Former WHS Bulldog and Clemson DL, Tony Stephens passes at age 51
by Cindy Crosby | July 6, 2016 1:22 am
Tony Stephens, former Walterboro High School Bulldog Football and Track standout (Class of 1983) and All-ACC defensive lineman for the Clemson Tigers, passed away Monday, July 4, 2016 at the age of 51. According to a Clemson media statement released Tuesday, July 5, Stephens succumbed following a long battle with a respiratory problem that led to pneumonia.
Stephens was an integral part of the success of Bulldog Football in the early 80’s under Coach Gyles Hall. He was named to the Shrine Bowl in 1993 and received All-State recognition. He was inducted in the Colleton County Hall of Fame on September 20, 2002.
A freshman at Clemson in the fall of 1983, Stephens was red-shirted and over the course of his first three years as a Tiger, would see little playing time. According to Clemson Sports Information, that would drastically change in the summer of 1986 when he garnered the attention of then, Clemson Head Coach Danny Ford.
By the fall of 1986, Stephens had earned a starting middle guard position and would go on to help Clemson reach back-to-back ACC Championships in 1986 (8-2-2) and 1987 (10-2). According to Clemson’s published stats, Stephens would record 52 tackles in 12 games, 11 as a starter, and have four sacks during the 1986 season.
As a red-shirt senior in 1987, Stephens was situated in the middle of the defensive line. He helped Clemson to a Citrus Bowl win and a No. 10 ranking at the end of the post-season. He amassed 61 tackles, including nine for loss. ClemsonTigers.com noted the following in regard to his contributions in 1987, “He was a big reason the Tigers ranked second in the nation in rushing defense, fifth in total defense and 13th in scoring defense.”
Stephens was named Clemson’s most improved player in 1986 and 1987. He was a third-round draft choice (81st overall) of the New Orleans Saints in 1988.
Mike Hardee, former Bulldog quarterback, was saddened to learn about the loss of his former teammate and friend. “He was a friend, as well as my teammate,” said Hardee. “He worked hard at everything he did. He will truly be missed. Rest in Peace, my friend.”
Another former teammate, Cary Hickman, was also mourning the loss of Stephens. “My Walterboro High Bulldog football and track teammate, Tony Stephens, will be remembered as one of the greats in Walterboro sports history,” said Hickman. “Not only did he dominate on the football field at old Bulldog Stadium, but he led by example in hard work on the field and in the classroom.”
Funeral arrangements for Stephens have not been announced.