The saddest part of every season is the end. Not only because we lose out on the fun that the games provide us every Saturday, but because we have to lose members of our athletic family every year.
Make no mistake. This isn't hyperbole. These players are ingrained into our minds all year. Think about every conversation you have had involving your favorite team and players. Do you not recall mentioning these guys numerous times?
They have the special privilege of being a part of a fans life for a short period of time, and it is sad to see them go. Here are seven names that the Gamecocks will miss.
Rodney Paulk is the epitome of leader. He stayed with the team through six years. His injuries kept him from living up to his massive potential, but he continued to fight through the medical red-shirts and nagging injuries to be a consistant and productive member of one of South Carolina's greatest defensive teams.
His on-field vision and leadership will be greatly missed.
C.C. Whitlock is a bit of an underrated player. He came out of high school as a highly recruited and touted freshman. He was expected to be the "next big thing" coming out of Defensive Back U.
Even though he didn't quite live up to those lofty expectations, Whitlock became a huge contributor to the team, making numerous big plays with his speed and ball skills.
He has a shot to get drafted if he performs well at the NFL Combine.
Travian Robertson is sort of the forgotten man on the defensive line. With Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney on your team, that is no surprise.
However, he has been just as spectacular from his defensive tackle position. Travian did it all, and did it all well.
He rushes the quarterback, plays that run and provides leadership.
He will be missed greatly.
While there is a slight chance Nunn could receive a medical red-shirt, he probably will not. He has been as solid a left tackle as South Carolina has ever had.
His quiet calm and pass-blocking ability are incredible, and his relentless motor will serve him well at the next level, if nagging injuries don't keep him off of an NFL roster.
Rokevious "Rock" Watkins had a heck of a senior year. With injuries to Nunn and other linemen, he became the leader of the unit.
How did he respond? By becoming an All-SEC tackle. His girth and athleticism allowed him to be a mauler. He will be drafted and be a very good NFL player.
First and foremost, yes... I know that he is only a junior, and there is hope he will come back.
Come on. He's as good as gone.
He did more for this program than he himself knows. He is the most ferocious receiver the team has ever had. He opened up the run game by not allowing himself to get beaten one-on-one. This season, he was consistently double- and triple-teamed.
His stats were down this year, but not due to his lack of trying. He is still a first-round draft pick.
One of the biggest stories headed into 2012 is who will take his place.
Ok, I know he isn't a player. However, he is worth mentioning here.
Ellis Johnson is going to go down as the best defensive coordinator this program has ever seen. He was like a second head coach to Steve Spurrier, and put together some of the most dominant defenses this side of Charlie Strong's Carolina years.
True, if Mike Stoops comes down to Columbia, the Stoops name brings a great deal of swag with it, but one can't forget how important Coach Johnson was to the Gamecocks.
Gamecock Nation will miss him, and we wish him luck as the head coach of Southern Miss!