Only a few people have seen as much of the South Carolina and Clemson rivalry as 93-year-old Bill Rutledge. Fewer have seen it like he has. Rutledge played football for both South Carolina and Clemson, with a three-year stint in the United States Navy in between.
"I've always enjoyed the competitiveness of it," Rutledge said of the rivalry. "Those that are interested seem to get really revved up over it. It all rises to the surface once a year [when the football teams meet]. I don't get particularly carried away with it, but I enjoy watching it."
Rutledge grew up in Charlotte, and after graduating from Central High School in 1943, he went to Clemson where he earned a starting spot in the backfield for legendary coach Frank Howard. Later that year he enlisted in the United States Navy, and upon his return to college life three years later, Rutledge decided he wanted to attend South Carolina so he could take business administration classes that were not offered at Clemson at the time. Despite a letter from Howard encouraging him not to leave, Rutledge came to Columbia and first lettered for the Gamecocks in 1946.
"I was a blocking back in the single wing," Rutledge recalled. "I mostly blocked for everybody."
Rutledge earned the nickname "The Bull" for his efforts, not only on the gridiron, but in the ring for South Carolina's boxing team. He played again in 1947, but a knee injury limited his football career the next year. He lettered again in his final season of 1949. Rutledge didn't offer an explanation for his nickname, but the now seemingly more gentle man shows his sense of humor.
"Maybe I talked too much," Rutledge smiled. "Football was more detailed and seemed to be more work. It took more time. I enjoyed both."
Rutledge admits that he enjoyed his time at both schools, but his daughters insist he raised them to be Gamecock fans.
"I can't tell you what I enjoyed the most at Carolina," Rutledge said. "Just the daily activities. I was in Sigma Chi fraternity."
"He told us all about it when we were growing up," said Pam Brown, one of four of Rutledge's daughters who attended South Carolina. He also has a granddaughter currently attending the University.
Rutledge went on to work at General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) in Columbia after his days at South Carolina. He remained devoted to the Gamecocks and later became President of the USC Association of Lettermen in the 1970s.
"Our weekends were centered around football games and the lettermen's lounge," said his daughter, Cindy Casto. "It was the coolest thing to see him there and to hear him tell all of his stories. He was very passionate about Carolina."
Most of his beloved buddies from his college days have passed on, and on the week of the annual rivalry game, Rutledge is dressed in a garnet Gamecock sweater. He said he still watches games on TV from time to time, and his family recently took him to see the brick with his name engraved on it in the Springs Brooks Plaza outside of Williams-Brice Stadium.
The rivalry has always been intense, but Rutledge said he didn't realize just how much it meant when he was playing.
"Back then, it wasn't a real high or a real low, it just kind of took place," Rutledge said. "I understand the rivalry though."
Like a fine wine, Bill Rutledge has mellowed with age, but he understands the rivalry like very few people can. He may not be the only individual to ever compete at both South Carolina and Clemson, but he might be the last.