HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2017: BILL CURRIER
Growing up in Maryland, Bill Currier was like most young athletes, playing football in the backyard and pretending he was Johnny Unitas or Raymond Berry or another one of Baltimore Colts legends.
He never really dreamed of playing in the NFL. He never even dreamed of playing college football.
“It was never really a dream that I was heading for. It was just a fun thing to imagine,” he said.
But Currier wound up doing both, starring for South Carolina in the 1970s and then playing nine years in the NFL for the Giants, Patriots and Houston Oilers.
Currier was one of South Carolina’s biggest stars in the 1970s, leading the Gamecocks to a 7–5 record and the Tangerine Bowl in 1975 and serving as the defensive captain and winning team MVP in 1976. Currier will be inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame along with seven other former Gamecocks on Sept. 21 at the Zone at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“It was just one step after another,” Currier said of his playing career. “It was that old cliche, just take it one game at a time or one season at a time and that’s the way I approached football and it just continued happening.
“I never really thought that much about playing in college and never really thought that much about playing professionally. I think it’s a lot different today. I think everybody comes in with the whole idea that they are going to come in as a freshman in college and they are planning for their professional career. Sometimes it’s sad because the percentage that actually make it is less than one percent maybe.”
Currier was in that one percent after an outstanding career at South Carolina.
He began his career as freshman under former head coach Paul Dietzel, who led the Gamecocks to a 7–4 record in 1973. They slipped to 4–7 in 1974 and Dietzel was replaced by head coach Jim Carlen.
“Coach Carlen just reinvigorated everything,” Currier said. “He brought in some great coaches, Richard Bell as defensive coordinator and my secondary coach, Dale Evans. They just did a good job. All the assistant coaches could really relate with players and the players responded to them.”
It’s tremendously humbling when I think of the number of great athletes who have come through USC.
Led by quarterback Jeff Grantz and running backs Kevin Long and Clarence Williams, who both rushed for more than 1,000 yards, the Gamecocks finished 7–5 in 1975 and beat Clemson 56–20, South Carolina’s largest margin of victory ever against its archival.
Currier says that was without question the biggest win of the season.
“It had to be,” he said. “I’m not sure if that is still the largest Clemson victory, but for us it was anyway.”
Currier said the ’75 team was special on both sides of the ball, with Grantz leading the offense and a defense led by two star defensive backs in Currier and Rick Sanford.
“Jeff did a great job,” he said. “That was the year that Rick Sanford came in and was a freshman and just brought a spark to our defense. He was a great player. We were undersized. We were smaller than anybody we played as far as a defensive team. We were small up front, but it was just a very intense group and it kept us in a lot of games. When you are smaller than everybody else you have to play twice as hard sometimes.”
That was a motto Currier carried throughout his playing career. A ninth-round draft pick in 1977, he played nine seasons in the NFL and went to the playoffs almost every year. His most memorable seasons were when he played for Bum Phillips in Houston.
Behind running back and former Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell, the Oilers made it to the AFC Championship game in 1978 and ’79, losing to the Steelers both times.
“The whole city just went crazy for the Houston Oilers,” Currier said. “We lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game in ’78 and ’79 and still got back to Houston and had a pep rally in the Astrodome with 60,000 people. It was an exciting time in Houston.”
Currier’s teams in New York also came up just short, losing in the playoffs to the 49ers in 1981 and 1984 and the Bears in 1985.
“We went to the playoffs a lot … (but) every time I was in the playoffs we lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions,” Currier said.
Currier is in the state of South Carolina Hall of Fame and the Maryland Hall of Fame, but joining the University of South Carolina Hall of Fame is an even bigger thrill, he said.
“It’s tremendously humbling when I think of the number of great athletes who have come through USC,” he said. “And they just look at what you did at USC, so I’m very humbled to be a part in the USC Hall of Fame.”
After his playing days, Currier spent most of his career as a coach and as the athletic director for 22 years at Ben Lippen High School in Columbia. Looking back on his days at South Carolina, it’s the people he met and the influence they had on him that means the most.
“I met a lot of good people when I got to South Carolina that impacted my life as a Christian,” he said. “I wasn’t really that involved in Christianity when I got here, but I met so many good Christian men that were models for me. That’s the biggest thing I got out of my college career — the example of a good Christian man and how to live your life.”