This year, I had the privilege of voting on the (up to) four inductees into the South Carolina football Hall of Fame. The SC HOF has only been around since 2013, but they’ve already inducted plenty of Clemson greats including Danny Ford, Frank Howard, Banks McFadden, William Perry, Brian Dawkins, Jeff Davis, and Michael Dean Perry.
The non-profit describes its mission as follows:
Honor athletes, coaches, business, and media professionals connected to South Carolina who have made a significant and positive impact through football. We help promote and support the game of football and those who play it. Our Business Connect program provides players with collective wisdom from football alumni to support and encourage their transition to life beyond football. We encourage the support of football and our community and annually present a Humanitarian of the Year Award. We acknowledge the thread of football that intertwines with nearly all facets of life in the great state of South Carolina.
They also pick a collegiate player of the year each year. Thus far, Tajh Boyd, Vic Beasley, and Deshaun Watson have received that honor.
Their criteria for voting is fairly open-ended, based simply on who the voter feels in most deserving. The criteria for eligibility is as follows:
Any person who played, coached, wrote about or otherwise supported football and either (i) did so in South Carolina, or (ii) did so elsewhere, but is a native of South Carolina, is eligible for consideration.
Each voter can vote for up to four nominees and up to four nominees can join the HOF each year. With the HOF still in its infancy and a slew of great players with SC ties, this year’s class is absolutely loaded.
As I prepared to make an informed vote, I found the research interesting and enlightening. I figured you may as well, so I’ve taken the full list of this year’s nominees and turned the HOF’s very short bios into a pitch on why each one belongs in the HOF.
John Abraham was born in the tiny SC town of Timmonsville. He went to Lamar High School, but didn’t join their football team until his senior year. Still, Brad Scott offered the defensive end a scholarship and he became a Gamecock where he had 23.5 sacks. He was picked 13th overall in the 2000 NFL draft.
In a long career with the New York Jets (’00-’05), Atlanta Falcons (’06-’12), and Arizona Cardinals (’13-’14), Abraham was an elite pass rusher. He made the pro-bowl five times and tallied a career high 16.5 sacks in 2008 as an Atlanta Falcon.
He retired in 2014 after suffering a concussion. While he had a decorated NFL career, he also got into legal trouble on multiple occasions, something I consider in voting. In 2012, he was arrested in Atlantic Station (Atlanta) when he wouldn’t leave a restricted area where a woman was threatening to jump off a building. In 2014 he received a DUI and in 2015 he was charged with battery.
Felix “Doc” Blanchard was born in McColl, SC in 1924. He originally went to UNC, but did not play, as freshman were on a separate team, and then enlisted in the Army in 1943. He served in a chemical-warfare unit in New Mexico until he enrolled at Army in 1944. There he was a part of some of the greatest college football teams of all time.
As the fullback, Blanchard was the star player on the 1944, 1945, and 1946 Army national championship teams. He never lost a game during his career at army finishing with a 27-0-1 record (with a 0-0 tie against Notre Dame).
He won the Heisman Trophy in 1945. He had 1,908 yards and 38 touchdowns in those three years (spectacular for that era). He had the nickname, “Mr. Inside” as he was the power back while teammate Glenn Davis (who won the ‘46 Heisman) was the speedy back.
Rather than having a career in the NFL, he became an Air Force fighter pilot. SB Nation Nation has an in-depth piece about Blanchard and the 1945 Army team which they argue may have been the greatest ever. Because of the era in which he played, he may be at a disadvantage with voters, but he also may be the most deserving nominee. He joined the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959.
Jeff Bostic played along the Clemson O-line from 1976 to 1979 and was an All-ACC performer in ‘79. He went undrafted, but joined the Redskins in ‘80, secured the starting C job in ‘81, and held that role with Washington through his entire NFL career which ended in ‘93.
We was a pro-bowler in ‘83, but the best mark on his resume may be his postseason accomplishments. He is the only Clemson Tiger to ever win three Super Bowls (‘82 ‘87 ‘91 seasons). He is already a member of the Redskins Ring of Fame, Clemson HOF (‘97), and the SC Athletic HOF (‘99).
Robert Brooks went to Greenwood High and then attended South Carolina (’88-’91). Originally recruited as a RB, Brooks made his mark as a WR. Although he never won a bowl game in college, he had a good enough career to earn a third round selection.
