Alshon Jeffery (2009-2011) couldn’t stop smiling, and you’re probably not going to wipe that smile off his face anytime soon. The former NFL Pro Bowler and South Carolina All-America and All-SEC wide receiver met with the media on Friday, a day before his jersey will be retired with his name and number displayed in lights on the front of the press box at Williams-Brice Stadium when the Gamecocks host Mississippi State on Saturday at 7:30.
“I’m going to try not to cry,” Jeffery said about being on the field at halftime for the ceremony. “If it happens, it happens. I gave it all on the field.
“Most of all, outside of football, I really enjoyed my time. If you went to school with me, I made sure everyone had a great time. I enjoyed school!”
South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer was an assistant coach with the Gamecocks and was the one who recruited Jeffery, a native of St. Matthews, to remain in the Palmetto State after originally committing to Southern Cal.
“This is what coaching is all about, in this profession that I chose that you’re able to see a young man as a 16- or 17-year-old in high school, go into his home, watch him come to college and thrive like he did, and then go on to have an amazing career in the NFL,” Beamer said. “Then to be able to come back and have it come full circle, back to wear it all began and have his jersey retired, is awesome.
“I’m so grateful to him. I’m so happy for him. I still have the game ball in my office that (former head) Coach (Steve) Spurrier gave to me after the Kentucky game when Alshon caught three touchdown passes. In the locker room, he said ‘we have another game ball for the coach who recruited Alshon Jeffery!’ That one still has great meaning to me. Alshon coming to South Carolina was a group effort. I’m happy for him and his family.”
“I wouldn’t change anything.”
“Coach Beamer told me that South Carolina was going to be a special place for me if I work hard,” Jeffery said. “It comes back full circle. My name is going up on the stadium. It’s amazing. I want to thank everyone who made this possible.
“I wouldn’t change anything.”
His numbers in the garnet and black were outstanding as he finished his three-year career with 183 catches for 3,042 yards and 23 touchdowns. He ranks third in school history in receptions, second in receiving yards, tied for first in receiving touchdowns, first in 100-yard receiving games (12), sixth in yards per reception (16.6) and third in consecutive games with a reception (36). He also helped the Gamecocks reach the SEC Championship game for the first time in program history in 2010 as well as the first of three consecutive 11-win seasons during his final year in 2011. Fans have countless memorable moments including Jeffery’s helping South Carolina knock off No. 1 Alabama in 2010 as well as catching a hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Jeffery has many memories on and off the field.
“Outside of football, D.J. Swearinger and I watched Coach (Ray) Tanner and the baseball team win their first national championship,” Jeffery said. “A group of us all sat down and watched that. That was huge.
“On the football field, I feel like I had a lot (of great memories.). If I had to pick one, I would have to say the (2010) Alabama game. My favorite catch is probably the one with (Alabama) Coach (Nick) Saban jumping up and down.”
Jeffery’s grin got even bigger when recalling that catch.
After three seasons with the Gamecocks, Jeffery was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by Chicago and went on to play nine seasons in the league with the Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles. He caught 475 career passes for 6,786 yards and 46 TDs. He also made the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. In his first season with the Eagles, Jeffery played in the Super Bowl, and helped Philadelphia defeat New England with three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. In 2019, Jeffery made the Bears’ list of the Top 100 players in franchise history.
Keep smiling Alshon. You brought a lot of smiles to Gamecock fans over the years.