Old victories, new promise excite QB alums

pobley@thestate.comJanuary 29, 2013 

  • USC QBS REUNION

    A look at the former USC quarterbacks who attended Monday’s gathering:

    RON BASS
    ... Years at USC: 1973-74, 76-77
    ... Key stat: Led USC in passing in ’76 and 77 with 1,320 and 1,140 yards.

    TERRY BISHOP
    ... Years at USC: 1981-82
    ... Key stat: Led USC to a 23-6 road win over Wake Forest in 1981.

    BILL BRADSHAW
    ... Years at USC: 1982-84
    ... Key stat: Completed 70 percent of his passes in 1983.

    DICKIE DEMASI
    ... Years at USC: 1989-90
    ... Key stat: Threw a TD pass in 1989.

    JIM DESMOND
    ... Years at USC: 1983-85
    ... Key stat: Rushed for a touchdown in 1984.

    TODD ELLIS
    ... Years at USC: 1986-89
    ... Key stat: All-time leading passer while throwing for 9,953 yards.

    MIKE FAIR
    ... Years at USC: 1965-67
    ... Key stat: Led in passing all three season, with over 1,000 yards in 1965.

    BOBBY FULLER
    ... Years at USC: 1990-91
    ... Key stat: Passed for over 2,000 yards in both his seasons.

    JOHNNY GRAMLING
    ... Years at USC: 1951-53
    ... Key stat: First USC passer to surpass 2,000 career yards.

    JEFF GRANTZ
    ... Years at USC: 1973-75
    ... Key stat: Amassed more than 5,000 yards of total offense.

    DOBBY GROSSMAN
    ... Years at USC: 1972
    ... Key stat: Led in passing yards in 1972 with 874.

    GARRY HARPER
    ... Years at USC: 1978-80
    ... Key stat: Passed for 1,266 yards in his final season.

    MIKE HOLD
    ... Years at USC: 1984-85
    ... Key stat: USC passing leader in both his seasons.

    COREY JENKINS
    ... Years at USC: 2001-02
    ... Key stat: Passed for 1,334 yards in 2002.

    ERIK KIMREY
    ... Years at USC: 2000-02
    ... Key stat: Threw “The Fade” to Jermale Kelly in 2000 in a 23-19 win over Mississippi State.

    JACK MCCATHERN
    ... Years at USC: 1962-64
    ... Key stat: Kicked a 30-yard field goal with 1:30 to go in tie against Duke.

    BLAKE MITCHELL
    ... Years at USC: 2004-2007
    ... Key stat: Had a .607 career completion percentage.

    SYVELLE NEWTON
    ... Years at USC: 2003-06
    ... Key stat: Threw 5 TD passes against Fla. Atlantic in 2006.

    MIKE RATHE
    ... Years at USC: 2004
    ... Key stat: Had game-winning 19-yard TDpass to Troy Williamson at Kentucky in 2004.

    STEVE SATTERFIELD
    ... Years at USC: 1957-59
    ... Key stat: Led team with 180 yards passing in 1959.

    STAN SPEARS
    ... Years at USC: 1957-58
    ... Key stat: Had a TD run in win over Wake Forest in 1957.

    TOMMY SUGGS
    ... Years at USC: 1968-70
    ... Key stat: Shares the school record for most TD passes in one game (5) and never lost to Clemson during his career.

    BLAKE WILLIAMSON
    ... Years at USC: 1992-1994
    ... Key stat: QB caught at TD pass from Brandon Bennett

    ANTHONY WRIGHT
    ... Years at USC: 1995-98
    ... Key stat: Passed for almost 2,000 yards from 96-98.

If only the folks at the weekly Rotary Club luncheon had any idea what was going on next door at Seawells on Monday afternoon.

Corey Jenkins and Erik Kimrey were regaling Jack McCathern with high school baseball stories. Jeff Grantz and Ron Bass were being teased for back-in-the-day hair (Grantz’s mop) and nicknames (Bass went by “Sunshine”).