In the NFL, he didn’t have the same issue. He was a member of the 1996 Green Bay Packers which won the Super Bowl. His best season though came in 1995, when he finished with 1,497 receiving yards and 13 TDs. He also led the NFL in kick return yardage in 1993.
Charlie Brown, unlike the comic strip character, was a great football player. He is a Charleston native who played WR for SC State (’77-’80).
He was taken in the eighth round of the NFL draft by the Redskins and was a rookie on the same ‘82 Super Bowl team as C Joe Bostic. He caught a TD in that game. He made one Pro Bowl, but had a relatively brief (six year) NFL career - three seasons with Washington and three with Atlanta.
Dwight Clark was a Clemson WR from ’75-’78. In his first two years as a Tiger, he won just five games, but Red Parker left and in his final two seasons under Charlie Pell he was on teams that won eight and then eleven games including the 1978 Gator Bowl win over Ohio State. He finished his Clemson career with 571 receiving yards and 3 TDs, but made a much bigger splash with the San Francisco 49ers (’79-’87) after being a 10th Rnd Draft Pick.
In the NFL, Clark had 6,750 receiving yards and 48 career TDs. In 1981, he had 1,105 receiving yards. He made the Pro Bowl that year and the following. He was a member of two Super Bowl champion teams, and is best known for a famous catch against the Dallas Cowboys. While Clemson has “The Catch” and “The Catch II,” the more nationally known “The Catch” came on a throw from Joe Montana that pushed the 49ers past the Cowboys. Take a look here.
He went on to be the GM for the 49ers and later the Browns. The 49ers retired his jersey (#87) and he was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame ’88.
Stephen Davis was born in Spartanburg and was a High School All-American for Spartanburg High in 1991.
He had a very successful three-year career as a RB at Auburn. He was named All-SEC twice and left as the program’s fourth leading rusher. He was a fourth round NFL draft pick by the Washington Redskins and had a illustrious 11-year career that included three pro-bowls including 1999 when he led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns (17). He led the league in rushing again in 2001 with 1,432 yards and rushed for 1,444 yards in the 2003 season that saw the Carolina Panthers play in a Super Bowl.
Fisher Deberry, born in Cheraw, SC played football at Wofford, but made his name as a head coach. He coached SC high school football for six years and then was an assistant for two years at Wofford and then at Appalachian State. In 1980, future Clemson Head Coach Ken Hatfield, hired him as an assistant at Air Force. Deberry served as the QBs coach and then the offensive coordinator until after the ‘83 season. Hatfield left for Arkansas and Deberry took over as head coach. He’d lead the Air Force football program from ‘84-’06, leading them to 12 bowl games and winning the WAC three times.
He was named WAC Coach of the Year three times, Paul “Bear” Bryant National Coach of the Year once, and is already a member of the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame (different from the SC Football HOF).
Steve Fuller is one of the most transformational players in Clemson football history.
From 1968 to 1976, Clemson had just one winning season and no ACC Championships. Coach Frank Howard retired after the ‘69 season and Hootie Ingram and Red Parker struggled to find success.
In Red Parker’s final season, 1976, QB Steve Fuller took over down the stretch and quarterbacked the Tigers to wins over FSU and South Carolina in an otherwise disappointing three-win season.
The following year, Charlie Pell became Clemson’s Head Coach for what would be a brief two year tenure at Clemson. Steve Fuller would start every game in those two years. He earned All-ACC selections in both ’77 and ’78 and was honored as the ACC Player of the Year both years. In Fuller’s 1978 senior campaign, he finished sixth in Heisman voting while the Tigers finished with an excellent 11-1 (6-0) record, giving them the ACC title.
Charlie Pell left for the Florida Head Coaching position prior to Clemson’s bowl game, making Fuller’s final game as QB also Danny Ford’s first game as head coach. Fuller led Clemson to a Gator Bowl victory over Ohio State, giving Danny Ford his first win as a head coach and the Tigers their first bowl win since the 1959 Bluebonnet Bowl.
Steve Fuller went on to be a first round NFL draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs. He started there for two seasons, but is best known for being a member of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Bears. He started in five games that season, going 4-1 in those games.
