The University of South Carolina Gamecocks have won eight national team championships and produced a variety of current and former pro athletes in just about every major sport there is. Here are five of the most famed and accomplished among those special talents still active in their sports.
1. John Abraham
Abraham, who was born and raised in South Carolina, is a four-time Pro-Bowl linebacker with 122 career sacks, 508 tackles and 44 forced fumbles going into the 2013-2014 NFL season. He was just the 25th player in NFL history to record over 100 sacks and ranks 13th on the all-time sacks list. He played for the New York Jets from 2000-2005, where he was invited to his first three Pro Bowls (2001, 2002, 2004). Abraham then moved on to play for the Atlanta Falcons for 6 years (2006-2012), getting his fourth Pro Bowl invite in 2010. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft and currently plays for the Arizona Cardinals. He ranks second in sacks (23.5) in Gamecocks history.
2. Brian Roberts
Roberts is a Baltimore Orioles second baseman with a career batting average of .279, 86 career homers and 498 RBI. He also has 276 career stolen bases. Roberts recently came back to the team after celebrating the birth of his son Jax Isaac. Roberts has played his entire Major League Baseball career with the Orioles and is a household name to fans of the team. Roberts only attended the University of South Carolina due to his father Mike’s firing from his University of North Carolina coaching duties. UNC lost a key contributor — since the younger Roberts left after a sophomore year where he produced a .353 average, 13 home runs and 49 RBI. His 63 stolen bases were also the most in college baseball that year. He broke the SEC record for stolen bases during his tenure as a shortstop for the Gamecocks with 67 swipes, and that record still stands.
3. Sidney Rice
Rice, also born and raised in South Carolina, had an epic career as a Gamecock, setting multiple records at the receiver position. During his first full year of college competition in 2005 he hauled in 70 passes for 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns. That was good for a University of South Carolina single-season receiving record. He caught two more passes the next year for a little less yardage and 10 scores, but five of those touchdowns came against Florida Atlantic (and broke another school record). His 23 total touchdowns over just two years of play were good enough to break Sterling Sharpe’s Gamecock career touchdown record. Over the course of his career in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings (2007-2010) and Seattle Seahawks (2011-present), Rice has 228 receptions, 27 touchdowns and 3,361 receiving yards. He also set an NFL record for most touchdown grabs in a playoff game with 3 touchdowns (from Brett Favre) against the Dallas Cowboys in the 2009 NFC Divisional Playoffs.
4. Jonathan Joseph
Joseph is a cornerback for the Houston Texans who was drafted 24th overall in 2006 by the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals let him walk in 2010 only to see Joseph achieve Pro Bowl form with the Texans in 2011 and 2012. He has 373 career tackles, 20 interceptions and four touchdowns. He battled a broken foot in his early college career with the Gamecocks, but he went on to have a banner season in 2005 with 55 tackles, four interceptions and nine broken up passes. He is currently in the midst of a five-year deal with the Texans worth $48.75 million. Joseph also earned the honor of being ranked 73rd on the NFL Top 100 list on May 9, 2012.
5. Justin Smoak
Don’t let Smoak’s Major League Baseball career batting average of .233 fool you. The Goose Creek, SC native is an incredible talent who may be one of the University of South Carolina’s most gifted baseball players. Smoak is South Carolina's all-time home run king with 62 round trippers for the Gamecocks, which broke Hank Small's previous mark of 48. Smoak is also South Carolina's career leader in RBI and walks. Unfortunately for the Mariners first baseman, his college career numbers haven’t translated well to “The Big Show.” The Texas Rangers drafted him with the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft. The first record he set once he made it into the Rangers lineup was nothing to be proud of as he became the first player in the team’s history to strike out five times in a nine-inning game. The team traded him to the Mariners less than a month later on July 9th, 2010 in a deal that brought Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe to the Rangers. Smoak seems to be performing better than ever this season with a .273 average, 11 home runs and 28 RBI. He has 58 homers and 182 RBI to go along with a .319 on base percentage over 440 career Major League Baseball games.