“I’d like to coach this team.”
Former South Carolina State head football coach Willie Jeffries could not help but make that observation after introducing the Orangeburg Touchdown Club’s inaugural All-State College Team during its fourth annual banquet held Thursday at The Cinema. As the master of ceremonies, the retired Bulldog legend got a firsthand glimpse of the talented mix of players from five of the state’s Division I, I-AA and II schools who were voted to the team by a panel of South Carolina college football writers.
The same was true for Clemson University head football coach Tommy Bowden, who was the guest speaker of the event and one of four in-state college football coaches in attendance. Although none of his six Tiger players could attend the event to pick up their replica statue trophies (those honors were done by Clemson assistant coach Burton Burns), Bowden praised the Orangeburg Touchdown Club for putting forth an effort to honor the state’s top college players.
“I think this is real good,” Bowden said. “I don’t know many Touchdown Clubs that do something like this. Some of the awards they’re giving out, it’s a great honor to receive an award. This Touchdown Club has done a good job wowing some of the state players.”
Bowden gave a well-received 20-minute speech aimed at the high school and college football players in the audience. He touched on topics like character, accountability, making the right choices and setting high goals.
Following Bowden’s speech, the OTC committee officially introduced the All-State team. Of the 26 players selected, 14 were in attendance to receive their trophies and arguably the most enthused was University of South Carolina offensive lineman Na’Shan Goddard. The jovial, loquacious senior offensive tackle was too eager to pose for pictures holding his trophy, as well as accepting the ones for absent teammates wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive backs Ko Simpson and Jonathan Joseph.
“I was happy about it,” said Goddard about being named to the team. “Any time an offensive lineman gets recognized for anything, you’re happy about it. You’re appreciative that somebody recognizes anything that you do being on the line. So, I was definitely happy about it and now that I see these big awards, I’m even more happier.”
Goddard was even bold enough to put this All-State team against someone like national champion the University of Texas.
“Honestly, I’d think it would be a great game,” he said. “I think we’d blow somebody out because of the talent that’s in South Carolina and there’s so many NFL players from South Carolina. And just looking at the guys on that team, everybody’s looking like NFL prospects already. So, it would be a great game. I think we’d blow somebody out, but it would just be a great opportunity to have fun and interact with one another.”
Also finding it hard to contain his extended smile was Newberry wide receiver Tymere Zimmerman. The lone Division II player selected to the All-State College Team, Zimmerman made brief stops at both Clemson and SCSU before finding a home on the “reservation” with the Indians.
“I just bottle it all up,” he said. “I’ve been down a long road, man. All of the bumps in the road, all you can do is just keep going, bump right over it. Since I’ve been at Newberry, it’s been the best experience for me. I could have went to any other school, but I think it was God’s plan to go to Newberry.
“It’s very big for me to get an award with all these D-I players,” he said. “It still lets me know that I’m still on the same level with them.”
This was also a big night for SCSU wide receiver/return specialist Rondriekas Darby. The North High School graduate was one of five Bulldog players named to the All-State team and he received the Most Valuable wide receiver award from head coach Buddy Pough when he issued his team awards.
“It’s a very big honor,” Darby said. “You’re amongst the top 26 college players in South Carolina. It’s a big honor for me.”