Trooper had best seat in Gamecocks' stadium

2012-02-12T07:30:00Z Trooper had best seat in Gamecocks' stadiumBy RICHARD WALKER, T&D Staff Writer The Times and Democrat
February 12, 2012 7:30 am  • 

Cost for decent seats at a college football game: an arm and a leg. Standing by the coach during every game?

Imagine every game, every week for the entire season. Home or away, you're positioned right by the head coach in the best "seat" in the house.

"It was a good experience," Judd Jones said. "It's a little work, a little planning. I've gotten to go to stadiums that I'd probably never have gotten to go to otherwise. I'm glad I got to do it."

Counting the South Carolina Gamecocks' home stadium, Jones was in seven different cities, attended 13 games and rubbed shoulders with head coaches Steve Spurrier, Dabo Swinney of Clemson and Auburn's Gene Chizik.

Jones didn't win the lottery, per se. But as a lance corporal with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, he was selected prior to the 2011 college football campaign to work the University of South Carolina security detail for the entire season.

"I just got a call one day last season from one of the bosses and he asked me if I'd do it," Jones said. "I love football, I love SEC football."

But before heading to the field, Jones had to check with another coach - his wife. With the home team's approval, Jones was headed to Charlotte for the season opener against East Carolina.

Jones' duties included providing security for opponent's coaches during home games in Columbia and for Spurrier during away games. He was right there on the sidelines within a few feet of the coach.

Sounds like a pie play for an easy gig. But there was more to the detail than sitting on the sidelines listening to the confusion that is sideline coaching.

Along with another trooper, Jones' planning for each game began days before an opposing team arrived in Columbia.

For instance, the troopers had to plan travel for the opposing team, ensuring it got to its hotel, the stadium, the hotel again and back to the airport without losing a single player, coach, cheerleader, or mascot.

"They usually come in on four buses at 5 o'clock on a Friday," he said. "So you have to plan on what's the best way to get them through Columbia in 5 o'clock Friday traffic. I'm stressing a little bit until I get them back on the plane."

Standing on the opposing sideline, it's hard to celebrate if you're a South Carolinian. Jones said sometimes he would congregate near the Carolina medical staff stationed on the opposing sideline.

"If Carolina did something good, ran a good play or something, we just kind of gave each other ‘the look,'" he said.

So jumping up and down, yelling like a madman was not recommended.

"Probably not a good thing on the visitor's sidelines," Jones said.

None of the visitors this year took their team from the hotel once they settled in. But Spurrier took the Gamecocks to the movies to relax the night before a game, Jones said.

Coaches can vary in temperament and personality. Jones said of all the coaches, Vanderbilt's James Franklin was the least talkative while Spurrier is "pretty intense."

"I think he's always thinking about his next move," Jones said of Spurrier. "One thing funny about him after talking with him, he's not a coach who gets up in your face after you make a mistake. He doesn't do that like some other coaches."

The surprising aspects of the different stadia, Jones said, is that Tennessee's was huge yet the fans were not very loud, Mississippi State's cowbells were unique and Arkansas was cold and loud.

"They kept making the Hawg Call," Jones said of Arkansas fans. "That was getting on my nerves."

Probably some of the most intense fans are between the hedges in Athens where Georgia followers made it known they are no Spurrier fans. "They were giving the coach the business when we pulled in," Jones said. "When you say ‘hostile crowd,' that was a hostile crowd. Talk about loud? They were probably the loudest stadium we went to."

As far as the coming campaign that kicks off in Nashville with Vanderbilt, the 14-year veteran of the Highway Patrol says he's anticipating another successful campaign in 2012 for USC football.

"They have a tough schedule. That's just the way it lined up," he said. "But I think they have the players to have another good season."

Despite the hostile crowds, the endless planning for each game and the resulting stress, Jones said he'd do it again.

"The whole experience was fun," he said. "But as far as I know, I'll be back."

Contact the writer: rwalker@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

Copyright 2015 The Times and Democrat. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. tellmewhy
    Report Abuse
    tellmewhy - February 12, 2012 6:59 pm
    The Gamecocks are blessed to have such a positive person protecting their head coach. A lot of state troopers get a lot of criticism, but I appreciate their hard work in keeping our highways safe.
  2. norwegian
    Report Abuse
    norwegian - February 12, 2012 5:33 pm
    UH OH He will be ticketed by jim preacher for sure on big game wknd now...
  3. gibblefish
    Report Abuse
    gibblefish - February 12, 2012 11:08 am
    Hey Judd, need some help? Smoak
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