By Thomas Grant, Jr.

Special from the Big South

Blythewood High School and Presbyterian College graduate and former NFL defensive back Justin Bethel was inducted into the Big South Athletics Hall of Fame. 

He was enshrined with Clayton Almeida (Winthrop men’s tennis) and the late Mark Cooke (Winthrop softball coach during a May 30 ceremony. It was part of the league’s annual Spring Meeting awards and Hall of Fame Dinner at the Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms.

A 3-time All-Big South selection and member of the conference’s All-Decade (2010-19) team, he was the 2011 Big South Defensive Player of the Year. Bethel received All-America accolades from the Associated Press, College Sporting News, College Sports Journal, Phil Steele Magazine, and The Sports Network that season.  In 2011, he finished the regular-season fourth in the Big South with a career-high 87 tackles (7.9 per game), in addition to ranking third with 10 passes defended and second with four interceptions — one of which he ran back for a touchdown at California. 

Bethel graduated as the conference’s all-time leader in solo tackles with 199 and remains the league’s record holder for career blocked kicks with nine.  He also recorded seven career interceptions for 129 return yards, 279 total tackles, and is still the only player in Big South football history with two career blocked punt return touchdowns.  He ranked among the league leaders in tackles in 2009 with 79 (55 solo, 24 assisted) and 2010 with 59 (47 solo, 10 assisted). 

Bethel was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals and completed his second season with the Miami Dolphins in 2023 and 12th overall in the NFL.  His NFL career includes time with the Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots, and he was named First-Team All-Pro in 2013 and 2015 and is a three-time Pro Bowler (2013-15).

(Photo courtesy of Big South)