Eric Norwood is Still Making Big Plays


On Thursday August 31, 2006, the Gamecocks opened their second season under Steve Spurrier in Starkville, MS against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

There are a couple of different things to remember that game for; a rare SEC shutout in a 15-0 win, Syvelle Newton’s TD pass to Cory Boyd on a wide receiver reverse pass, and of course the bone crunching hit by Jasper Brinkley on the Bulldog QB that introduced him to Gamecocks fans in his first game.

However, it is something else that stands out from that season opener to me, the beginning of Eric Norwood’s rise to stardom in Columbia.

It was his first game as a relatively unheralded freshman, and I remember turning to my buddy midway through the game and saying, “Man, that number 40 is everywhere tonight, that kid is going to be a star before he leaves Carolina.”  It was just a feeling I had while watching the game unfold, but it became one of my more accurate sports predictions.

Norwood went on to play in all 13 games as a freshman, racking up 30 total tackles and 7 sacks.  Those numbers were impressive enough to get him named to the Sporting News’ Freshman All-America team.

He stepped up his production in his sophomore year, with 69 tackles (19.5 for loss), 6 sacks, and 3 fumble recoveries.  Two of those fumble recoveries came on a Thursday night in Columbia, when he led a dominant defensive performance over a top ten ranked Kentucky squad, tying an NCAA record by returning both fumbles for touchdowns.

He also endeared himself to Gamecocks fans that night in the post-game interview, while talking with ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, Norwood promptly turned away mid-question so he could “raise a glass to Carolina” during the singing of the Alma Mater after the victory.

While playing his first two years in garnet and black as a high motor quarterback attacking defensive end, he shifted to outside linebacker for his final two seasons at South Carolina.

Norwood had a stellar junior year at LB, recording 9 sacks as part of his 75 tackles, while forcing a fumble and recovering 2 more. His efforts were rewarded with First Team All-SEC honors from both the media and the coaches.  As a senior, he once again stepped his game up another level, being named All-SEC for the third straight season, while also garnering First Team All-American honors after compiling 80 tackles, 7 sacks, and blocking three kicks on the year.

His most memorable moment again came on a Thursday night when he sacked Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead to break Andrew Provence’s school record for career sacks.  He became the first Gamecock to be named to the All-SEC 1st Team 3 years in a row, and did that at two different positions. He left Carolina as the all-time leader in both sacks (29) and tackled for a loss (54.5).


I recently had a chance to ask him a few questions.

What memory of your time at USC would you consider among your favorites?

Eric Norwood– “My favorite moment at South Carolina had to be my senior year against SC State, when I played against my brother.”

What is the major difference you have noticed in your journey from the SEC, to the NFL, to the CFL?

Eric Norwood- “There isn’t a major thing that I’ve noticed outside of the fundamental things such as tackling and blocking.”           

Do you still keep up with how the Gamecocks are doing and do you ever get a chance to talk with any current players?

Eric Norwood- “ I follow the Gamecocks closely and I try to keep up with the Defensive Line in particular. I believe Bryson Allen-Williams will have a breakout year.” 

After being drafted in the fourth round by the Carolina Panthers, he spent two years on the roster before being released.

He was never really given much opportunity to make an impact. After floating around to other football leagues for a few seasons, he found a landing spot north of the border.

He now plays for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League, where he started each of the last two years in the Grey Cup Championship game.

Last season he led his team, and was second in the league, in sacks with 13. So far this year he has 4 sacks despite missing sometime early in the year for the 10-0 Tiger-Cats.

He was recently named CFL Shaw top Performer of the Week after recording 2 sacks and returning a fumble for a touchdown.

It is apparent that the high energy motor and relentless pursuit of the quarterback are still the skills pushing Eric Norwood to becoming a highly productive player.  Despite not making his mark in the NFL, one of the Gamecock’s all-time greats is still making plays in professional football.