Spurrier compares draft days; Shell, Ellington praised

Connor Shaw running almost full speed now

dmclemore@thestate.comApril 23, 2013 

Steve Spurrier speaks Tuesday at the Fan Fest stop in Mount Pleasant.

GOGAMECOCKS

— A lot has changed in the NFL Draft process in the 46 years since Steve Spurrier was selected third overall by the San Francisco 49ers.

In 1967, the draft wasn’t on television. This weekend it will be carried live by both ESPN and the NFL Network. And back then there were no agents. Instead, Spurrier was in the office of an attorney in Gainseville, Fla.

“We were sitting around there and we got a phone call and he said, ‘The 49ers just drafted you,’  ” Spurrier recalled. “I said, ‘49ers? I haven’t talked to anybody with the 49ers.’ I had talked to the Giants, Saints and Atlanta,” among other teams.

Spurrier recounted the experience before signing autographs, taking photos and speaking with fans at the Gamecock Club’s Fan Fest stop Tuesday at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park. The tour heads to Spartanburg on Wednesday.

Spurrier spent 10 years in the NFL, primarily as a backup in San Francisco to quarterback John Brodie.

“They basically said, ‘We want you to train behind Brodie for four or five years and you’ll be ready.’ Back in those days that was” how things worked, Spurrier said. “I did last in the league 10 years somehow. That was probably because I didn’t have to play.”

At least six Gamecocks are expected to be drafted this week.

“Hopefully, our guys will go as high as possible and make teams,” Spurrier said. “That’s what we try to prepare them to do is play in the NFL. All college coaches emphasize that we can train you and prepare you as well as anybody. I think we do that extremely well at South Carolina.”

Tough scheduling

After leading the Gamecocks to consecutive tournament appearances and 20-win seasons, crafting a schedule isn’t what it used to be, women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley said.

“I like what we’ve done with our schedule, but it’s hard to schedule games now,” she said. “People don’t want to play us anymore.”

USC is finalizing its nonconference slate for 2013-14, Staley said, and it will include games against North Carolina and Louisiana Tech.

“We will play anybody anywhere any time,” Staley said. “For us, we want the competition. We have to test ourselves to get ready for the SEC season.”

The Gamecocks’ roster also isn’t complete, as the team could still add two or three more for the class of 2013, Staley said.

Local heroes

Tuesday’s stop in the Lowcountry gave coaches a chance to praise local athletes who are making a contribution in Columbia. Among those: football’s Brandon Shell and women’s basketball’s Aleighsa Welch, both from Goose Creek High, and two-sport athlete Bruce Ellington, who starred at Berkeley High.

“Brandon Shell is a lot stronger and quicker than he’s ever been,” Spurrier said. “His work habits have been very good. Brandon should have a heck of a year.”

Spurrier and men’s basketball coach Frank Martin both spoke highly of Ellington’s athleticism and dedication.

“What he does, people don’t understand,” Martin said. “To be so good at two sports that are so demanding, and for him to be able to maintain that level of effort, talent, focus and desire, it’s incredible.”

Injury updates

Quarterback Connor Shaw is running almost full speed now, Spurrier said he was told by USC trainers. Shaw missed spring football practice as he recovered from foot surgery and is expected to be ready by June for summer workouts.

Tiffany Davis and Tina Roy are back with the team after knee injuries and will be a part of postseason workouts, Staley said.

Staff pitches in

South Carolina’s athletics department took a detour Tuesday afternoon in Charleston.

About 15 staff members spent nearly two hours at The Ronald McDonald House building a miniature car wash tunnel that children at the home can play and splash around in this summer.

The community service project is a Gamecock Club Fan Fest first, said Charles Bloom, USC’s senior associate athletics director for external affairs.

“We wanted to create a presence in the communities that we go to,” Bloom said, “and not only for the Fan Fests, but to really create a tie-in where the people in the community feel like we’re not just jumping in and jumping out. We’re contributing. This is a small token of that today.”

The car wash was a custom-made creation, complete with PVC pipe, brushes and multiple streams of water.

Tuesday’s project came after the USC staffers visited the MUSC Children’s Hospital, a stop that featured an air hockey match between a young patient and Athletics Director Ray Tanner.

The school will look to give back with one community service project each year on the Fan Fest tour, Bloom said.

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