with Staley, who liked what she wit- coverage sponsored by nessed initially. Yesterdays “Both of them I do believe can help us,” Staley said. “AB being a point guard, she seems to pick up things fairly quickly, which is always a great sign. Victoria, she’s probably got it a little harder than anybody else because she’s going up against Kayla, Allisha, Doniyah (Cliney), people who have a lot of experience playing at this level.”
Several former Gamecocks, including Tiffany Mitchell, Aleighsa Welch and Ashley Bruner, are currently playing professional basketball. As Staley continues to build the South Carolina program, she is hoping to make the next step to where the expectation is to consistently have players that go from South Carolina straight to professional basketball. With the amount of talent that is currently on the team, it shouldn’t be long at all until that is the case. “We would ultimately have the platform of players who go on to be very successful in professional basketball, which creates a great recruiting tool,” Staley said. “For those players who chose to come to South Carolina because they felt like we can help them check off all the things they want to be successful in, I think it’s great.”
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By kyle heck Reporter
a special evening for gamecock basketball By Brian hand Executive Editor
outh Carolina men’s basketball great Carey Rich knows sometimes it is hard to measure true impact quickly. “I’ve often said that you don’t understand a coach’s impact on a player until that player is 10 to 20 years removed from that period because if you played a lot, you are going to be happy,” Rich said. “If you didn’t play a lot, you are probably not going to be as happy, but coach Fogler for a guy like myself, he has impacted my life so, so much. He still remains the most influential male figure in my life, and I haven’t played for him since 1995.” These powerful words were more than evident the evening of Saturday, June 25, at Liberty Tap Room in the Vista in Columbia, South Carolina as the private enclosed back porch area was packed to capacity with Gamecock men’s basketball greats, former staff and South Carolina donors who have been incredibly instrumental to the success of the program over the years. Also in attendance on the special evening to honor former South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Eddie Fogler were current Gamecock men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin and athletics director Ray Tanner and his wife, Karen. Martin and South Carolina men’s basketball had over 80 teams in town for his annual team camp that day, but he made it a priority to come out and be among the Gamecock men’s basketball family for as long as he could that evening, particularly since he knows how much Fogler means to Gamecock basketball. “He didn’t coach here and then when he was done coaching get up and leave,” Martin said. “He stayed here, so that gives a continuity with a connection with the players and coaches. That’s why Ray Tanner is here. That’s why I’m here because when you get moments like this, it’s special.” Former South Carolina men’s basketball athletic trainer Jeff Parsons relayed like Martin that commitment to the community has been passed on to the players as well over the years. “It’s special how many of them have stayed in the area, and are still involved with the program,” Parsons said. This is the fourth year that this event has taken place with former Gamecock men’s basketball manager Ron Weir taking the lead on an event that started as a way to honor Fogler (as it continues to do so today), but has also now expanded to have players from many different eras of Gamecock men’s basketball represented. For example, in addition to the numerous players there from Fogler’s time as head coach, Jimmy Collins and his wife, Ginny, were there to represent the Chuck Noe Gamecock men’s basketball teams from the early 1960s. Casey Manning and Dennis Powell were both there in representing the Frank McGuire-led teams, while Carlos Powell and John Chappell were both there as part of the Dave Odom Gamecock men’s basketball teams. Even current South Carolina men’s basketball student-athletes and Gamecock men’s basketball legacies P.J. Dozier and Justin McKie stopped by for a few minutes to say hello to everyone in attendance on the evening. The Gamecock basketball family gathering has become so sizable over the years that it has become a big job to undertake for Weir every year, but he knows it means so much to so many people. “I keep telling myself it’s a lot to do, but when I see what it means to these guys, it’s worth every minute for all the phone calls, texts, emails,” Weir said. “It’s a family event. It’s a networking event. It’s an appreciation for what coach Fogler All Gamecock basketball and what coach Martin are still doing for this coverage sponsored by Yesterdays University.”
