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After long wait, King ready to prove himself


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After long wait, King ready to prove himself

In the eyes, you see the desire. In the powerful legs shifting back and forth, back and forth, you see the pent-up power.

At 6-foot-7 and 294 pounds, the man wearing the garnet No. 76 towers over teammates on the sideline, waiting for his moment.

Now is not the time to complain. It’s not the time to deal with remorse or regret or past sins or worry about what others say you can or can’t do.

Jarriel King is here to play football for USC. It took him 3½ years to get from Signing Day in 2005 to Friday night’s workout across the street from Williams-Brice Stadium.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “Three long years, a lot to overcome. ... Glad? Glad is not the word, glad is not the word.”

King was supposed to be one of the building blocks of a new era of Gamecock football. That’s what Steve Spurrier envisioned on that February day in 2005 when he saw King’s letter of intent slide out of the fax machine.

In reality, King was a long way from being ready for USC. He couldn’t cut it in the classroom at North Charleston High and had run afoul of the law twice before ever stepping on the field at Georgia Military College.

His immense talent, passion and motor for the game was obvious during his first season at the junior college, but it wasn’t enough to keep him on the team when he was accused of taking money from dorm rooms prior to the start of the 2007 season.

Bert Williams, his coach at Georgia Military, took no pleasure in booting King from the team. He worried his decision would send King into the wilderness.

“There’s always that chance when a major obstacle is thrown in the way,” Williams said. “But what helped him from doing that, from not going down a destructive road, was that he knew South Carolina wanted him.”

Throughout those dark days, Spurrier and his staff stayed in contact, urged him to do whatever it took to stay in shape and get his grades in order.

Pickup basketball was the chicken soup for his body. A new mindset in the classroom was the chicken soup for his grades. Realizing there were people out there counting on him, including his family and two young children, was the chicken soup for his soul.

This summer, the only hurdle that remained was a ‘C’ grade in a math course. He earned a ‘B’.

“I wasn’t going to settle for a ‘C’ ... I can’t settle no more,” King said. “Settling is what got me waiting three years.”

After everything he has gone through, you can bet King is not going to settle for a supporting role with the Gamecocks, even if he is a newbie.

“I’m looking at coming right at it and making an impact. I’m not looking at starting behind anybody,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to making everyone better. ... I’ve never started behind anyone, and I’m not going to start now. That’s a challenge to them. You’re gonna step up, or you’re gonna step down. That’s how it is.”

Big words for a guy being asked to play left tackle, a position he has never played.

“I was skeptical about it. I was big-time skeptical about it,” King said his new position. “I thought I was going to come in here straight on the defensive line and play, but like I said, wherever they need me to play, wherever I best suit the team, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going all out.”

Spurrier said King’s physical attributes and drive were most in need on the offensive line, where depth is a problem.

“I felt like we needed a big, strong guy on the offensive line who could maybe push somebody around and not get pushed around so much,” Spurrier said. “Jarriel is a big, strong guy over there. I think he’s got a chance to be a heck of an offensive left tackle.”

In King’s mind, he is already the leader of the pack.

“I’m not saying (there’s) a lack of leadership; there’s a lack of display of leadership,” King said. “That’s what I hope to bring to the team, even if something happens and I can’t play. I’m not going to back down and be depressed. I still got those leadership values that I can get with everyone else.”

Now is the time for King to turn it all loose. Now is the time to push, claw, kick, scratch, yell, scream and prove to everyone that he was worth the wait.

“It was tough. It was something I had to suck up, basically,” King said. “It was something I didn’t expect to happen, but it did. I sucked it up and took it like a man, and I’m back on the field and that’s all that matters.”

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