Hold has firm spot in Gamecocks history

1984 was a big year for Gamecocks quarterback Mike Hold and the South Carolina football program.

COLUMBIA -- It's audible. He can't disguise it in his voice. Mike Hold misses the rush.

But, as much as Hold has a hole in him without football, the former Gamecocks quarter-back and longtime Arena League player and coach missed South Carolina even more.

Hold had help getting back here, to Newberry.

There's wife Nicole, the West Columbia native who clearly is a fan of the state. And there's 3-year-old daughter Hudsen, whose first memories will be formed in the Palmetto State.

"I'm extremely happy," Hold said. "I'm from Arizona, but this is home now."

After 23 years in the Arena League, playing quarterback and coaching, Hold is now working as the head of Newberry College's booster club.

In that field, there's no field in his immediate vision, but there's plenty of sporting spirit to still keep a hold of Hold.

Make no mistake: He wants to be under center. He wants to be on the sideline. It's something that's burned in him since he was a kid.

"Sports is so addicting," Hold,

47, said. "Anybody that loves it and plays it is addicted to the challenge and the competition. It's hard to break. It finally broke for me."

This new gig isn't so bad for the competitive soul. Not at all.

Hold is part of building something new, building something fresh.

He's been there before. It's as if he's in 1984 mode all over again -- except he's not in a uniform and not making the pitches and passes.

He's manning an office, and one that's important to his new school's progress. Hold is working alongside another former USC standout, Brad Edwards, who has been the school's athletic director since May 2009.

"Brad's brought a mentality that, I think, has been a little different," Hold said. "He's thinking big and working to make changes. There's a new president here. … Newberry really is on the rise. I'm just excited to be part of it."

It's funny how he wound up in this position, and in this part of the world, in the first place.

Hold always had his heart set on playing quarterback at Arizona State. Being 5-8 never really helped him get there. Stubborn, after a two-year stint at a junior college, Hold planned to walk on at Arizona State.

But South Carolina was offering a scholarship. Joe Morrison and the Gamecocks thought Hold could be a fit in their veer offense.

Hello, Columbia.

Hold injured his shoulder just before the 1983 season, forcing him to redshirt. But he worked his way into the quarterback platoon by the time the 1984 season began.

Admittedly, Hold said the team wasn't exactly aware before that season that it was about to embark on a four-month journey toward having the best year in the program's history.

Good senior leadership, a bunch of experienced linemen and just enough talent helped the Gamecocks continue to win games.

"We didn't know we'd be 9-0. We didn't know we'd be second in the country," Hold said. "(Coming off a 5-6 year in 1983), it was one of those seasons where no one thought we were going to be any good. We wanted to be good and we believed in ourselves, but we had to prove it to ourselves."

After getting past The Citadel and Duke, the win against Georgia is what really sent the team along its way. The coming victories against Notre Dame and Florida State certainly didn't hurt, either.

Oh, but then there's Navy. It's the sticking point of that season, and it still sticks now.

Whenever someone meets Hold, they instantly bring up the 1984 season at South Carolina. Quickly followed by the what-would-have-been, if not for the 38-21 tumble to what was, at that time, a 3-6 Navy football team.

"I don't think you ever let go of it, to be honest with you," Hold said.

The following week, South Carolina beat Clemson to finish a 10-1 regular season -- still a very good year, especially by USC's definitions.

The Gamecocks were going to the Gator Bowl.

"I thought, 'No way,' " Hold said. " 'We've got to go to a bigger bowl.' That was a reality check. It sunk in. You know, we blew it."

Hold said he watched South Carolina's baseball team win the NCAA title this summer with mixed emotions. He was thrilled for the baseball team -- and heartbroken, again, for his football team.

"It just brought it all right back," he said. "I thought, 'Wow, can you imagine if we'd won a football national championship, how this town would've been?' "

The wait is still on for a South Carolina football team that has that sort of opportunity in front of it again.

Hold watches differently these days -- he says he's more of a fan than anything -- but he sees potential in these 2010 Gamecocks. Under Steve Spurrier, Hold says, the Gamecocks seem closer to closer to approaching what that '84 team did.

"You look at the team and go, 'Oh my gosh, that's NFL talent walking all over that field at Williams-Brice,' " Hold said. "They're so close to being so good. Everyone thinks it can happen. We're just waiting for it to break. This is the opportunity for them to have one of those seasons."

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com, check out the Gamecocks blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/gamecocks and follow him on Twitter (@gamecocksblog).