Eric Norwood (2006-2009) had a highlight reel career as an outside linebacker for South Carolina, so it’s not a surprise that less than a decade after finishing his time wearing the Garnet and Black, the 2009 First Team All-America and three-time All-SEC selection is being inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Association of Lettermen, on September 21. Perhaps it was only a surprise to Norwood.
“It totally caught me off guard,” Norwood said. “I never imagined that this would happen. I was very surprised. I was so excited, I just started calling everybody.”
Norwood is the school record-holder in tackles for a loss in a career with 54.5, and for sacks in a career with 29.0. He earned numerous awards, but he may best be known for tying a national record by returning two fumbles for touchdowns against Kentucky in 2007 and his subsequent postgame interview in which he turned sideline reporter Erin Andrews around as the South Carolina Band performed the alma mater.
“Coach [Steve] Spurrier was pointing at me, and he told me to turn around,” Norwood laughed. “There were so many big games. There was the first game against Mississippi State, that Kentucky game in 2007, and then playing against my brother in 2009 when he played for South Carolina State.”
Following his career with the Gamecocks, Norwood was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers, where he played for two seasons before eventually finding a home in the Canadian Football League for four years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“Just having to re-learn everything as a pro was a challenge,” Norwood said. “You have to start all over. It took me a while to adapt to the pro game. I picked up the college playbook pretty easily. The NFL playbook took me until about week five or six of my rookie year to pick it all up. That put me behind the eight ball with all of the veterans. Once I learned it, it helped me in the future for learning formations and things like that. When I did get a chance to play, it worked out well because I knew what I was doing. It really helped me by the time I got to Canada.
“I loved playing in Canada. I got my confidence back. I started having fun with it again.”
It will be great to see the fans. I just want them to know how appreciative I am of helping me get to where I was and where I am now.Eric Norwood
A knee injury would end his career sooner than expected.
“It was the ACL, LCL and PCL,” Norwood said. “It’s basically the same thing that Marcus Lattimore had. I ended up coming back a year later, and I played, but I just couldn’t keep going.”
He retired from football in 2016. Now 29 years old, Norwood currently runs a trucking company, Norwood Logistics, with his father in Atlanta. While it was an adjustment, he’s OK with no longer being Eric Norwood, the football player.
“I’m fine with that now,” Norwood said. “I kind of like being Eric Norwood, the business man.”
Norwood earned his degree from South Carolina in psychology and criminal justice, and while he doesn’t like to brag about his own accolades, he is proud of earning his diploma.
“It means a lot to me,” Norwood said. “When I first came into college, I didn’t have a great GPA. I had a great support system at South Carolina. The academic support staff at the time really helped me, with Raymond Harrison and Maria Hickman and everybody else. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it without them. Graduating in three and a half years with a 3.0 GPA means a lot.”
He’s also enjoying recently becoming Eric Norwood, the daddy, as his first child was born at the end of the summer. Now he’s looking forward to sharing his honor from South Carolina with family and friends.
“I’m looking forward for my family and friends to be there and see my body of work,” Norwood said. “It will be great to see the fans. I just want them to know how appreciative I am of helping me get to where I was and where I am now. It’s nice that I’ll be remembered.”