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An Appreciation: LB Eric Norwood

Fifth in a series on seniors leaving the SEC.

There are a lot of things you can do for the first time in South Carolina history that wouldn't be particularly noteworthy at other universities. For example, Steve Spurrier's being the first head coach to defeat Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Clemson might be significant in Columbia as a mark of how far the program has developed -- but it's not exactly something that would make him a nominee for best coach ever at most programs.

QB Jonathan Crompton (Tennessee)
RB Anthony Dixon (Mississippi State)
WR Brandon LaFell (LSU)
RB/WR Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss)

Just about any school, though, probably doesn't have a lot of three-time All-SEC players among its ranks. Eric Norwood might not have been the first at other schools, as he was at South Carolina. But he likely would have been in fairly exclusive company -- and he deserves to be.

For all four years of his college career, and for the last three years in particular, Norwood was almost as constant a presence in the other team's backfield as he was in South Carolina's games. He ended up with more tackles for loss than games played, and averaged five tackles a game even with his somewhat limited stats in his first campaign. And again, any doubts that he was among the most respected defensive players in the game during his career have to contend with those three consecutive years where the league's coaches voted him among the best.

All of that while earning a degree in three and a half years after being turned down for admissions multiple times. At a time when too many programs -- including, lately, South Carolina -- want to improve their APR scores the easy way by pushing out marginal athletes, Norwood is a test case for the idea that it can be done another way: By taking academically marginal athletes with good character and turning them into student-athletes. 

But he will be remembered more for his accomplishments on the field -- in part because there's no better way to recognize a player of his caliber. Where he played didn't matter. Whenever he walked into the stadium, Norwood was guaranteed to be among the best.

Eric Norwood, 2006-09
51 255 175 54.5 29