Shannon, '92, and Curtis Godwin, '91, '93
Originally published in February 2013
At November’s Homecoming pregame tailgate event, what was evident all around was something intangible that connects the hundreds of thousands of Carolina alumni near and wide—an abiding love for the University of South Carolina.
Shannon, ’92, and Curtis Godwin, ’91, ’93, stood out from the crowd on that sunny, happy day in which Carolina defeated Arkansas 38-20. There was a genuine, mutual adoration between the two as they gathered for photographs with their eight-year-old twins, Eva and Aidan, and two fellow alumni who attend their church in York, South Carolina. As they joked about their shared love for the English language, we got to know the Godwins better, and we found a Carolina love story worth sharing.
Football Led Them Here
New Jersey native Shannon, the youngest of eight in the Glynn family, braved the potential backlash of her parents to opt out of the tradition of attending school up North and instead enroll in Carolina for a chance to make a name for herself—instead of continuing to be known as simply “the youngest Glynn”—and to take advantage of the top-five national ranking of the journalism program.
“The interest began when my high-school freshman English teacher suggested the University of South Carolina,” Shannon explains.
“He left my high school to attend USC as a grad student and became a football assistant. He eventually won four Super Bowl rings with the Giants and the Patriots, was the Notre Dame head football coach and is now at Kansas—Charlie Weis.”
Curtis, of North Carolina, was recruited to play on the defensive line of the Gamecock football team, which he did his first two years, and later switched to offensive line.
“It was certainly my ‘15 minutes,’ as they say,” Curtis explains. “It was a fantastic experience that I probably didn't fully appreciate at the time. It was a full-time job that taught me a great deal of responsibility.”
Curtis had recruiters interested in him, and his exposure to big-time programs was buoyed by a top recruit’s having played on his team. His name was Mike Armstrong, and he ended up choosing South Carolina “over many other premiere programs.” As Curtis tells it, he was able to parlay those visits from college coaches into personal connections, and he found himself with some scholarship offers of his own.
It seems Curtis instantly fell head over heels for Carolina.
“It didn't take but one trip to Columbia in the fall of 1986 for me to fall in love with the place,” he remembers. “I was one of dozens of recruits on hand to watch Nebraska come to Williams-Brice one hot afternoon. Standing in the midst of over 70,000 screaming fans, feeling the emotion of ‘2001’ as the team stormed the field, and watching the upper deck behind me sway to the band's playing of ‘Louie Louie,’ I knew that this was a special place—a place I wanted to be.”
So while Curtis had his every minute planned out for him by the football coaches—keeping the student-athletes on schedule for structure and camaraderie—Shannon’s first days on campus had a drastically different feel to them.
“My parents dropped me off at the airport, and I flew to college,” Shannon says. “There wasn’t a ceremonial first day, making beds, and tears when Mom and Dad left. Instead, Charlie picked me up from the airport, helped me bring my things up to the ninth floor of Bates House, gave me a hug and left for football practice.”
Shannon says she unpacked her things, made her bed and walked up to the Russell House, where she sat by herself, ate a croissant sandwich and began to ponder her bold move.
“My thoughts vacillated between ‘This is great!’ and ‘Oh my goodness; what was I thinking? I’m all alone for the first time in my life!’”
Shannon became quickly acclimated to Carolina life and soon found herself preparing for her first football game, which was a somewhat foreign experience for her.
“Up North, especially in the ‘80s, we wore jeans and sneakers to football games, so when everybody was putting dresses on like they were going to church, I was way surprised,” she explains. “But it didn’t take long for us to start dressing up for games. It was fun.”
Even as early as Shannon’s first semester, when Curtis was a sophomore football player and they had never exchanged a single word or a simple glance, he caught the eye of his future wife.
“I first saw Curtis and his girlfriend walking across campus during the first month of school my freshman year,” Shannon remembers vividly. “I was sitting on ‘Bates beach’ as they walked from her dorm to the shuttle stop. I remember saying to my roommate, ‘That is a lucky girl.’”
It was three long years until Shannon would finally get her chance to make an impression on her future husband.
Check Yes or No
Shannon had just found out one week before her senior year started that her classes were dropped because her financial-aid papers did not get processed in time. It just so happened that fate intervened and landed her in two classes with Curtis.
A verbatim, present-day account of the exchange follows, as Shannon and Curtis reminisce:
Curtis: We were in the 8 o’clock class passing papers, and then in the 10 o’clock class, she was like, “Are you following me?”… and I had no idea we were in the class together before.
Shannon: I was like, “Oh, I’ve really left an impression on him.”
Curtis: The way you handed me the syllabus was awesome! (laughs)
Shannon: I remember saying that, and he gave me the strangest look. He had never seen me before in his life. I was like, “We were just passing papers an hour ago!”
Curtis: I was focused on the history of the English language. (laughs)
Choosing a Path
“I’m often thankful that I ended up where I did,” Shannon explains.” I’m also thankful that I ended up in those two courses so that I could meet Curtis. I got accepted to other schools, but this was where I was supposed to end up. It was meant to be.”
“Everything happens for a reason,” Curtis adds. “It’s the small choices in your life that can change your path.”
