By EDDIE LITAKER
Langston Moore and Preston Thorne, who visited Sumter as part of the recent Gamecock Club gathering, have a lot in common.
The two were teammates on the University of South Carolina defensive line in the early 2000s under former USC head coach Lou Holtz. Both hail from the Charleston area, with Moore preparing for James Island Charter High School and Thorne playing for the legendary John McKissick at Summerville High School. Both have been regular contributors to the university’s flagship station, WNKT 107.5 The Game, and both have a background in education, whether through work or family.
The two have also come together on a series of children’s books, illustrated by Kev Roche, which are definitely Gamecock friendly in theme. The series, aimed at children ages 4 to 8, began with “Just a Chicken,” released in 2015, then included “Just a Chicken Little” (2019) and “Usta Wuz a Rooster” (2022), which Moore called their “COVID baby” as much of the work was done during the pandemic.
“One of the things that got us into it was just the competition,” said Moore, who played defensive tackle for the Gamecocks from 1999-2003 and first served as a back-up to former Cleveland Pinkney. Sumter High School. “We used to see a lot of these ‘Good Night, Cocky’ books get pushed around and we were like, man, these don’t even look like Gamecocks and the book doesn’t really represent what we want to do.
“So Preston was an educator, my mother was an educator, I married an educator and one of the biggest things that Lou Holtz always instilled in us was a voracious habit of reading and always wanted his teams to read. So we have in kind of listened, like all reluctant kids, and we kind of got the message.”
Thorne proudly wore garnet and black from 2000 to 2004, initially serving as a backup to Moore after spending his first year on the program. Thorne made his mark as a high school history teacher and football coach, so writing children’s books didn’t come naturally to him, but he agreed with Moore’s assessment that their competitive nature gathered on the project.
“I don’t know if it was a natural progression,” Thorne said. “I certainly had classroom training as a teacher, but not with small children and not with younger primary school students. I used some of that training, but we saw books that we didn’t think they were very good representations of the university and we wanted to do better than what we were doing, so we kind of competed and made a better version.”
Moore, who played seven years in the National Football League and served as a sideline reporter for USC football games for seven seasons, said writing children’s books was a business he and Thorne had succeeded in. by trial and error.
“Initially, we started out wanting to write a bunch of high-level leadership books,” Moore said. “That didn’t work out, and so we started with children’s books and kind of took the story that Lou Holtz was telling us a long time ago and worked it into this whole series.”
Moore has flown frequent flyer miles from his Dallas-area home to join Thorne for special events related to the book series, including school tours, Gamecock Club socials and other corporate gatherings. USC.
“When we’re not doing books and stuff like that, we’re doing a bunch of school tours,” Moore said. “We’re doing a lot of talk in and around the state around literacy and reading, and we’re really going out there and encouraging kids to become pros in reading and writing and speaking instead of playing game. football. Not everyone can be Preston or Langston, because of physical size and all, but everyone can turn pro in the books, and that’s one of the things we always pass on to kids.”
In addition to their work together on the book series and their passion for children’s literacy, the former defensive linemen also share a passion for garnet and black that they were able to share through their work at the radio.
Moore said his years of walking behind the scenes of football shows, which began with the 2012 season, were a real treat, especially with the unprecedented success many of those teams were enjoying.
“I was able to see and experience all the game day stuff without having to physically like being fit or having the anxiety of making plays and having a coach yelling at me,” said Moore, who is a regular guest on WNKT’s The Halftime Show. . “For me, it was cool just to be on the ground level with the game but to be close enough to the players and that’s the one thing I appreciate about college to, un, let me having that opportunity but, two, having the leeway to communicate and talk with the players. You know, I should be hitting from the sidelines, but I talk to Jadeveon Clowney or the other guys about things that I consider a defensive lineman.
“Again, that’s the really cool part for me, beyond seeing some of the most winning teams that we had with coach (Steve) Spurrier and all these different things. It was also a great time , because I think the most games I’ve ever won at Carolina was nine years old, but to be here when we probably had one of our most successful runs at another title was really cool, and experiencing it at ground level was awesome.”
Alongside his ongoing work in education, Thorne has spent time speaking about Gamecock sports and other topics of interest at WNKT, where he is a co-host of The Early Game, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.
“It’s great to be able to talk about sports on a daily basis because that’s what I would do anyway,” Thorne said. “That’s what I would do in text messages with former teammates and with other people, so we know this thing is really important to all of us here. For me, it’s important to add the point of perspective of a former player to the conversation and also to just try and give the fans some perspective, as someone who is also a fan and really cares about the university.”
Thorne said it’s tough when a Gamecock team is in trouble and tough love needs to be wisely passed out.
“That’s the hardest part because you realize all the players are playing as hard as they can, you know the coaches are training as hard as they can,” Thorne said, “but in same time there are standards and expectations for the programs and if you want to get to where we are all proud of them for representing those colors then doing their best and winning is part of the deal. why the players come here, and that’s why the coaches come here. They know it’s part of their deal, so I don’t feel too bad because I know it’s from a place of love. “
Moore came to South Carolina in Holtz’s first season, which saw the Gamecocks go 0-11 after a 1-10 season the previous year under Brad Scott. Moore was impressed with what head coach Shane Beamer was able to accomplish in the first year, taking the Gamecocks to a 7-6 record with wins over Auburn, Florida and a 38-21 win over North Carolina at Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
“Shane has done a really phenomenal job of getting buy-in and getting the kids to do the hard stuff, which is football, and it’s not always easy,” said Moore, whose career in the NFL included stops at Cincinnati, where he was sixth. – draft round in 2003, Arizona and Detroit. “Sometimes you see guys trying to rule with an iron fist, but he’s done a good job of mixing that up, but also instilling a whole lot of care and a lot of the things that made us successful in taking him to a whole another height. As I said, he won seven games his first year and when we had Lou Holtz we didn’t win any of them, so I think he’s nowhere near where he should be.”
The year Thorne joined Moore on the Gamecock program marked the start of the 0-11 season turnaround that saw South Carolina go 8-4 and 9-3 with back-to-back Outback Bowl victories over the Eternal Power Big Ten Ohio State.
“It’s palpable,” Thorne said of the excitement surrounding Gamecock football as Beamer’s second season approaches. “You can feel everyone is encouraged and excited going into this season, and that’s the best part. I think all you really want as a fan, at least I can only speak for me is that you just want to get into every ball game and feel like you have a chance I think people are starting to feel that again and Coach Beamer he makes sure he’s connected to the community and we all know he appreciates that community and he appreciates us, whether it’s ex-players or towns like Sumter, places that really put their hearts into the program, he makes sure they know he likes them. That’s kind of all we really want.
More information about the “Just a Chicken” book series can be found on the AthletesandArtists.net website or on Twitter via Moore [@reMovethechains]Thorne [@CoachPTweets] or Athletes & Artists [@AthleteArtist_].