by Tom Price, Gamecock Historian
Nearly 35 years after he thrilled Gamecock fans with his pass catching skills and at the same time entertained teammates and sometimes exasperated coaches with his pranks and practical jokes Fred Zeigler is still having fun.
“I’m a jogger. I don’t play golf, hunt or fish, but I love movies. I’m a huge movie fan,” the Columbia attorney who specializes in litigation said recently. He also enjoys travel and frequently combines travel with spectator sports.
Zeigler closely follows the Gamecock football and basketball teams but admits his first love, as a spectator is baseball. He traveled to Omaha to watch the Gamecocks in the 2002 College World Series and would have gone back in 2003 but “Delta Airlines cancelled my flight.” He made reservations for the following weekend but didn’t go when Coach Ray Tanner’s team was eliminated after three games.
“I went to Puerto Rico to see Brian Roberts play winter baseball,” Zeigler recalled. Roberts is the former Gamecock shortstop who now plays second base for the Baltimore Orioles.
When Adam Everett, another former Carolina All-America shortstop, came to Atlanta with the Houston Astros for a series in July, Zeigler was in the stands at Turner Field wearing two baseball caps.
“I’m a Braves fan so I wore my Braves hat,” he explained, “but when Adam came to bat I put on my Astros hat.”
At Sarge Frye Field home games Zeigler is a fixture in the stands and has been known to visit the press box between innings for “clarification” of a ruling by the official scorer.
Asked why he didn’t play baseball as well as football at Carolina Zeigler had a ready and logical answer: “I’ve always loved the game but I couldn’t hit.”
Unmarried, Zeigler says “I’m like an orphan, no brothers, no sisters,” and his parents are deceased. He earned a bachelors degree in 1970 and graduated from the Carolina Law School in 1974.
From the small Dorchester County town of Reevesville, Zeigler attended Carlisle Military Academy in Bamberg before enrolling as a freshman at Carolina in the fall of 1965. He was not recruited and walked on as a member of the freshman football team but was soon sidelined for the season with a broken arm.
Initially he was not invited back for the 1966 season but “they needed bodies and Coach Holtz called me to come back.” The assistant coach in charge of the scout team was Lou Holtz and Zeigler spent a redshirt season running opposing team plays against the varsity.
“We were known as Holtz’s horses and we were pretty good. We moved the ball,” Zeigler remembers.
Although he never possessed breakaway speed Zeigler showed an uncanny knack for getting open and sure hands for catching the football. He was promoted to the varsity in 1967 and for the next three seasons was the premier pass receiver in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
He set a school record with 35 catches in 1967, broke that record with 59 receptions in 1968 and caught 52 passes as a senior in 1969.
Zeigler caught at least one pass in each of the first 29 of the 30 career games that he played. He missed the Clemson game in 1968 due to a broken collarbone.
His career ended against West Virginia in a heavy rainstorm at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, a night not suited for passing and less for receiving and for the only time in his varsity career Zeigler did not catch a pass. South Carolina lost the game 14-3.
Zeigler’s career totals show 146 pass receptions for 1,876 yards, both records at the time and still among the top-six in school history. He was twice named first team All Atlantic Coast Conference. He caught 12 passes for 199 yards against Virginia in 1968, records that still rank second in school history. He had eight of more receptions four times.
Zeigler’s three touchdown receptions against Virginia in 1968 are still a school record held jointly by seven players.
His 36 points on six touchdowns in 1968 tied with fullback Warren Muir for the team scoring lead. He had more than 100 pass reception yards five times in his career and his longest gain on a pass reception was 51 yards from quarterback Tommy Suggs against Maryland in 1969.
Zeigler was inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.