Fast-forward to the next semester, with Curtis giving Shannon a Valentine’s Day gift that won’t soon be forgotten—a handwritten poem with a take on one of Robert Frost’s famous works, “The Road Not Taken.”
“To have this big, huge football player writing poetry was ridiculously romantic,” Shannon laughs. “There was just some piece of me that absolutely knew he was the one.”
To Curtis, it represented a firm commitment to their newly established future together.
“In my mind, I knew that our relationship was going to mean a change of pathways,” he explains. “I was leaving one road for another. The imagery of Frost's poem was an appropriate reference point. I wanted to emphasize my commitment to this new path and make it clear that it would make—and has made—all the difference.”
Once the two became a couple, there was no looking back. Their first "real" date took place at Motor Supply Company in what is now known as the Vista, and they'd regularly go out to The Village Idiot, Monterrey Jack's and Sharky's, often ending up at the Elbow Room and Group Therapy at the end of the night. On campus, they'd spend time talking by the reflective pool that was once in front of the humanities building.
“I don’t think I appreciated campus until I met Shannon,” Curtis explains. “I was able to experience a lot more on campus and off campus by being involved in Shannon’s formals, which were very special and very cool. It made it a very different approach for me that last year, which was great.”
A Pair of Educators
Today, the two live in York and teach in York County. Curtis is a ninth- and tenth-grade English teacher and assistant football coach at Clover High School in Clover, and Shannon is the instructional developer at York Technical College, providing instructional support and professional development for the faculty and staff. She also teaches English there.
After graduating with their bachelor’s degrees from Carolina, both went on to earn additional degrees, with Curtis’ achieving his master’s in teaching from Carolina and Shannon’s having received the same degree from Winthrop. Shannon also went on to pursue a PhD in education from Capella University, with a focus on training and performance improvement.
In terms of recruiting today’s best students to become future instructors, Shannon has a few thoughts.
“I would like to see a focus on supporting the teachers in education, highlighting the benefits of being an educator, and identifying the competencies needed to be successful in a service career,” she says. “If we identify the competencies of good educators, then we can identify who will have a sustainable future and be successful in the classroom.”
In terms of Curtis’ approach with his students and student-athletes, Shannon says she is awe-inspired by the tone he takes with them—or the tone he doesn’t take, to be clear—and the time he takes to develop them as players and people with his level-headed, calm demeanor.
Regarding her husband's intellect, Shannon is quick to give her husband credit for being the better student of the two of them.
"Early in our friendship, Curtis beat me on a grammar test, and I was mad!" Shannon recalls. "I said, 'No football has ever beaten me on a grammar test,' and he said, 'I'm not your typical football player!"
The Emotion of ‘2001’
“You know, Charlie, he warned me about ‘2001.’ He told me it was the most amazing thing, and he was right—it gave me goose bumps and it still does,” Shannon says of the football team’s entrance to the field on home game days. “When Curtis and I went to our first game after college, I looked up at him when he was watching. It was the first time he watched since he had played. You could tell that he was taken by the moment, if you will.”
“Well, that was the first year that I wasn’t involved in football,” Curtis replies. “It was difficult. I had a really difficult time my last game playing, realizing it was all over. It was hard being in the stands, and to know a majority of those guys who are on the team, and you just feel really connected. There was envy there—you know; you wish you were still there. Yeah, it was definitely moving to be in the stands and hear ‘2001’ and to know what it’s like on both ends of the spectrum, watching it and being a part of it.”
Shannon's heart is open, freely sharing what's inside, whether it’s her recollection of love at first sight when she first laid eyes on Curtis or the emotional reaction she has to “2001” that so many who love Carolina similarly experience when it’s time for the team to run out of the tunnel.
“I took a video from the Homecoming game, a silly little video on my phone, and I’m showing my family up in Jersey, and I’m getting chills, just from showing them the video of something that happened two weeks ago,” Shannon explains. “There really isn’t anything like ‘2001’—there just isn’t.”
In the video, her daughter is whipping around a rally towel to the Mighty Sound of the Southeast, giving her mom rug burn on her face with each twirl of the towel, and Mom and Dad couldn’t be prouder or happier about it.
“Homecoming was great,” Shannon said. “We felt so special being included in the former athletes’ banquet and game-day festivities. Aidan and Eva are old enough to really enjoy the game and all the excitement that comes with being a Gamecock!”
Curtis agrees, stating, “This year, the pregame celebration in the tent was far and above last year’s experience. That was a great time in the new Farmer’s Market. Homecoming allowed me to again taste what a special gift it is to be a Gamecock athlete.”
Regarding their children’s future education plans… “I think it would be so amazing to have a second generation at the college,” Shannon says. “To me, that’s something that I missed out on. I say to our children, ‘I would love for you to go to South Carolina, but you can go wherever you want.’ In my heart, I would be so proud if they would go to South Carolina.”
Curtis adds of his son, who has a garnet-colored bedroom wall, and his daughter, who sleeps with a mini Cocky doll each night, “They both refuse to wear the color orange!”
This strong family, this love for a university, it all started with a recruiting trip to Williams-Brice Stadium and a graduate student’s referral to a hometown friend. It’s a story unique to Shannon and Curtis, but one that’s familiar to countless others who found a purpose, or maybe love, or perhaps both at our beloved University of South Carolina.