photo of rich (LEFt) with casey manning by allen sharpe
That passion for those that mean a great deal to South Carolina men’s basketball has even further been shown to Weir of late by those that have given to the “Mac Credille Men’s Basketball Manager Scholarship,” which is a currently partially endowed fund at South Carolina named in honor of longtime equipment manager Mac Credille. The special fund has been completely embraced by those within the Gamecock men’s basketball family and so many more. Tanner like Weir has been incredibly pleased to see the passion for all of this, and he was ecstatic to see so many Gamecocks in one area on a beautiful summer evening in Columbia. “This is very special with coach Fogler here and a lot of his former players,” Tanner said. “Coach Martin stopped by today and Ron Weir spent the time to put this all together. This is very special for everybody to get together, and you have a common thread - we are Gamecocks. It’s great to get everybody together occasionally. It’s so enjoyable to see everybody.” Having former Gamecock standouts back in the area for events is something Tanner considers incredibly important for all sports, and he is thrilled that over his time as athletics director that has continued to be fostered and that events like the Gamecock basketball family gathering are growing every year. “It’s so important,” Tanner said. “It can’t be every once in a while. It has to be everlasting because once you are a Gamecock, you are forever a Gamecock, and for people to come back and visit across different time frames, different years and different decades, it makes it very special. It speaks to the strengths we have here as Gamecocks.” The all-time leading scorer in South Carolina men’s basketball history, and the current associate head coach at Charleston Southern under former Gamecock men’s basketball assistant Barclay Radebaugh, B.J. McKie was also in attendance on the evening. For B.J. McKie it is special in that the summer of 2016 is leading into the 2016-17 season, which is the 20th anniversary of the Gamecocks winning the 1997 SEC regular-season championship. That, of course, also means that his son, Justin, will be a senior on the Gamecock men’s basketball team that will take the floor during the 20th anniversary campaign. “It’s great what Ron Weir has done over the last few years to bring everybody back,” B.J. McKie said of the evening. “It just speaks volumes about our program, and it speaks volumes about what coach Fogler has always preached, which is to be there for your brother and to be a family.” A two-time captain for South Carolina men’s basketball, Rich totally agrees with McKie’s thoughts on coach Fogler, and once again he is incredibly thankful that these over 20 years later on his end that Fogler did so much for them as not just basketball players, but also most importantly as people. “Coach Fogler is probably misunderstood by many because he is not a very public person and is a very private person, but he is very loyal, and that is the one thing that he has been able to plant in the minds and souls of all of the guys that played for him,” Rich, the current superintendent for recreation for the City of Columbia, said. “It’s all about loyalty, and that’s the way he coached. It’s all about trust, and that’s why you see so many guys come back and just honor him with their presence. He means everything to a lot of people.”
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University of South Carolina, Class of 1971
tommy Moody: A life in garnet and black By kyle heck Reporter It all started with a decision for Tommy Moody. Growing up in Columbia, Moody played baseball for A.C. Flora High School and knew it was something he wanted to do in college. Moody had been going to South Carolina basketball and football games for as long as he could remember, so he obviously wanted to continue his career as a Gamecock. However, Clemson was the only school that offered him a baseball scholarship, therefore giving him an extremely hard decision to make. Would he take the scholarship at the Upstate school or try and walk on at his dream school? “The problem was that (Clemson offer) came about a month before school started at Carolina, and I had just wanted to be a Gamecock for so long, and (former Clemson) coach (Bill) Wilhelm only gave me two days to make up my mind because it was his last half scholarship,” Moody said. “It was on a Friday, and he needed to know on Sunday because he had a guy from Barnwell, South Carolina that he wanted to give the scholarship to if I didn’t want it.” Moody chose to go with his gut, and the rest is history. He called coach Wilhelm to let him know that he had wanted to be a Gamecock for too long to pass up the opportunity. As it turned out, the decision proved to work fine for Clemson. “The guy he gave the scholarship to, Richard Haynes, ended up being All-ACC for Clemson, so coach Wilhelm probably got the best end of the deal,” Moody said. Moody’s decision also worked out well for South Carolina, as the local boy made an immediate impression for the Gamecocks after arriving in 1970. He was joined that year by Bobby Richardson, a New York Yankees great who was taking over as head coach of South Carolina. It was a double whammy for Moody, who was not only getting the opportunity to play for his hometown school, but getting coached by one of his childhood heroes as well. “What do you know, you turn down the only scholarship offer you get, and then you find out you get to play for Bobby Richardson at Carolina,” Moody said. “That was pretty cool, hearing those old
