Alshon Jeffery made good on his promise Saturday night.
The former South Carolina receiver said he hoped not to cry as he got his jersey retired Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium during halftime of the Gamecocks’ game against Mississippi State.
While Jeffery didn’t cry, he was visibly touched by the honor as he entered the field with his son in his arms.
“I’m thankful for this honor.,” Jeffery said during a brief speech, which was met with thunderous applause.
Jeffery on Saturday became the sixth former Gamecock football player to have his jersey retired, his No. 1 jersey joining those of Jadeveon Clowney (7), Sterling Sharpe (2), Steve Wadiak (37), George Rogers (38) and Mike Johnson (56).
Jeffery’s was the second of two jersey retirements at USC this weekend, with soccer great Charlie Arndt having his retired at Friday night’s home game. With Arndt and Jeffery, South Carolina has now retired 24 jerseys across eight programs.
The former Calhoun County High School star reflected on his time at USC, on some top moments, and on his heavily-publicized recruitment during his media session Friday.
Jeffery originally committed to play for Pete Carroll and Southern Cal in June before his senior season, but then reopened his recruiting. The Trojans were still in the mix, along with South Carolina and Tennessee. Current Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer was an assistant at the time and in charge of recruiting him.
There also was the alleged comment made by Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, who was then the head coach at Tennessee. Jeffery told ESPN’s Chris Low that Kiffin said to him he would be pumping gas if he picked the Gamecocks.
Kiffin has denied making such a comment, and Jeffery backtracked from it — slightly — during Friday’s news conference.
Jeffery said the two ran into each other a few years ago, when he was playing in the NFL.
“I actually saw Kiffin a couple of years later in Tampa with his dad, we didn’t really talk. He was telling his dad, ‘That’s Alshon.’ It was kind of a weird interaction,” Jeffery said. “I think he got most of the blame.
“I can’t say for sure it was him. I believe it was someone else that said that.”
Jeffery called the final 24 hours of his recruitment “very hectic.” It was so hectic, he said, that he stayed in a hotel in Orangeburg, which was about 20 minutes from his hometown of St. Matthews.
Beamer recalled this week being on the phone in the early morning hours before he signed in February of 2019. Other schools, including Southern Cal, also called him hours before he signed at the Calhoun County gym.
“Coach Beamer just stuck with me throughout the process and just always told me that South Carolina was going to be a special place for me if I work hard,” Jeffery said. “Looking back on it like he said, it comes full circle. My name is going up on the stadium. That’s amazing. Thankful for everyone that believed in me. Coach Beamer and the staff, they recruited me. My family, the fans. I feel like that is a huge honor.”
Jeffery is one of the best to wear a Gamecock uniform. He finished with 183 receptions for 3,042 yards and 23 touchdowns during his college career, from 2009-11. He is third all-time at USC in receptions, second in receiving yards, tied for first in receiving touchdowns, and first in 100-yard receiving games (12).
“To this day, I say he is the best I have ever coached,” former Gamecock receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. told The State this week. “I get asked in job interviews ‘Who is the best player I have ever coached?’” And I say, ‘Alshon Jeffery.’ They ask why, and I say he is the most talented player I have ever coached, but he also worked the hardest.”
Jeffery was part of the Gamecocks’ trip to their only Southeastern Conference championship game in 2010 . USC knocked off previously-No. 1 Alabama earlier that season.
Jeffery said the win over Alabama was probably his favorite on-field memory, and his one-handed TD grab against the Crimson Tide that “made Nick Saban jump up and down” was his favorite catch.
Jeffery was a second-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears in 2012 and played nine seasons with Chicago and Philadelphia. He made the Pro Bowl in his second season and won a Super Bowl with the Eagles in 2018.
Jeffery has been out of football since the 2020 season, and says he is doing a lot of traveling and enjoying life away from the game.
But his time playing for the Gamecocks will always be a special part of his life.
“Just being from South Carolina, you are representing something different. It means something different,” Jeffery said. “Going out there on Saturday and playing football, I know I was representing for a lot of people. ... I was from South Carolina, so I took pride in it.”
— Matt Vereen (@MattVereen) September 24, 2023
USC retired jerseys
#1 Alshon Jeffery (2009-11)
#2 Sterling Sharpe (1983, 85-87)
#7 Jadeveon Clowney (2011-13)
#37 Steve Wadiak (1948-51)
#38 George Rogers (1977-80)
#56 Mike Johnson (1964)
#3 BJ McKie (1996-99)
#11 John Roche (1968-71)
#22 Alex English (1972-76)
#42 Grady Wallace (1955-57)
#43 Kevin Joyce (1970-71)
#13 Martha Parker (1985-89)
#14 Shannon Johnson (1992-96)
#53 Sheila Foster (1978-82)
#1 Ray Tanner (1997-2012)
#13 Earl Bass (1972-75)
#14 Kip Bouknight (1998-2001)
#11 Trinity Johnson (1995-97)
Joyce Compton (1987-2010)
WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD
Miki Barber (1999-2003)
Dawn Ellerbe (1992-97)
MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD
Terrence Trammell (1998-200)
Clint Mathis (1994-97)
Charlie Arndt (1985-88)
How South Carolina retires jerseys
According to USC: “Retired jerseys are selected by a committee of representatives from the South Carolina Athletics Department, University Board of Trustees, and the USC Lettermen’s Association.
Factors for jersey retirement include post-season national and conference recognitions, school record holders, impact on team accomplishments and either graduating from South Carolina or leaving the school in good academic standing.
The current athletics department policy states that the school retire jerseys not numbers. Athletics department records indicate the current policy has been in place since at least 2007. Numbers retired prior to then will continue to be in a retired state. Current and future student-athletes can wear numbers that were affiliated with jersey retirements after 2007.”