South Carolina Football’s GOAT Series: Top-10 greatest tight ends of all-time

South Carolina football's Jared Cook. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football's Jared Cook. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /
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One of the most interesting positions in South Carolina football history is the tight end position. Despite the low volume of total NFL Draft picks at tight end, multiple first-round draft picks have played the position for the Gamecocks. Some of the best tight ends in school history were basically big receivers, others were like athletic offensive linemen, while some could do it all.

With a three-man transfer class at the position, at least three incoming freshmen playing tight end, and a stud committed in the 2024 class, perhaps this list will need updating in a few years. Let’s take a look at the greatest tight ends in the history of Gamecock football.

Honorable Mentions

Justice Cunningham: Justice Cunningham (2009-2012) played with receiving threats like Weslye Saunders, Busta Anderson, and Jerell Adams but was one of the best blocking tight ends to play in garnet and black. His toughness helped set the tone in the run game, but, ironically, it was best personified in a catch his senior year: trailing against one of the best Vanderbilt teams ever, Cunningham pulled down a first down despite getting his helmet knocked off. Cunningham popped up, shook his dreads, and went back out and blocked for Marcus Lattimore’s game-winning score.

Johnny Gregory: A tight end from an era that welcomed players of all sizes, Johnny Gregory (1964-1968) was only 175 pounds. Because he played part of his career in the same offense as Fred Zeigler and lots of solid running backs, Gregory did not get the ball much. He overcame his small stature to be an integral blocker on the perimeter for Head Coach Paul Dietzel’s offenses. His big offensive outburst came against ACC foe Wake Forest when he torched the Demon Deacons for three touchdowns.

Jaheim Bell: Jaheim Bell (2020-2022) was one of the most talented tight ends to ever play at Carolina. He was a legitimate deep threat as he showed in a dominant performance in the 2021 Duke’s Mayo Bowl against North Carolina. Bell was athletic enough that he joined the running back rotation, and when injuries limited the position, he even saw some starts. Bell had a complicated relationship with his coaches and the fans and eventually transferred to Florida State during the 2022-2023 offseason.

Nick Muse: A transfer from FCS College of William and Mary, Nick Muse (2019-2021) spent three years in Columbia. Muse was a balanced tight end who shared duties with Kyle Markway, Jaheim Bell, and Keveon Mullins but still stood out enough to be drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Muse had one of his best moments in the 2019 upset of the 3rd-ranked Georgia Bulldogs when he caught a crucial first down conversion from fill-in quarterback Dakereon Joyner that allowed the Gamecocks to take things to overtime and, eventually, win the game.

Hart Turner: Hart Turner (2000-2003) was a blocking tight end who became a team captain. After being passed up by his coaches for the honor, Turner’s teammates held a meeting with the staff to demand his inclusion as a captain. He was seldom used in the passing game until his final year but was a road grader in the run game, opening holes for backs like Derek Watson, Andrew Pinnock, and Ryan Brewer. As a senior, Turner found a role as a receiver, catching over 200 yards worth of passes from quarterback Dondrial Pinkins. He had a brief career in NFL Europe after graduating.

John Rowland: A tight end from way back, John Rowland (1932-1935) played for Head Coaches Billy Laval and Don McCallister. Rowland was the first tight end to score two touchdowns in a game for the Gamecocks when against VMI he caught a touchdown and returned a blocked punt for a score. Rowland played in an era where stats and official records are hard to come by, but the best #37 prior to Steve Wadiak was an important part of three straight winning seasons in an extremely tough Southern Conference that included much of the modern SEC and ACC.

Kyle Markway: Often injured, Kyle Markway (2015-2019) managed to only see the field in 8 games in four seasons before his final year as a Gamecock. 2019 saw a finally-healthy Markway have a great season in which he caught over 30 balls and demonstrated solid blocking ability. He had another year of eligibility due to medical redshirts but elected to pursue an NFL opportunity. He played for three seasons in the League before moving on to the USFL.

Marty Woolbright: Marty Woolbright (1971-1973) was a former quarterback who converted to tight end to get on the field. Playing in a run-heavy system, he was a very smart and tough blocker who led the way for running quarterback Jeff Grantz and a host of solid running backs led by Jay Lynn Hodgin. Woolbright developed into a good receiver before leaving South Carolina, hauling in 50 catches in his career. The 6’5″ Woolbright caught four touchdowns as a senior before getting drafted in the seventh round by the New York Giants.

Chris Corley: A massive man, the 6’5″ and 285-pound Chris Corley (1981-1984) was part of a two-headed monster at tight end for the 1984 “Black Magic” season along with emerging freshman Danny Smith. Smith was the athlete, and Corley was the mauler. Corley was an effective receiver during that 1984 season as he was difficult to bring down after the catch. He secured over half of his career yards and touchdowns that season and averaged over 20 yards per catch. Corley’s blocking ability and fluid mobility for a big man led him to a brief career in the NFL.