Bobby Johnson, a ‘72 Clemson graduate from Columbia, SC made his mark in collegiate coaching. He served as an assistant at Furman until taking the defensive coordinator position at Clemson in ‘93. After a year at Clemson, he took the head coaching position at Furman. He led the Paladins for eight seasons, winning two SoCon titles (‘99, ‘01) and playing for the FCS championship in 2001.
After 2001, he was hired to be the head coach of Vanderbilt. His Commodore teams mostly struggled in the SEC, but in 2008 they won the Music City Bowl and he was named SEC Coach of the Year. He is a current member of the playoff selection committee.
Levon Kirkland, born in Lamar, SC, was a star inside linebacker for the Clemson Tigers (‘88-’91) and Pittsburgh Steelers (‘92-’00). As a Tiger, he starred on defense-first squads that won 39 games and two ACC Championships.
After being an early second round selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kirkland became a leader on their steel curtain defenses of the late 90s. Following the 1995 season, he tallied 10 tackles and a key sack against the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. He was an All-Pro linebacker in ‘96 and ‘97 and was named Linebacker of the Year in ‘97.
He is already in the Clemson Hall of Fame and SC Athletic Hall of Fames and is on the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.
Stump Mitchell was a three-year starter at tailback for The Citadel (’77-’80) where he set school rushing records. He then played for the St. Louis Cardinals in the NFL (’81-’87). He went on to be the coach at Morgan State and Southern University and later make stops as an assistant coach in the NFL.
Robert Porcher of Wando, SC played college football at SC State (’88-‘91). From there he was drafted by the Detroit Lions (’92-’04) in the first round. He’d play defensive end there for his 13-year career. He was a pro bowler in ‘97, ‘99, and ‘01. He was the first Lion to record double-digit sacks in four consecutive seasons.
Dick Sheridan attended the University of South Carolina (‘61-64). He’d make his name as a college football head coach at Furman (78-’85) and NC State (’86-’92). While at Furman, his teams won multiple SoCon championships (’78, ’80-’83, ’85). In his first year at NC State, he won the ACC Coach of the Year and the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year award. He’d eventually be the AD at Furman (’83-’85).
Steve Spurrier has one of the more impressive careers in college football. He began as a player with Florida from ’63-’66. While there, he started at QB and shattered UF and SEC records en route to winning the ‘66 Heisman Trophy.
He spent most of his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers (’67-’75), where we was a backup QB and starting punter. He had a few opportunities to start and at one point went 6-1-1 as the 49ers starter following an injury to their starting QB. He was sent to a vastly undermanned Tampa Bay Buccaneers team when they were added as an expansion team. They went 0-4.
Following his days as a player, he entered professional coaching. After a handful of assistant coaching positions, Spurrier led the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits for three years (’83-’85). He was successful there, leading them to a 35-21 record before the USFL dissolved and gave Spurrier back to college football.
His first college head coaching stop was Duke, where he was previously an assistant. In his third and final year there, they won the ACC - still the Blue Devils most recent title.
He then returned to his alma mater in Gainesville (’90-’01). While there, his team’s played for two National Championships, winning one. They won six SEC titles in his twelve years and he was named SEC Coach of the Year four times.
He would resign from UF to try his hand in the NFL with the Washington Redskins. Although he got off to a nice start, NFL coaches quickly adjusted and his teams began to struggle. They finished 7-9 and then 5-11. Following the 5-11 season, he walked away from the $15 million remaining on his contract to go back to college coaching.
He latched on with South Carolina, which is why he is eligible for the SC Football HOF. He was with the Gamecocks from ’05-’15 and is easily their greatest coach of all-time. The ‘Cocks had a fairly bare trophy case and while he won zero championships at South Carolina, he gave the program some of their best years. In his first season, expectations were low, but they rattled off five-straight SEC wins for the first time in school history. They peaked from ‘10-’13 when they went 4-0 against Clemson, won the only division title in school history, and won 42 games in those four seasons.
The program would decline as in-state talent dried-up and rival Clemson improved. They finished just 7-6 in 2011, and he then retired mid-way through 2012 as the Gamecocks were just 2-4. Nevertheless, he is the greatest coach in school history for the Gamecocks.
Thank you for reading. Hall of Fame voting closes on January 15th. My ballot will be posted to the comments section below.