South Carolina football: Gamecocks in the NFL

Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

South Carolina football players in the NFL had a lot of Week 1 contributions

Over the last 15 years or so, a number of former South Carolina football standouts have moved on to the NFL. Some seasoned veterans are finishing up productive careers, while rookies are just getting started.

Since 2005, the Gamecocks have seen more than 50 players drafted, including seven who were taken off the board in the first round. Let’s look around to the current alumni in the NFL and evaluate their week one performances.

South Carolina football veterans in the NFL

Jadeveon Clowney

Jadeveon Clowney found a home in Tennessee with the Titans following a productive season in Seattle last year. Clowney, a three-time pro-bowler, was featured on this past year’s NFL Top 100, coming in as the league’s 41st best player.

An eight-year veteran, Clowney remains one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL. He did fairly well in his NFL debut with the Titans, picking up his first tackle

Melvin Ingram III

Ingram was selected at 18th overall in the 2012 draft and has been a contributing piece to the Chargers defense since. Ingram is a three-time pro-bowler and has logged over 49 sacks in his career. Ingram ranked eighth in 2017 for defensive touchdowns.

He’s been in the NFL Top 100 for the past two seasons where he ranked 76th and 48th.

In week one, Ingram picked off rookie Joe Burrow and recorded a couple of tackles.

Jared Cook

Cook has been in the league for more than a decade, totaling 473 catches for more than 6,200 receiving yards. Cook has been on several different teams since being drafted in the third round in 2009.

He had a solid outing in week one for the Saints, proving to be a reliable receiver for Drew Brees. Cook had five catches with 80 receiving yards in their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

D.J. Swearinger

Swearinger joined the Saints after being cut by the Las Vegas Raiders. Swearinger has also bounced around the league in the last few years playing for six different teams. He was originally drafted by the Houston Texans.

Swearinger posted four tackles in the Saints’ win over Tom Brady and the Bucs last weekend.

Jonathan Joseph

Joseph played his first game in Tennessee after joining the Titans roster this offseason. Playing alongside Jadeveon Clowney, Joseph recorded two tackles from his cornerback position.

Joseph is the NFL’s active leader in passes defended while ranking third in interceptions among the league’s active players.

Pharoh Cooper

Cooper is the starting kick and punt returner for the Carolina Panthers. He joins Charlton as Gamecocks starting on the Panther team.

Cooper had an impressive week one performance, totaling nearly 110 yards on kick returns, with his longest return being 38 yards. Cooper also returned two punts for a total 29 yards.

Mike Davis

Davis is in Carolina after a few seasons in Seattle and Chicago. He did not record any stats in week one for the Panthers.

Stephon Gilmore

Gilmore continues his run as the NFL’s top defensive back. After leading the league in interceptions in 2019, he picked off a pass in the Patriots’ opener on Sunday. The pro-bowler added four tackles as New England took down the Dolphins.

Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery is currently out with an injury, though he should return to the field soon. The veteran has recorded nearly 6,700 yards in his NFL career.

South Carolina football young stars in the NFL

Hayden Hurst

Hurst has finally been given a starting position in the NFL after being the secondary for the offensively stacked for the Baltimore Ravens. Hurst was an All-SEC player in his junior season before being drafted in 2018. He was traded to Atlanta this offseason.

Hurst is projected to be one of the best tight ends in the league this year with his impressive speed. He caught three passes for 38 yards in week one.

Keisean Nixon

In his rookie season, Nixon logged 12 tackles and 67 punt return yards. In week one Nixon had two tackles in the Raiders win against the Panthers.

Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel is one of the players with the most potential in the NFL and he proved it in the Super Bowl last season.  Samuel even broke the record for the most rushing yards by a receiver in the first three minutes of the game.

He had an impressive rookie season with the 49ers, logging 802 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He is currently injured but should return over the next few weeks.

Joseph Charlton

Joseph Charlton was one of the best punters in the NCAA during his tenure at South Carolina. He averaged 45.2 yards per punt in the garnet and black.  He’s the Gamecocks’ all-time leading punter and finished second in the nation in punting average as a senior.

Charlton got a shot to start at the punting position for the Panthers and didn’t waste it. In two punts he punted for a total of 120 yards.

Javon Kinlaw 

Kinlaw was one the best defensive linemen in the NCAA last year and it showed as he was the 14th overall pick in the NFL draft. Kinlaw recorded a tackle for the 49ers in their surprise loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Taylor Stallworth

Stallworth is in his first season with the Colts and he recorded his first takedown in Indianapolis on Sunday.

AJ Cann

Cann continues to play a major role on the Jaguars’ offensive line. The guard is entering his sixth year in Jacksonville.

Rashad Fenton

Fenton won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs last year. He tallied two tackles in the Kansas City opener on Thursday.

Bryan Edwards

Edwards made his NFL debut on Sunday and recorded his first career catch. The rookie pulled in his only target of the day as the Raiders defeated the Panthers last weekend.

Damiere Byrd

Byrd is in his fifth NFL season, his first in New England. He fielded one punt in the Patriots’ opener.

TJ Brunson

Brunson is in his first NFL season. He did not record any stats in his season opener with the Giants.

Brandon Shell

Shell is with the Seattle Seahawks after beginning his career with the Jets. The tackle did not record any stats in the season opener.

Zack Bailey

Bailey is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offensive lineman is entering his second NFL season.

Rico Dowdle

Dowdle is with the Cowboys in a reserve role. He didn’t record any stats in the Dallas opener, as he backed up Ezekiel Elliott.

Kobe Smith

Smith is in his rookie season with the Titans. He did not record any stats on Monday.

Dennis Daley

Daley is in danger of missing his second straight game with the Panthers with an injury. He’s in his second NFL season.

DJ Wonnum

The rookie did not record any stats in the Vikings’ season-opening loss on Sunday.

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