There were others — Stan Spears, Tommy Suggs, Todd Ellis, Anthony Wright and Syvelle Newton to name a few of the 24 men who shared one specific trait in common:

They were all USC quarterbacks.

This ad-hoc congress of Gamecocks nostalgia was called to order by former USC assistant coach Clyde Wrenn, acting on behalf of the USC athletics department and the Gamecock Club. The goal was to mine members of the football program’s most-prominent position in the hope of strengthening the school’s outreach and enrich its tradition.

Those things did happen during the two-hour affair. But perhaps just as important, relationships were renewed, a mutual hatred of Clemson was rekindled and an ongoing love affair with Garnet and Black was reaffirmed.

McCathern, who played in the early 1960s, remains proud of his senior year, when USC beat Clemson at Death Valley for the first time since the end of Big Thursday.

“I tell you what,” he said. “It’s surreal when you walk off that football field up there and it’s quiet.”

That said, witnessing USC win for the fourth consecutive time against the rival this past season ranks up there with McCathern’s own personal highlight. The SEC East Division title, the consecutive 11-win seasons and the back-to-back bowl victories has the school in a position McCathern never thought he would see.

“It’s unreal. We’re enjoying it,” he said. “We were always optimistic, but I’ve never seen it like it is now.”

Jenkins lives and works in the heart of Clemson country these days. Regardless of fan affiliation, this much he knows:

“Football is huge here in the state of South Carolina,” he said.

Jenkins played professional baseball before quarterbacking the Gamecocks in 2001 and 2002. By then, the baseball delay had allowed Kimrey to catch up to him at the college level.

“In high school, I was a senior when Erik was a freshman,” Jenkins said. “He still talks about the ball I hit to him at third base and how scared he was.”

That scared little third baseman is now one of the most successful high school coaches in the state. Kimrey led Hammond to six consecutive state championships.

“I never had any doubt,” Jenkins said. “He was always one of the smartest guys I ever played with.”

The baseball story, though, was worth its weight in laughter Monday.

“Of course, everybody has stories,” Jenkins said. “It’s just kind of good to see guys and catch up for lost time.”

Jenkins has made it back for USC football games, always sitting in the student section, rather than going down on the sideline.

“I’m a fan now,” he said.

For these guys, what has happened off the football field has been as revelatory as what has taken place on it.

“To see all the things that has happened around here and inside the stadium,” Jenkins said. “For me, the most amazing thing is the players’ lounge. And I love where the training room is now. The fairgrounds have been done differently and the Farmer’s Market, wow, is totally different.”

Like McCathern, all the improvements on and off the field have allowed Jenkins to crow about his Gamecock roots deep in the heart of enemy territory.

“Up north of here in that Orange and White place, I have to hear about it every day,” Jenkins said. “They’ll say, we beat this, we beat that, a couple years back and I say, ‘Guys, look, from now on we’re just going to put your games on the History Channel.’

“I haven’t had to hear that much these last four years.”

Wrenn’s aim on Monday was to turn the collection of quarterbacks loose on their former teammates. To spread excitement for an alumni groundswell via word of mouth and hopefully have that transform into publicity and money for the university.

It shouldn’t be all that difficult if Jenkins is representative of that excitement. His 2-year-old son Jasiah already is in the fold.

“We toured the stadium a while back and next thing I know, he’s already committing,” Jenkins said with a laugh. “He’s only 2, but he’s already a Gamecock. He has a football in every room and sleeps with one every night.”

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South Carolina hosted 24 former quarterbacks Monday, a first step toward better relations between the school and its former athletes in all sports. Hear below from Blake Mitchell, Anthony Wright, Corey Jenkins, Mike Hold and Ron Bass.

Blake Mitchell

Years at USC: 2004-2007

Anthony Wright

Years at USC: 1995-98

Corey Jenkins

Years at USC: 2001-02

Mike Hold

Years at USC: 1984-85

Ron Bass

Years at USC: 1973-74, 76-77

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