The 2023 Class of the USC Association of Lettermen’s Hall of Fame will be inducted on Thursday, October 12. Those needing tickets to the event can still take advantage of a discount if purchased by October 1, 2023. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets!
Every athlete has to come to grips with the reality of life after sports. Former South Carolina and NFL offensive lineman Ernest Dye saw his career end abruptly after a serious car accident in which he nearly lost his right arm, and he hopes he can inspire others to push through tough times.
“There was just a lot of prayer and having a lot of faith in God,” said Dye. “My wife, Rhonda, and my family stayed by my side the entire time. I can’t remember a time when I was in the hospital that I opened my eyes, and I didn’t see my wife and my mom there. It was definitely a hard time, but they helped me get through it. If it weren’t for them, it probably would have been a lot worse than it was.
“We made it through and made it work out. Of course, there have been plenty of life adjustments. It was more mental, and it was physical as well because I had so much muscle atrophy after being in the hospital for 75 days. I had to train myself to walk again. The doctors had told me that my arm was messed up, and I wouldn’t be able to use it ever again because it was paralyzed. I just had to figure out how to do things with my left arm.”
Dye is one of eight inductees in the 2023 class for the University of South Carolina Association of Lettermen’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
“(Athletics Director) Ray (Tanner) called me, and my first reaction was that I was kind of shocked,” Dye said. “I was happy.”
Dye played for two years at South Carolina after transferring from junior college. As a senior in 1992, he became the first Gamecock to garner first-team All-SEC honors.
“That’s a big one,” Dye said. “I never thought too much about it. To be honest, I didn’t really know that I was the first. I was more shocked when I won the team MVP award that year.
“Going into the SEC was one of my best memories. Nobody really gave us a chance. We ended up winning that Tennessee game that first year, and I think that really changed everything from then until now. That was a big game. That was one of my biggest opponents with (former Tennessee defensive end) Todd Kelly. He was one of the top speed rushers at the time.”
“God had his eyes on me that day! That brings me back to reality.”
Dye was selected by the Phoenix Cardinals with the 18th pick in the first round of the 1993 NFL Draft. He played professionally from 1993 to 1998 in the Cardinals’ organization before his career came to an abrupt end in the 1999 car accident.
“I went through the windshield, and the car rolled over four times and the front wheel rolled over on my right arm and crushed it,” Dye said. “I told a doctor about that the other day, and he said that I should have been dead. God had his eyes on me that day! That brings me back to reality. I miss playing sometimes, but I’ll be honest, I’m satisfied. I never put all my eggs into football. I always wanted to be a music producer. I had opened a recording studio when I got out of the game and worked with some independent kids from South Carolina and didn’t charge them anything for the studio. I’ve always liked the music business.”
The father of three currently lives in Hampton, Georgia, and he has spent much of the last few years proudly mentoring his two sons who are also collegiate offensive lineman. His youngest son, Cameron, is a redshirt sophomore at Georgia State University, while, his oldest son, Ernest Jr., played at Southern Illinois University from 2015 to 2019. His daughter, Ariel, who is the couple’s oldest child, recently made him a proud grandfather with the birth of his first grandson, Aidan.
“Being a grandfather, I wake up every day, and I can hear that crying and I know now what my wife went through!” Dye said with a laugh. “It’s a great feeling. I didn’t get a lot of time to spend time with my children when they were young because I was out playing ball.
“It feels good to have my boys play in college, and I’ve always told them you have to make your own path in this game. Nothing is guaranteed. Both of them had earned college scholarships, and I’m really proud of them.”
Dye looks forward to returning to Columbia with his family for Hall of Fame Weekend.
“I’m looking forward to spending time with family, seeing some old friends, and hopefully some old teammates and coaches!”