New York Yankees stories, and being coached at second base by one of the great second basemen of all time.” Despite being a walk on, Moody earned the starting job at second base as a freshman in 1970. He wasn’t one of the most talented players on the team, but he certainly put in the work to earn a starting spot. “It wasn’t so much my talent, it was my hustle and desire,” Moody said. “I would run through a brick wall to win a ball game, those kind of things, and I think that rubbed off on Bobby. It was just a dream come true to be able to play for him, although I’ll always be indebted to the late Bill Wilhelm for offering me that scholarship to Clemson.” Richardson gave Moody a scholarship after his freshman year, and he went on to play two more years for South Carolina. His best season came as a sophomore in 1971, when he was hitting over .300, but that campaign was ended prematurely by a broken leg. Moody also broke his ankle a month before preseason practice started, and it caused him to lose his starting job at second base. However, a strong performance in a tournament in Florida earned the job back. “The first game back from the road trip was in Durham, North Carolina, and I broke my leg,” Moody said. “It was my fault because I had tried to make something out of nothing. It was a high chopper to the third baseman (and) I should’ve been satisfied with getting the one out at second base. But I decided to try and get the double play, and when I planted my left leg, a guy who played tight end on the (Duke) football team slid into my left leg.” While the injury ended Moody’s year, it was that hustle and whatever-it-takes attitude that allowed him to make a lasting impression on Richardson. Moody left the University after the 1972 season, but returned in 1974 to complete his degree. Moody then spent nearly 30 years working for General Mills, but didn’t stop being involved in sports. In 1979, he started a college football newsletter that initially had eight subscribers. More than three decades later, he was sending copies of “Tommy’s Extra Point” as far away as California. “I just enjoyed writing about football and football trivia,” Moody said. “That was
in the George Rogers era at South Carolina, and it was just something I really got caught up in. Little did I know I would do it for 31 years.” In early 2000, Moody was faced with another decision. As a kid, he listened to baseball broadcasts from all over the country, and dreamed of someday getting a chance to call a game himself. With both the play-by-play and color analyst positions open for South Carolina baseball, Moody walked into former Gamecock announcer Charlie McAlexander’s office to see if they could use him. “I was a walk-on there too,” Moody noted. Moody sold sponsorships for the first part of his tenure, and eventually became more and more comfortable with his radio duties. He credits McAlexander and Bob Fulton for helping him throughout the process, and he immensely enjoyed his time working with radio partner Andy Demetra calling the best period in Gamecock baseball history. “So many good guys who have come through (and) classy guys in the Carolina baseball program,” Moody said. “So many have just been guys you’ll never forget. Those College World Series wins over Clemson and the national championship wins, you can’t put those into words how special that is. Andy and I have had a good time.” Moody has also been a regular on 107.5 “The Game” for many years, and is thankful for being able to talk sports every day, first in the morning and now with Jay Philips on “The Halftime Show.” Moody is still incredibly involved with the University of South Carolina. He currently serves as the chairman of the USC
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Moody (far right) emceeing 2015 Gamecock Baseball Leadoff Dinner. Athletic Hall of Fame, and was president of the University of South Carolina Association of Lettermen in 1992. There’s a lot of work that is involved with his duties, but Moody wouldn’t have it any other way. “The history,” Moody said of the best thing about being involved with the Hall of Fame. “I’ve got a library at home of Gamecock stuff. In the last five or six years, I’ve gotten into collecting old Garnet and Black yearbooks. I’ve got them from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. I just enjoy nostalgia, and I always have. That had a lot to do with my newsletter, it has a lot to do with me being chairman of the Hall of Fame (and) a lot to do with me doing baseball.” Moody made the tough decision back in 1970 to stick with his beloved University, and his life since then has been all Garnet and Black. From earning a baseball scholarship the hard way or taking on several different roles with the University, there are few as qualified to answer the question ‘what does it mean to be a Gamecock?’ “To me it’s the refusal to lose mentality, the refusal to quit mentality, to fight back no matter what the score is,” Moody said. “To fight back and make a game of it, and come back and get a big win. All those to me are characteristics of a Gamecock.”
