The “Mt. Rushmore of…” thing comes up in sports discussions (and other facets of life) on occasion. Last week listening to sports talk radio in Atlanta they were talking about the Braves’ Mt. Rushmore and who would be on it.
I tweeted a question to our followers that night about who would make the Mt. Rushmore of Gamecock football and got several responses. There are some givens, but there were also some surprising responses (IMHO). So I decided to go through who the contenders are (IMHO), and then give you the definitive TRC Mt. Rushmore of Gamecock Football.
What does the Mt. Rushmore of Gamecock Football mean? Hell, I don’t know. But I tried to come up with people who I feel have been the greatest players or coaches, most memorable player or coaches, and had the greatest impact on the Gamecock football program over its history. I included mostly players, and one coach. Could a case for an AD or other administrator be made? Maybe even a fan or booster? Sure, but I couldn’t think of any to include in my list.
Again, these are my humble opinions (IMHO), so don’t get too bent out of shape if your favorite Gamecock didn’t make the list. Also, Mt. Rushmore has FOUR people. No more. No less. So if you think someone should have their face carved in stone, remember, you have a make a case for them that’s stronger than my final four. Good luck.
Steve Wadiak (RB, 1948-1951) – Perhaps the best and most memorable football player in the first 70 years of Gamecock football. Still ranks fourth all-time and South Carolina in rushing yards with 2,878. Southern Conference player of the year in 1950 and was mentioned on a few All-America teams. Was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but tragically died in a car accident in March of 1952. Jersey number 37 is retired.
The verdict: If the Gamecock football Mt. Rushmore had been built prior to 2010, there is no doubt Wadiak would be a part of it. But now, while it’s hard to leave him off, it’s also difficult to find a spot for him. For me, it came down to Wadiak and Lattimore for the final spot.
Jeff Grantz (QB , 1973-1975) – If this was a Mt. Rushmore of Gamecock athletes as opposed to Gamecock football players, Grantz would be a shoo-in. He was a second-team All-America quarterback and was also an integral part of three USC baseball teams, including the 1975 College World Series team. Besides a 260-yard rushing game, his overall numbers don’t exactly dazzle, but then again football was a different game in the 70’s.
The verdict: The old-timers would tell you you’re crazy for leaving Grantz off, but there are just too many ahead of him.
George Rogers (RB, 1977-1980) – 1980 Heisman Trophy winner.
The verdict: 1980 Heisman Trophy winner, he’s in.
Sterling Sharpe (WR, 1983-1987) – I made the case for Sharpe as the greatest Gamecock football player ever back in 2010. I still think that is the case, for now. There are few clips left of Sharpe as a collegian, and that is a shame, as he was the most electric football player I have ever seen in person. A two-time All-American, he was headed for the NFL Hall of Fame before a neck injury cut his career short. Has been a successful analyst for ESPN and the NFL Network for years.
The verdict: A no-doubter in my mind.
Steve Taneyhill (QB, 1992-1995) – The long-haired QB from Pennsylvania led the Gamecocks to their first ever bowl victory. Getting that monkey of the collective Gamecock Nation back puts him the running automatically. But he was also a pretty darned good quarterback and holds the single-season records for TDs (29), completion percentage (67%), and total completions (261), and the career record for TDs with 62.
The verdict: I’m sure there will be some wondering why Todd Ellis didn’t get consideration and Taneyhill did. The deciding factor was that, from a national perspective, #18 was the easily most recognizable Gamecock between Rogers and Holtz, a span of almost 20 years. Even so, Taneyhill doesn’t make the cut.
John Abraham (DE, 1996-1999) – Prior to a guy named Clowney, the best defensive end to ever play in a USC uniform. However, he had the misfortune of playing on the two worst Gamecock football teams ever. Led the team in sacks all four years at USC, and is still one of the most dominant ends in the NFL at age 34. Borderline Hall of Famer.
The verdict: Didn’t get the pub because of the teams he played on, but Abraham was on par with Jadeveon Clowney as far as dominance at the DE position. (His NFL career if proof of that.) Closer to being in stone than you might think, but doesn’t quite make it.
Sidney Rice (WR, 2005-2006) – Depending on whose opinion you’re getting, no worse than the third best wide receiver in USC history, Rice broke multiple records in his two seasons on the gridiron. Finished with 2233 yards and 23 TD catches, including the single-season record of 13. Despite injury problems, currently one of the more dangerous wideouts in the NFL.
The verdict: Just a spectacular player, has more than proven his worth at the highest level. Would’ve loved to have seen him play for SOS for at least one more year. But with only two years on the field he doesn’t make the cut.
Alshon Jeffery (WR, 2009-2011) – Dominant and doggone fun to watch. Holds the record for catches and yards in a single season (88-1517). Didn’t really come onto the scene until halfway through his freshman year, and then had a sub-par junior season, but everything in between was downright spectacular. Just ask #1 ranked Alabama.
The verdict: There were a surprising number of tweets that mentioned #1 for Gamecock Mt. Rushmore. As great as he was, he doesn’t make the list for me.
Marcus Lattimore (RB, 2010-2012) – I don’t think I need to go into much detail as to why he’s on the list here. Considered as much for what he has meant to the program off the field for his considerable accomplishments on the field.
The verdict: As I said above, the fourth spot to me came down to Wadiak and Lattimore, and really it’s a toss-up. I went with Latti because I feel like he might be the most beloved Gamecock of all time, and think his legacy will be lasting.
Jadeveon Clowney (DE, 2011-present) – On his way to being the most dominant Gamecock defender ever.
The verdict: “On his way…” Check back this time next year and maybe he gets a spot in stone, but as of today he’s not quite there yet.
Steve Spurrier (HBC, 2005-present) – Winningest head coach ever at USC. Has had more impact on our football program than any other individual.
The verdict: The last three years make this one a no-brainer.
Others considered – Paul Dietzel, Andrew Provence, Robert Brooks, Todd Ellis, Lou Holtz
And, drumroll please, here is the TRC Gamecock Football Mt. Rushmore: