Best football players to ever play in the Carolina-Clemson rivalry

Clemson and South Carolina have a storied past dating back to 1896. The series record is currently 67-42-4 in favor of Clemson. The Tigers hold the advantage all-time, however, under Dabo Swinney Clemson is 3-5 against the Gamecocks. This intense rivalry has produced 29 consensus All-Americans, 39 first round NFL draft picks, and 1 Heisman trophy winner. Here’s our list of the best players to ever play in the Carolina-Clemson rivalry.

George RogersSep 12, 2015; Columbia, SC, USA; Heisman recipient George Rogers speaks to fans in the new Springs Brooks Plaza during the statue unveiling honoring George Rogers at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

George Rogers played running back for South Carolina from 1977-80. During his time with the Gamecocks, Rogers would rush for 5,204 yards, and 31 rushing touchdowns. During his career in Columbia, George Rogers was twice named first team All-American, and in his senior season he won the 1980 Heisman Trophy. South Carolina would retire George’s jersey during the final game of the 1980 season, making him the first Gamecock to have his jersey retired while he was still an active player.

George Rogers was selected with the number 1 pick in the 1981 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints. Over his NFL career Rogers would rush for 7,176 yards and 54 touchdowns. Rogers was also a member of the Washington Redskins 1987 Superbowl champions team.

Jan 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears former players William Perry watches the Chicago Bears game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

William Perry aka “The Fridge”

William Perry is definitely the biggest to play in the Carolina-Clemson rivalry. Perry played football for Clemson from 1981-84. Perry was a member of the 1981 Clemson Tigers National Championship team. While at Clemson, the Fridge was named a consensus first team All-American as a junior in 1983.

Following his career at Clemson, Perry was selected with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. Over his ten year career, the Fridge played in 138 games racking up 29.5 sacks, five fumble recoveries, and three touchdowns. William Perry was apart of the Chicago Bears 1986 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. Perry was also  featured in the teams, 1985 rap song the “Super Bowl Shuffle”.

In 2006 William Perry was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for his appearance in the first ever WWE vs NFL battle royal.

Nov 19, 2016; Columbia, SC, USA; A South Carolina Gamecocks cheerleader celebrates a touchdown against the Western Carolina Catamounts in the first quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Sterling Sharpe

Sterling Sharpe played for the University of South Carolina from 1984-87. During his career in Columbia, Sharpe recorded 169 receptions, 2,497 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns. Sterling’s number 2 jersey was retired by South Carolina at the end of the 1987 season. In recognition of his decorated college career, Sterling Sharpe was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

Sterling was selected with the 8th overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. Over his seven year NFL career, Sharpe was selected to five pro-bowls, named All-Pro three times, and lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns twice. Sharpe is one of only seven players to lead the NFL in receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns in the same season.

Nov 19, 2016; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; A Clemson Tigers flag is run across the end zone after a score in the second quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Banks McFadden

Banks McFadden is thought of by many as the greatest athlete in the history of Clemson sports. From 1936-40 McFadden lettered in football, basketball, and track. McFadden would also receive All-American honors in both basketball and football.

Banks McFadden lead Clemson to their first bowl victory in the 1940 Cotton Bowl against Boston College. McFadden was eventually drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 1940 NFL draft by, what was at the time, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Banks McFadden is the only Clemson player to ever have his jersey retired in two sports. Clemson football retired McFadden’s number 66 jersey and Clemson basketball retired his number 23 jersey. Banks McFadden is also the first Clemson Tiger to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1959). 

Sep 27, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) reacts after a play during the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney was one of the most high profile recruits in the history of high school football. Jadeveon lived up to that billing at South Carolina. Over his three year career in Columbia, Clowney racked up 130 tackles, 47 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, and 9 forced fumbles. 

Following his dominant college career Jadeveon Clowney was selected with the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft by the Houston Texans. Jadeveon’s career got off to a slow start do to injuries through his first two seasons. However, in his third year in the NFL, Clowney has been impressive thus far. The future looks bright for the former Gamecock.

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide center Ryan Kelly (70) prepares to snap the ball to quarterback Jake Coker (14) against the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Kinard

Terry Kinard is one of the best to ever play in the Carolina-Clemson rivalry. Kinard was apart of Clemson’s 1981 National Championship team. Kinard is Clemson’s career leader in interceptions with 17, and tackles by a defensive back with 294. Terry Kinard was a unanimous All-American, the first two time All-American DB, and named CBS national defensive player of the year in 1982. Kinard was later named to the USA Today All-College Football Team in the 1980’s

Kinard went on to become the tenth overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft by the New York Giants. Terry was selected to the 1988 pro-bowl, the first and only over his eight year career.

In 1992 Terry Kinard was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame. Then, in 1999, Sports Illustrated named Kinard to College Football’s Centennial Team. Following that, in 2001 Terry Kinard was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Nov 28, 2015; Columbia, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers cornerback Mackensie Alexander (2) blocks the pass intended for South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver D.J. Neal (3) during the first half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Honorable mentions:

There are plenty of other greats who have played in the Carolina-Clemson rivalry. Here are some of the guys that also deserve recognition for their decorated careers.

  • Steve Fuller, CLEM
  • Marcus Lattimore, SCAR
  • Jeff Davis, CLEM
  • Steve Taneyhill, SCAR
  • Tajh Boyd, CLEM
  • CJ Spiller, CLEM
  • Alshon Jeffrey, SCAR
  • Sammy Watkins, CLEM
  • Da’Quan Bowers, CLEM

Deshaun Watson will soon find his way on this list as well. The Carolina-Clemson is going to be great for years to come. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp are two of the best in the buisness. I cannot wait to see where this rivalry is down the road.

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