Throughout South Carolina football’s long history, only four jersey numbers have been retired. Sterling Sharpe, Steve Wadiak, George Rogers, and Mike Johnson.
Sharpe and Rogers had their jerseys retired for their outstanding play on the field during their years at Carolina. While Wadiak and Johnson had their numbers retired after their tragic deaths that affected the program and University.
Recently, talks of having a 5th jersey retired have emerged, this time for two players: Connor Shaw and Phil Petty.
Unfortunately, Gamecock Nation lost a distinguished member last month. Phil Petty. Petty’s most notable stretch with the Gamecocks came in 2000 and 2001. During this time, Petty was a big part of Carolina’s success, as they went from an 0-11 season, to 8-4(2000) and 9-3(2001), with back to back bowl wins against Ohio State.
Although Petty was known as a great quarterback, he was known as an even better teammate and human being. Following his death, Lou Holtz stated, “I have great memories of him, [h]e was a great player but he was also a better teammate. Players come and go. Teammates last a lifetime” (ABC Columbia). Other coaches and teammates are quick to praise Petty on his hard working mentality and humble attitude.
With everything in mind, could an argument be made that the number 14 should be retired in Petty’s honor?
When thinking of number 14, another player’s name pops into mind. Connor Shaw.
During Shaw’s three seasons as a starter (2011, 2012, 2013), Carolina saw its most successful finishes in program history. Connor Shaw as well, played an enormous part in Carolina’s success over the three seasons. Known for his ability to get the job done with his arm or legs, Shaw finished his career at South Carolina with 6.074 yards passing, 1,683 yards rushing, 73 total touchdowns, and only 16 interceptions.
He is known as arguably the best quarterback in South Carolina history. Shaw was unfortunately snubbed by the national media, in terms of receiving recognition. Otherwise, I would argue that a jersey retirement would almost be a no-brainer.
Standing alone, I believe it would be difficult to retire a jersey for just one of these players. Although Petty’s death was devastating, several notable South Carolina players have heartbreakingly passed away and have not received a jersey retirement. Including All American Offensive Lineman Del Wilkes, and former Wide Receiver Kenny Mckinley.
If the jersey was retired in Connor Shaw’s name, he would be joining Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, and top Carolina and Green Bay Packers wide receiver Sterling Sharpe. Both are members of the college football hall of fame.
Even though Shaw’s career was spectacular, his lack of recognition nationally, and his shortened NFL career would likely hold him back from a jersey retirement.
However, there is a case to be made for both players receiving the honor of the retirement of number 14. The idea is a little foreign, as jerseys are typically retired in one player’s name. Regardless, the University of South Carolina should take advantage of the fact that two Gamecock greats wore the same number.
This idea would present the opportunity of honoring two players with great careers (one who recently passed away), who more than likely would not receive a jersey retirement alone. Both players have a special place in every Gamecock fan’s heart, and after the death of Petty, it’s simply the right thing to do.
Connor Shaw and Phil Petty were not only great football players for Carolina, but great men as well. Both endured a hardworking, resolute mentality that is admirable to say the least.
When I have children, I want them to have role models like Connor Shaw and Phil Petty. They truly are men of distinguished character. As always, Go Cocks, and rest in peace Phil.