Gamecocks lore full of interesting tales

Beat writer Josh Kendall’s new book shows elevated status of the USC football program

nwhite@thestate.comSeptember 21, 2013 

  • THE SERIES

    1: 2001: Opening for Elvis and the Gamecocks

    2: Marcus Lattimore -- A Difference Maker

    3: The Turnaround

    4: Defensive Back U

    5: Beating No. 1 -- The Trifecta

Josh Kendall learned a lot about the South Carolina football program while researching and writing his new book, “100 Things South Carolina Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.”

Now, the USC football beat writer for The State hopes the fans can experience the same level of discovery when they read the book.

“Hopefully, they’ll learn something in every chapter. Clearly, they know who Steve Spurrier is, but maybe they’ll learn something new about him,” Kendall said. “I learned a ton about guys that I really didn’t know about, like Bobby Bryant, who played 14 years with Minnesota on some of the most famous NFL teams in history.”

Kendall, a Georgia graduate who covered the Bulldogs’ athletics teams for nine years, began covering USC football at the start of the 2010 season, which coincided with the greatest three-year stretch in the program’s history.

As the Gamecocks rolled to a 31-9 record in that period, which included a pair of record-setting 11-win seasons and victories in both the Capital One and Outback Bowls, interest has skyrocketed in the program on both local and national levels. Kendall called that a key to getting the book published by Triumph Books, which has produced similar books about other collegiate programs.

“The fact they were willing to do one now on South Carolina is a credit to the football program’s recent increase in profile the last three years,” Kendall said. “They decided the market was right.”

The 272-page book is divided into 100 chapters, with each one documenting a great player, special moment, unique personality or off-the-field connection. They chronicle the good, the bad and the off-beat — both people and events — that comprise USC’s 120-year football history — from Bob Fulton to George Rogers to Cocky to the 1984 Navy game to “Sunshine” Ron Bass to The Hit.

“I didn’t try to rank the greatest moments at all. I tried to make it what the title says — things you should know,” Kendall said. “Even if you’re a South Carolina fan, maybe you don’t know about this guy or that guy, and it could be an interesting part of school history that you should know.”

Kendall, for instance, didn’t just learn about Bryant, who played baseball and football from 1964-67. He also discovered more about some of the long-ago legends, such as Tatum Gressette, Earl Clary, Lou Sossamon and Dom Fusci.

“Even the most diehard fans may not know who Tatum Gressette is,” he said.

He gathered the stories from those who led teams to glorious wins. Former Gamecocksquarterbacks such as Tommy Suggs, Jeff Grantz, Mike Hold, Todd Ellis and Steve Taneyhill provide a glimpse into some of their top moments.

Suggs guided USC to the 1969 ACC championship, the only conference title in program history, before becoming the radio analyst. Grantz engineered the 56-20 bulldozing of Clemson in 1975. Hold played a huge role in the 1984 Black Magic season. Ellis, who would later join Suggs in the radio booth, broke almost every passing record while posting eight wins twice from 1986-89. And Taneyhill, along with his famed mullet, dramatically left his signature on the Death Valley Tiger paw at midfield in the 1992 win against Clemson.

Writing the book proved to be an eye-opening experience for Kendall, who got a real sense of Gamecock lore that included the 1961 Sigma Nu prank, the swaying of Williams-Brice Stadium, and the Cockabooses.

“As an outsider to this program until the last four years, you think of South Carolina as sort of a collection of 6-5 seasons,” he said. “Then like any program, you look a little deeper and you realize there were a lot of interesting things going on in those seasons even when they weren’t getting over the hump.”

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