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catching up with warren muir By Ed Girardeau Contributing Editor
s we get ready for a new season with a new head coach at South Carolina, 50 years ago, the Gamecocks were doing exactly the same thing. Paul Dietzel had left Army to become the new head coach at South Carolina. In leaving, he brought with him a plebe from West Point who would become one of the best running backs in the history of USC football. South Carolina athletics Hall of Famer Warren Muir was a redshirt freshman in 1966. In those days, freshmen did not participate on the varsity team, so after sitting out a year for the Cadets, Muir was forced to use his redshirt for the 1966 season “I had a reserve commitment of two or three years, and though this was during the time of the Vietnam War, there were enough people in the service at the time, so they didn’t need me to go active, so I was placed in a pool and they kept up with were I was,” Muir explained. For the first two seasons of his career, Muir did not have any requirements, so he went about his business of what would be ultimately an All-American senior season as 1966 laid the ground work for what was to come as the team struggled to a 1-9 record. “It was tough not being able to contribute that first year, but we added some really good players that year and in the years to come and there were high hopes for the future. Coach Dietzel always had us believing that this would be the year,” said Muir. Muir burst on the scene in in 1967 with a team-leading 805 yards rushing and six touchdowns. A 5-5 record and 4-2 in conference led to high expectations for his junior year. “We lost a disappointing opener to Duke in Columbia in 1968, but we bounced back the next week at North Carolina,” remembered Muir. “That was the most memorable game of my career. We trailed the Tar Heels, 27-3, in the third quarter. When you play football at any level, your coaches are always telling you to play until the last whistle, “it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over,” that kind of thing. I had heard that a hundred times, and it came true that day.” South Carolina rallied for a 32-27 win for their first win of the season. That was followed the next week by what Muir called his most disappointing moment at USC. “Georgia came into town the next week and they were ranked. We got up on them 14-0 in the first half. Late in the second quarter, we ran a draw play to me. I tripped around the Georgia 7-yard line after a 25-30 yard run. I might have gone the distance if I could have kept my feet, and was hit in the back by a Georgia defender on the way down,” the former Carolina fullback painfully ruminated. “I was taken to the sideline with a lower spine injury and we kicked a field goal before the half to lead 17-7. I spent the second half in the locker room and we could only manage another field goal in the second half and lost 21-20. I regret that I couldn’t finish and we let that one get away.” Muir missed the next three games, all losses, before returning and playing sparingly in a win against Virginia. USC finished the season with wins over Wake Forest and Clemson, ending the season with a 4-6 record, but a 4-3 record in the ACC. “I hated missing those games. You don’t know if one player can make a difference, but I sure would have like to have had the chance.” Muir finished the season with 460 yards rushing and six touchdowns, but it was that season that set up what was to be one of the most memorable seasons in Gamecock history for both the team and Muir. However, a wrinkle was thrown in during the summer for the South Carolina running back. “In the summer between my junior and senior year, I was taken out of the pool for the reserve and was placed in a reserve unit. It was either that or go into active duty as the Vietnam War had flared up. My time at West Point counted for my basic duty (training), so all I had to do was get into a local reserve unit.” Muir recalled. “We went in on weekends and during football season, I went in and made it up on Monday evening at Fort Jackson.”
