Faith, family and football were important to Jack Springs. He passed that legacy on to his family, and he is recognized as a part of University of South Carolina football history through a lifetime of work and support of his beloved Gamecocks. Through the generous support of his family, that legacy is a permanent fixture at Williams-Brice Stadium's new Springs Brooks Plaza, with a special display of the team travel blazers he designed and provided in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"I think this university does not have enough history for people to actually see," said Tami Springs Brooks, daughter of the late Jack Springs. "I'm terribly old-fashioned. Things like the traveling blazer, dressing for the occasion and some common respect, it's almost like a time gone by. Anytime that we can hold on to certain things and show the young people that this is the way it used to be, I think we should do that. I just think the history of the university is important. It's what brought us to where we are today. It's how we got here."
Born in 1935, Jack Springs' love for South Carolina began as a young boy when he sold programs and concessions in the aisles at Gamecock football games in the 1940s.
"My dad was of the hard working generation," Brooks said. "My dad grew up very poor. He started working when he was a child. The Gamecocks were in his heart and in his blood from a very young age."
While in high school, his family moved to Myrtle Beach, but he didn't want to leave Columbia so he lived at the YMCA and was an acolyte at the nearby Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. During his high school years, he worked for Lem Harper, who owned a men's clothing store in Five Points. This experience would later help intertwine his love of the university and his professional life.
He married and began a family while attending South Carolina in the 1950s. Springs later gave up a promising career so he and his family could return home to live in their beloved Columbia and opened his own tailoring business.
"He opened that tailor shop, and business took off," Brooks said.
By the late 1960's he was making clothes for the governor and eventually met with South Carolina Head Coach Paul Dietzel to begin outfitting the team with blazers to be worn when the team travelled. He hosted cookouts for the team, and his passion for the Gamecocks would be forever cemented with his family.
"That was my dad's idea," Brooks said of the blazers. "He was very innovative. He was always looking to do something that he loved. That was something that he was so proud of his entire life -- that he had made the traveling blazers for the Gamecocks. He thought it was such a privilege."
Anytime that we can hold on to certain things and show the young people that this is the way it used to be, I think we should do that.Tami Springs Brooks
The student-athletes at the time were thrilled with their off-the-field uniforms.
"They were really classy," said Tyler Hellams, who lettered in 1968 and 1970-71. "The whole team was uniform. I don't know of anybody at that time that had anything as sharp as that."
"I had never had anything tailored at the time, and they were very nicely done," said Tommy Suggs, who played quarterback from 1968-1970. "They made us feel very special. Most of the time we wore them with a white turtleneck that had the Gamecock emblem on it. We were the best dressed football team in America, in my opinion. I think everybody enjoyed them, and we wore them with pride. They were specifically made for each one of us, and we probably never dreamed that something like that could occur."
Suggs added that the tailored "touch of class" made he and his teammates feel like they were part of something special.
"Everyone would always tell us how good we looked, and I don't mean that we were better looking than somebody else," Suggs said. "We were just well-dressed. We didn't have guys that were going to do anything really stupid anyway, but being dressed like that made you behave and be more serious about what you were doing, in my opinion. It set an air and a culture about you when you were travelling. When you were nicely dressed, you were supposed to act that way. I thought that was a nice by-product of the tailored outfits."
"At the time, I thought we looked pretty sharp," said Ken Wheat, a defensive lineman who lettered for the Gamecocks from 1969-71. "It was probably the nicest set of clothes most of us had at the time. If you made the travel squad, you got the jacket and the turtleneck. So if they called you to get fitted, that was a good sign."
Wheat has also been a huge supporter in his own right, having made a sizeable donation toward the construction of the new indoor practice facility.
Sadly, a change in fashion in the early 1970s marked the end of the traveling blazers.
"Polyester leisure suits came in style, and that was the beginning of the end for Jack Springs Tailoring," Brooks lamented. "There were still people that wanted nice suits, but not enough to support a family."
Jack moved his family to Myrtle Beach and opened Tony's restaurant, but the Springs' still came to Columbia whenever possible for football and basketball games.
"When I was young, I remember my mom and dad going to the football games dressed up," Brooks recalled. "My mama wore high heels. They dressed like they were going to church when they went to a football game. I remember when the Coliseum opened and the first time my daddy took us to a basketball game there. We were so excited. I can still remember where we sat in relation to everything else. All of the grandkids have those memories too.
"My dad was devoted to the university his entire life. Had it not been for his loyalty and dedication, then I would not be the Gamecock fan that I am today, and my children would not be the Gamecock fans that they are. My son and daughter have so many memories of hopping in the back of Pa's car, and going up to Columbia for a game, then getting back in the car and going back to the beach. He couldn't spend the night because he had to get back to the restaurant."
Jack Springs died in 2008, but his passion was inherited by his family and lives on today in the same place it all began. Now his family is making sure that legacy will live on for anyone who visits Williams-Brice Stadium by providing the gift of the Springs Brooks Plaza.
"My dad was of the generation that when you invested in something, you took that investment seriously, whether it was your time, your money, or your devotion," Brooks said. "He thought there was a lot of integrity in that and that it was a privilege to be a member of the Gamecock Club. God chose to bless me and my family, and since He has, I feel in my heart that you should share it and give it to others. My accountant tells me to quit it. When you God tells you to do something, you just do it. Everything is a blessing from God."
Many of the Gamecock football student-athletes had the opportunity to know Jack Springs during their playing days, and that relationship continued years later.
"Jack was just a nice guy," Suggs said. "He loved Carolina. He was just a nice, affable, and caring guy. He always made you feel welcomed and that you were the most important thing to him at the moment. That's a God-given talent."
One of the original travel blazers is on display in the new Springs-Brooks plaza, and you can bet it will be one of the first places the family visits on their next stop into Williams-Brice Stadium.
"My dad wouldn't be able to contain himself if he was still alive," a teary-eyed Brooks said. "He'd be so proud and honored."
It just illustrates how much Jack and his family love Carolina. I think the blazer display is a touch of class. It was very special to Jack. This will be a special way to remember part of our tradition and history.Tommy Suggs
Some of those former Gamecocks still have their blazers and aren't afraid to dust them off from time to time.
"I remember trying it on a few years ago," Wheat laughed. "I thought I was big when I played, but I guess I'm a little bigger now. It was form-fitted, so I guess I was built a little differently at the time. I guess I might need a tailor now."
"I still have mine," Hellams said. "Maybe I'll wear it for that first game."
The gift from the Springs Brooks family not only continues a tradition of love and support for the University of South Carolina, but also transforms how many others will remember their experience when creating memories with the Gamecocks.
"I think it's wonderful that Tami would make that contribution to the university and the athletics department," Suggs said. "Just as outstanding is her wanting to recognize her father. It just illustrates how much Jack and his family love Carolina. I think the blazer display is a touch of class. It was very special to Jack. This will be a special way to remember part of our tradition and history."