After that deal with Oakland, the Carolina Panthers suddenly had a seventh-round selection, number 216 overall. They used that pick to select Captain Munnerlyn, CB, South Carolina.
Regarded as one of the Southeastern Conference’s rising stars at cornerback, Munnerlyn had a forgetful final season in a Gamecocks uniform that resulted in a benching and eventual dressing down by the coaching staff after he and several other underclassmen did not perform to their expected level of play.
Coming back from a 2007 left foot fracture, the multi-talented athlete manned the right cornerback position and also performed on special teams. He was benched for the 2009 Mississippi game after he missed a team meeting/weight training session. He batted a toe sprain later in the year, but was also taken to task by the staff.
Head coach Steve Spurrier questioned the effort level of several of the Gamecocks’ NFL Draft prospects in the loss at Clemson. Spurrier benched junior tight end Jared Cook for the second half, saying the Gamecocks’ leading receiver did not appear to be into the game. The staff also cited strong safety Emanuel Cook and Munnerlyn.
“A few guys aren’t playing quite like they did early in the year. I think that was obvious,” Spurrier said. “It’s disappointing. Football season’s a long time. Teams either get better or worse. I thought we were getting better after the Arkansas game, and then it seems like we’ve taken a down turn since then.”
At Murphy High School, Munnerlyn was named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State team. The three-time All-Region selection participated in the Junior All-Star Game and Pigskin Classic in Hawaii, and was also a track participant at the Junior Olympics. As a senior, he led the football team to a 10-2 record and a Class 6A Regional runner-up finish. He also competed in track, clocking a career-best 10.53 in the 100-meter and 22.43 in the 200-meter dashes.
Munnerlyn enrolled at South Carolina in 2006, turning down scholarship offers from Kansas State and West Virginia. He started five games at right cornerback, including the final four contests as a true freshman. He recorded 36 tackles (27 solos), as he picked off two passes and deflected five others. The 170-pounder also averaged 23.2 yards on 12 kickoff returns. He sat out the Wofford clash after he was hospitalized for several days with a right forearm infection.
In 2007, Munnerlyn was named All-Southeastern Conference first-team by the league’s coaches. He started 10 games, missing the season finale vs. Clemson while appearing in just one series vs. Florida after suffering a broken bone in his left foot vs. Arkansas. His presence in the secondary helped the Gamecocks improve their 43rd-ranked pass defense from 2006 to a fourth place finish (168.75 ypg) in 2007.
As a sophomore, Munnerlyn ranked seventh on the team with 47 tackles (40 solos), including two stops for loss. He caused and recovered a fumble, broke up four passes and picked off three others. He finished seventh in the SEC with a 9.17-yard average on 18 punt returns and gained 258 yards (21.5 avg) on 12 kickoff returns.
Munnerlyn sat out 2008 spring drills to continue his left foot rehabilitation. He started 12 times at right cornerback, again ranking seventh on the squad with 44 tackles (29 solos). He registered two sacks and caused one fumble. He returned one of two fumble recoveries 38 yards for a score and deflected five passes. He averaged 6.6 yards on 18 punt returns and 24.2 yards on nine kickoff returns, including an 84-yarder that was the longest return by a Gamecock since 1997.