By Robert W. Dalton
When Shawn Watson was selected to build the future of Wofford College football, one of the first things he did was turn to the past. He shared letters from former Terriers with the current group of student-athletes — letters that talked about how the Wofford experience helped shape them as husbands, fathers and leaders.
“The kids we recruit and their parents are looking for a quality education that will prepare them for real life, for when football ends,” says Watson. “In addition to chasing championships and being a program of excellence, our focus is on developing the total human being. I’m into that piece. That’s what I believe the college experience is supposed to be about.”
Erin Wolfe ’21 helps Terriers with mental aspects of being a student-athlete
Early one Monday morning in July, members of the Wofford College football team packed the media room in Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium for conditioning.
This wasn’t lifting weights and running — that came earlier. These exercises were about getting the Terriers mentally ready for the rigors of the season.
Erin Wolfe ’21, who played soccer while at Wofford, stood in the front of the room. Wolfe, who is pursuing master’s degrees in clinical mental health and athletic counseling at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., approached Wofford about leading the program over the summer.
“I’m using my student-athlete background along with my education to teach the football team strategies to improve mental performance and wellness on the field and in the classroom,” Wolfe says.
On this Monday, Wolfe led a session on having confidence in yourself and your teammates and how to keep one bad play from turning into an avalanche. Other sessions focused on leadership, communication, emotion regulation and self-care.
The workshop themes were created based on topics selected by the football team’s leadership council. Wolfe said she drew from her own experience in crafting the biweekly sessions.
“I found that there’s a lot of pressure on student-athletes because Wofford is so academically demanding,” Wolfe says. “There wasn’t a lot of help because people didn’t understand the grind. You can’t really understand it until you’re in it.”
Wofford head coach Shawn Watson says the sessions with Wolfe are just another way for the college to invest in its student-athletes.
“We recognize the need to inform our team regarding mental health and well-being, and we also have the responsibility to teach them practical ways to mentally perform at their best,” Watson says. “Erin has done an exceptional job of equipping our players with information and mental tools that will allow them to thrive while being challenged as student-athletes.”
Cade Rice ’25, a quarterback and a finance major from Dayton, Ohio, says the sessions have helped players develop strategies to overcome the common challenges they face.
“People sharing their own experiences and getting to pick their brains a little bit and seeing what everyone else has to say really helps,” Rice says.
Cam Woolery ’24, a defensive lineman and a business economics major from Chicago, Ill., says Wolfe’s work is giving the Terriers an extra edge as they head into the season.
“It’s already paying dividends in the weight room,” he says. “We just have to practice what we’ve learned daily, get in the habit of building up the tools she’s given us and apply them to the field.”
Head games Erin Wolfe ’21 helps Terriers with mental aspects of being a student-athlete Erin Wolfe ’21 relied on her experience as a Wofford studentathlete to lead the football team in mental conditioning exercises during the summer.
Leading by example
Community service a point of emphasis for Terriers
One of the Wofford College football team’s most important drives last year came after the season.
Players placed barrels at various spots across campus during the spring semester and asked for donations of clothing. Players would empty the barrels each week and take the donations to Miracle Hill Rescue Mission to be distributed to individuals who are homeless or come to the mission for support.
“Spartanburg and Wofford are important to us, and we wanted to take care of the community,” says running back Kyle Parsons ’26, a philosophy major from Weddington, N.C. “People were eager to help. We’d empty the buckets every week, and two days later they would be full again.”
The clothing drive was just one of the community service projects the team launched after Shawn Watson was hired as head coach in December 2022. Players also volunteered at Project Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides services to children and adults with autism.
“I’m going into my senior year, and throughout my time here we hadn’t really been involved in that much community service as a program,” says wide receiver Garrett Vernon ’24, a finance major from Elkin, N.C. “Once Coach Watson took over, we met with community leaders and talked about needs. We wanted to be better leaders and to be a lighthouse for Wofford.”
Watson says he doesn’t want to just teach the players about football. He wants them to learn to be givers instead of takers.
“The world today sells take, take, take and get as much as you can,” Watson says. “I don’t want that message. I want our student-athletes to be servant leaders.”
To fulfill that mission, Watson turned to a familiar face, running backs coach Senorise Perry, who played for Watson at the University of Louisville. Serving as a community liaison is a role Perry has embraced.
“You’ve got to serve before you can become a leader,” Perry says. “Everything doesn’t always go in your favor. Sometimes you have to be grateful for what you have. When the players go to Miracle Hill or Project Hope and see things like that, it gives them a sense of urgency to do more. And there’s always more you can do to help others.”
The clothing drive will continue this year, and the players will be back volunteering with Project Hope. And that’s just the beginning, Vernon says.
“We’re going to have more projects in the future,” he says. “We’re still brainstorming, but we’ve got some good stuff coming.”
The team made weekly clothing pick ups on campus and deliveries to Miracle Hill Rescue Mission. Above are Kyle Parsons ’26, Garrett Vernon ’24 and coach Senorise Perry who came to Wofford in January after a career in the NFL.
Meet some student-athletes:
AMIR ANNOOR DB #13
Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Extra points: Annoor plans to be a financial advisor after graduation, either on his own or as part of a firm.
ANTHONY GARCIA OL #50
Hometown: Leavenworth, Kan.
Extra points: Garcia spent the summer working on himself, training and preparing for the season. He plans to pursue his real estate license after graduating, although he’s contemplating playing a fifth season.
TAYVIAN GASS OL #64
Year: Fifth year
Hometown: Sumter, S.C.
Extra points: Gass spent the summer hanging out with his daughter, who was born Dec. 30, 2022. He says he came back for a fifth year to fulfill a promise he made when Shawn Watson was hired as head coach. He plans to work for state House Speaker Murrell Smith Jr. ’90 and start law school next fall.
GABRIEL HARRIS DB #19
Hometown: Sumter, S.C.
Extra points: Harris interned at the Goodall Center for Environmental Studies at Glendale and a law firm over the summer. He’ll go to graduate school or law school after finishing Wofford.
ALEC HOLT WR #11
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Major: Business economics
Extra points: Holt did a summer internship with the owner of a physical therapy company to observe how he manages the business. He doesn’t know what he’ll do after graduating, but says it will be fun. “I’ll find something I enjoy doing. The goal is to live life to the fullest,” he says.
BRIDGER JONES K #38
Hometown: Columbus, Ga. Majors: Accounting and finance
Extra points: Jones worked with a land contractor in his hometown over the summer. After graduating, he hopes to open his own financial advisement firm for professional athletes who are new to the business.
HARRISON MORGAN LB #10
Hometown: Easley, S.C.
Major: Business economics
Extra points: Morgan is looking forward to sharing the field with his brother, Nick Morgan ’26, also a linebacker. “I love having my brother on the team. I can’t wait to make plays with him,” he says.
DAVID POWERS LB #34
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Extra points: Powers plans to enter the transfer portal after graduation to pursue a master’s degree in his fifth season of eligibility.
JACOB RITCHIE TE #89
Hometown: St. Johns, Fla.
Major: Business economics
Extra points: Ritchie worked with Wofford’s athletics marketing team over the summer. He is considering graduate school after Wofford and hopes to join an NFL team working as a scout.
CHUCK SMITH IV DL #97
Hometown: Suwanee, Ga.
Major: Sociology and anthropology
Extra points: Smith wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, Chuck Smith III, who played in the NFL for nine seasons. After he’s done with football, he wants a career in sales or sports marketing.