This is the start of a new series I’ll be putting out every Friday for the next five weeks. This isn’t who I think is the best or most accomplished. These are my five favorite players I’ve ever seen. I’m only 19, so greats like George Rogers, Sidney Rice, Captain Munnerlyn, etc. won’t be included because I don’t remember them. This will be a post-2010 list. Enjoy!
Honorable Mentions: Stephon Gilmore, Pharoh Cooper, Deebo Samuel, Melvin Ingram, Tajh Boyd (was sad to see him go). Without further ado, my fifth favorite Gamecock of all time:
#5: Jadeveon Clowney
The highest rated recruit of all time chose South Carolina and immediately took the program to another level. In high school, Clowney was one of the most insane athletes ever and put up an insane highlight film. As a freshman, he had 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks to go along with five forced fumbles. On an athletic level, he was a player that Gamecock fans had never seen before.
This was one of the many times he threw Aaron Murray to the ground like a rag doll. I think he still may have nightmares of JD.
Clowney became a transcendent player in his sophomore year of 2012. He finished the season with 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks, with three more forced fumbles. Even while being double teamed on virtually every play, he was unblockable. This is the best season from a Gamecock defensive player of all-time and it’s not particularly close. He closed that season out with his best performance ever against Clemson.
Clowney finished the game with 4.5 sacks, dominating Clemson’s offensive line and honorable mention Tajh Boyd all game long. He also gave one of the best quotes of all-time when he said “I don’t know how it feels to lose to Clemson. I’m not going to know because we’re not going to lose to them while I’m here.” Spoiler alert: he was right.
During the bowl game against Michigan that season, he had the best hit in the history of football against Vincent Smith.
‘The Hit” capped off a wide range of emotions for my 13 year-old self. We had just gotten screwed by the referees on possibly the worst first down call of all-time, so I was pretty unhappy at that moment. Then, he goes and does this and I ended up being extremely happy the ref made the wrong call because it gave me and other Gamecock fans a play we will never forget.
The only reason Jadeveon isn’t higher on this list is because of a lackluster junior season in which he only had three sacks. He battled injuries throughout the year and wasn’t the dominant force he was in his first two years. Clowney still ended up being the #1 overall pick in the draft and has had a very good career in the NFL. He will always be one of the catalysts of the best five-year stretch in Carolina history, and the best athlete we have ever seen.