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An article about an excellent football player who became


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The article below just goes to show that some kids do eventually get it if given the chance. He was turned down more than once by the admissions office, but when he got the chance Eric Norwood knew how to take advantage of it. This guy should be an inspiration to other players who only focus on the sports side or things and don't care about being a student. I'm very proud to know that he's a Gamecock.

Linebacker Norwood finishing what he started at USC

Gamecocks' standout aiming for sacks record, diploma

FILE Buy photo

South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood is just five sacks from overtaking the school record.

By JOSEPH PERSON

The (Columbia) State

Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 3:15 a.m.

Last Modified: Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 3:32 a.m.

Come December, Eric Norwood hopes to leave South Carolina with the school’s all-time sacks record and a diploma.

He nearly was denied the chance to pursue either of them.

Turned down three times by USC’s admissions department, Norwood was admitted on appeal following the lobbying efforts of Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier and former defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix.

Norwood took it from there, losing the devil-may-care approach to academics he carried through high school and becoming a player USC administrators hold up as the epitome of a student-athlete, all too often a contradiction in terms.

Norwood needs five sacks to overtake Andrew Provence as the Gamecocks’ sacks leader, and just a few more hours to finish his criminal justice degree in 3½ years.

Just as he almost didn’t get into USC, Norwood nearly left early. Moments after the Gamecocks lost to Iowa in the Outback Bowl in January, Norwood told reporters he planned to enter the NFL draft.

Norwood changed his mind a couple of days later after discussing the situation with his mother. In five months, he will become the first member of his immediate family to earn a college degree.

“I got denied admission by South Carolina three times before they let me in for summer school,” Norwood said. “Like I said, everything happens for a reason. I’ve been on the dean’s list four or five times. I’m about to graduate in December.”

Norwood had an indifferent attitude, at best, toward school at North Cobb High outside Atlanta, where he majored in football with minors in basketball and track. Norwood’s grade point average dipped as low as 1.6 before he graduated with a 1.8.

And though his GPA in his core classes was a little better at 2.3, his transcript scared off several schools, including Georgia.

“I think he just didn’t apply himself in high school,” said Raymond Harrison, USC’s director of academic services. “I think he took some things for granted, thinking he’s this fantastic football player and things would work themselves out.”

However, USC’s admissions office denied two players from Spurrier’s 2006 recruiting class — Norwood and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. Norwood said when he was finally admitted, he signed a contract agreeing to meet certain academic stipulations.

“He’s one of several players that maybe didn’t have very super high school transcripts,” Spurrier said of Norwood. “But our admissions people and our president (are) a little bit more understanding than five years ago, also.”

USC changed its guidelines for special admits the following year after Spurrier blasted the administration for denying two recruits who were qualified under NCAA standards.

Norwood said he felt as though he had something to prove after enrolling at USC.

“I remember how hard he worked. He seemed like he came in with a chip on his shoulder,” Harrison said. “He met with his tutor, met with his advisors. He put in the extra time. … He would come in in between class to do things when it wasn’t required.”

After he made a 3.2 his first semester at USC, Norwood remembers thinking, “If I can do this in college, I could have easily done this in high school.”

Harrison said Norwood has maintained a strong academic plan at USC. After he played as a freshman and realized he would not have a redshirt season, or fifth year of school, Norwood told his academic advisors he wanted to take enough hours so he could graduate in December and begin preparations for the NFL draft.

Because of his good showing as a freshman, Norwood was excused from mandatory study hall. But when his grades slipped a bit his sophomore year, Norwood approached Harrison and asked if he could return to the daily study halls.

“We use Eric as a role model, and he’s served as a mentor to a lot of guys that came in after him,” Harrison said. “The way we want our student-athletes to be, I think he epitomizes it.”

Norwood twice has been named to the All-SEC team — as a defensive end in 2007 and a linebacker last year. He passed Provence as USC’s career leader in tackles for loss last season, and leads all active players in the conference in tackles for loss and sacks.

Norwood, who has a 2.9 GPA and was named the Harris Pastides Scholar Athlete Award winner after the spring game, is happy to speak with younger teammates struggling to make the grade.

“Some guys just gotta mess up before they can get it right,” he said.

By all accounts, Norwood has it right.

“I can talk forever about him,” Harrison said. “That’s how strongly I feel about him and his character.”

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