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So while the rest of team was doing their school work and recovering from that weekend’s games, Muir was out at the fort cleaning rifles or doing other odd jobs making up for the day he missed on Saturday. It was definitely a different world in 1969. Imagine today’s All American’s having to do that type of thing. Muir’s response? “Well, I wasn’t an All American ... yet, but that might of helped me be one” He wasn’t the only team member having to serve in the local reserve unit. Future South Carolina athletics Hall of Famer Dave DeCamilla had also transferred from Army, a year behind Muir, so he, too, had the obligation to serve. “My first job on Saturday morning was to go over to the Roost (the athlete’s dormitory in those days) and wake up DeCamilla and make sure that he and I got out on time at Fort Jackson,” laughed Muir. “When we get together, we laugh about that. He’s a great guy.” Some of the jobs were not particularly hard. “I cleaned dishes or made potato soup or something,” Muir chuckled. “I helped them cook the first weekend, and I put too much water in the instant potatoes, so it turned out to be potato soup. The guy in charge said he could take care of it and threw some corn starch into to thicken it up a bit. So they didn’t let me cook anymore after that.” So while two of South Carolinia’s all-time great football players were serving their obligation to the country, the football team was able to win their one and still only conference championship in football in 1969, going 7-4 and 6-0 in the ACC, earning a trip to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Muir rushed for 969 yards his senior year, the second-most in any one season at the time to the great Steve Wadiak’s 988 yards in 1950, and eight touchdowns. For his work and the team’s great season, Muir was named All-ACC and an All-American by the American Football Coaches and the Detroit Sport’s Extra’s 33-man squad. For his career, he rushed for 2,234 yards, which at the time was second to Wadiak as well. “I’m proud of the accomplishment’s personally, but it wouldn’t have happened without my teammates. We had some great players and it’s hard to believe 47 years later that we’re still the only team to win a conference championship. I think some of those teams during George Rogers era would have won conference championships, but they were independent (USC was independent from 1972 until joining the SEC in 1992).” After finishing USC with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a brief flirtation with professional football, Muir landed in Aiken, South Carolina, and has been with Gilliam and Associates for 30 years. He has been a project manager and is responsible for all the day-to-day aspects of estimating projects for the company. They are particularly involved with the construction of Walmarts and other commercial projects. Fifty years ago, Warren Muir came to South Carolina and helped begin the ground work for a championship four years later. Muir hopes that this year puts the Gamecocks on the road to the next conference championship in the not so distant future.
Football Operations Center will be ‘game-changer’ By brian hand Executive Editor
outh Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp feels like he works for an athletics director in Ray Tanner that does his job “better than anybody in the country.” The work put in by Tanner and the Gamecock athletics staff before his arrival and since taking over the reins of Gamecock football is one of the reasons Muschamp believes everything is in place for South Carolina football to be incredibly successful for years to come. One of the areas where Muschamp particularly believes things are trending the right way is with the Gamecock football facilities. Obviously, Williams-Brice Stadium is one of the best stadiums in the entire country, and the Springs Brooks Plaza that surrounds the stadium makes the entire area easily sellable to recruits, and also a top-of-the-line experience for Gamecock fans. South Carolina has also recently upgraded the locker rooms as well as the playing surface at Williams-Brice Stadium. All of this is just surrounding the stadium grounds though, and Muschamp knows across the street from South Carolina’s world-class facility is even more elite areas that make the Gamecock experience second-tonone. Couple the Jerri and Steve Spurrier Indoor Football Facility with the new Football Operations Center that is entering phase two, and South Carolina football will have two huge pieces to help with the betterment of student-athletes as well as recruiting. “We’re building a $50 million football operations facility,” Muschamp told the media at South Carolina’s SEC Media Days appearance on Thursday, July 14. “We’ll start in January. It will take 15 to 18 months. I
think it’s going to be a game-changer for us as far as the student-athletes on our campus presently, but also in the recruiting process. We all like shiny and new. It will be, and we’ve been able to put our hands on it with the architects and get exactly what we want. We’re really excited about that process.” As noted, Muschamp knows that things are really special already right now with the Gamecock football facilities, but he also knows having one area that includes a coaches’ area, locker rooms, meeting rooms, weight rooms, training rooms, dining rooms, an equipment room and a players’ lounge allows South Carolina to have a more centralized approach. “We’ve got nice facilities now,” Muschamp told Spurs & Feathers at SEC Media Days. “They’re just fractured. They’re separate in the stadium. To get the Operations Facility, and to be able to sit down with the architects and know exactly what you want, this is what you need, this is the type of spaces, this is the meeting room space we need, this is the dining room space we need, this is the dining room space we need (is special). Everything is going to be in this facility. For our players, it’s a one-stop shop. It’s going to be just fabulous for us as a staff. Right now, our practice situation is phenomenal. We’ve got the nicest (indoor facility) I’ve ever been around and two grass practice fields with plenty of work space outside of that. To get this facility done, I’m really excited.”
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