Welcome to the FBS, Jacksonville State: History of the Gamecocks

The Jacksonville State Gamecocks begin C-USA life in the upcoming season, and we welcome them to the FBS by looking at the program's history.

The FBS college football family is expanding for the 2023 season, with the addition of two former FCS schools. While they’ll not be able to compete for a conference or national title, one of the two has already shown they can keep pace with the top programs at the level. Introducing, the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.

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History of the Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Let’s start with the basic information on the new Conference USA team. The Gamecocks represent Jacksonville State University, located in Jacksonville, Alabama. They play their home games at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium, a 24,000-capacity venue that has been the home of the Gamecocks since 1947. Their biggest rivals are the Troy Trojans and the Chattanooga Mocs.

The history of the program dates back to 1904, when Jacksonville State was known as the Eagle Owls. They previously played in blue and gold before adopting the Gamecocks nickname and their current red and white colors in the same year they opened Burgess-Snow Field — what was then known as the College Bowl.

Before becoming an NCAA Division II member in 1973, Jacksonville State fluctuated between being an independent program, playing in the SIAA, and competing in the Alabama Collegiate Conference of the NAIA.

During their time in DII football, the Gamecocks made it to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game four times. After losses in their first three, Jacksonville State beat Pittsburg State 17-13 in 1992, landing a DII title on the fourth attempt.

MORE: 2022 All-Conference USA College Football Team and Individual Honors

It was their first and only football national title in program history despite having multiple conference successes — including nine in the Gulf South Conference during their DII tenure.

Two years after their title success, Jacksonville State moved up to the FCS level for the 1995 season. Although it took a move from the Southland Conference to the Ohio Valley Conference in 2003, the Gamecocks eventually established themselves as a powerhouse of FCS football, winning nine conference titles between 2003 and 2020.

During that time, they made 10 appearances in the FCS Playoffs, reaching the FCS National Championship Game in 2015, only to lose 37-10 to North Dakota State.

However, having announced their transition to the FBS in 2021, Jacksonville State was ineligible to compete for the 2022 FCS National Championship or claim the Atlantic Sun Conference they won with an unbeaten conference record.

Famous Jacksonville State Players

According to drafthistory.com, there have been 12 players from Jacksonville State that were drafted into the NFL.

Of those, cornerback Eric Davis is arguably the most well-known, having won Super Bowl 29 with the San Francisco 49ers — who drafted him in the second round of the 1990 NFL Draft. Davis was also a first-team All-Pro in 1995 and earned second-team honors in 1996. Davis was inducted into the DII Hall of Fame in 2008.

Playing Davis close in the fame race is former Gamecocks QB Dieter Brock. After graduating from Jacksonville State in 1974, Brock had a Hall of Fame career in the Canadian Football League. Winning successive CFL Most Outstanding Player awards, he led the CFL in passing yards for four years.

Brock is also the oldest-ever NFL rookie, having debuted with the Los Angeles Rams in 1985 at the age of 34.

Two of the most successful Jacksonville State players went undrafted but went on to have stellar professional careers. Defensive tackle Alvin Wright played in three of the Gamecocks’ DII title games and went on to make 62 starts in the NFL, including 50 consecutive games for the Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, Gamecocks offensive linemen Terry Owens is considered by many to be one of the greatest Jacksonville State players, starting 46 times in a 132-game career with the San Diego Chargers.

Gamecocks Career Record Holders

  • Career rushing yards: Boyce Callahan, 4,237 yards
  • Career rushing touchdowns: DaMarcus James, 49 touchdowns
  • Career passing yards: Zerrick Cooper, 9,624 yards
  • Career passing touchdowns: Zerrick Cooper, 74 touchdowns
  • Career receiving yards: Josh Barge, 3,611 yards
  • Career receiving touchdowns: Josh Pearson, 30 touchdowns
  • Career total tackles: Eric Mims, 378 total tackles
  • Career tackles for loss: Darius Jackson, 60.5 TFL
  • Career sacks: Darius Jackson, 27.5 sacks
  • Career passes defended: Eurosius Parker, 42 passes defended
  • Career punting yards: Gregg Lowery, 11,576 yards
  • Career field goals made: Gavin Haliford, 49 field goals

Jacksonville State Success Against FBS Foes

While this year marks the first time that Jacksonville State will play in the FBS, there are several programs that have already fallen foul of their football prowess. Some of the most memorable games in program history have involved the Gamecocks performing giant-killing acts on FBS foes.

In 2010, Jacksonville State opened its campaign with a trip to Oxford, Mississippi, for a game against Ole Miss that no one expected them to win. Those presumptions appeared to have been confirmed, with the Gamecocks trailing 31-13 going into the fourth quarter.

However, a fourth-quarter comeback took the game to an unlikely overtime. After trading touchdowns in the first overtime, Ole Miss established an advantage before a 30-yard touchdown to Kevyn Cooper threatened to extend the game.

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But, Jacksonville State opted to go for two, successfully converting and pulling off one of the biggest shocks in Ole Miss football history.

Most recently, the Gamecocks flashed their might against FBS opposition when they downed Florida State in 2021. Led by former Clemson QB Zerrick Cooper, Jacksonville State took an early lead and never fell more than 10 points behind their Power Five opponent.

Copper pulled them back to within three with under five minutes to play before firing a Hail Marry downfield with six seconds on the clock. Damond Philyaw-Johnson cajoled the ball into his arms, made two men miss, and headed to the end zone to give the Gamecocks a famous 20-17 victory.

Jacksonville State 2023 College Football Schedule

  • vs. UTEP Miners, Aug. 26
  • vs. ETSU Buccaneers, Sep. 2
  • at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, Sep. 9
  • vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles, Sep. 23
  • at Sam Houston State Bearkats, Sep, 28
  • at Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, Oct. 4
  • vs. Liberty Flames, Oct. 10
  • vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Oct. 17
  • at FIU Panthers, Oct. 25
  • at South Carolina Gamecocks, Nov. 4
  • vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Nov. 18
  • at New Mexico State Aggies, Nov. 25
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