Earning His Spurs: Clifton Geathers

Freshman defensive end Clifton Geathers was one of the most highly sought after prospects in America in 2006, and after spending a year in prep school, the elite jumbo athlete is now enrolled at South Carolina and learning the ropes of SEC football this spring.


"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."

-Robert Frost


Many a promising young athlete let a talent grow into an enigma. It becomes a burden on the learning curve and creates a ceiling lower than it should be. How many highly recruited athletes get to college and never pan out? The accepted terminology, "a bust," runs rampant in our society. Sometimes it's the media's fault as they blow potential out of proportion. How many times have you heard, "He's the next (insert Hall of Fame athlete here)?"

Fans are to blame as they constantly expect nothing short of perfection from the highly sought athlete. Some never consider the age of the college athlete or the psychological effects widespread negativity can have on such an impressionable young mind.

Other times though, it's the athlete who refuses to take the next step. The denial of improvements needed created by an ego bigger than any muscle, is the most crushing blow to an athlete. An unwillingness to learn creates the inability to learn, thus impeding improvement. These athletes will soon be labeled with a lifelong tag – "a Bust"

On occasion, a physically imposing student of the game, reared to respect and willing to learn, comes along. This is no bust. There is no ego to check at the door. 6'7" and 275 pounds of intense ability, Clifton Geathers will make any Gamecock fan drool. He truly is a giant amongst giants. The Gamecocks are full of tall muscle bound athletes, yet still, none of them come close to the true freshman from Georgetown, SC.

Before you lay eyes on this behemoth of a young man, one must dispel all preconceived notions of 275 pound men wearing #96. There is no stomach hanging over the uniform pants, no waddle to his walk and no dieticians following him around campus. Geathers is a physical specimen robust in height, muscle mass and speed.

The 275 pounds did not come easy though. Believe it or not, he used to be bigger. "I probably lost around 15 or 20 pounds. I want to put it all back but little by little," said Geathers following Wednesday's practice.

Family genes had its way with the Geathers boys. More like overalls, the Geathers boys are no stranger to the NFL. Uncle Jumpy, father Robert, and brother Robert Jr. have all played there. It would be easy to let ego get in the way and stunt the growth of the athlete. Sooner or later, Clifton would have to fall victim to the attention, the coddling and the money his family has obviously earned.

Not the Geathers family though, this is one of the most respectful young men when in the presence of reporters, stopping to call each "Sir" if he did not understand the question posed. Soft spoken would be the last trait guessed when asked to describe a lightning quick, 6'7," defensive end raised in an NFL family. Like the well placed ego though, he's as soft spoken as he is respectful. A soft spoken demeanor that had some question his aggressiveness.

It's the rare quality on the inside though, that's even more intimidating than the imposing outside. Quick to admit he's not close to where he needs to be, Clifton says, "The coaches are teaching me how to stay low. I have a lot to improve on."

When asked about his chances of starting there was no shred of ego still, "If I do, I do. If I don't, I don't. I've learned a lot from Coach (Brad) Lawing."

Clifton's praise and respect would shine through when talking about the coaching staff's knowledge versus his lack thereof. "It's been great playing for Coach Lawing. He knows his stuff. I just do what he says. If I do it wrong he disciplines me and makes me do it the right way."

Geathers sounds like he's describing a third string kicker on the worst high school football team in the country when talking about himself. "I've missed assignments, missed plays, things like that."

His respect for Coach Spurrier is without question. When asked why he thinks Coach Spurrier is great, Geathers said, "You see the Florida game? The #1 team, and they lost by one point. I mean, there's something going on so I came here."

This is all a sign of potential with room (lots of it) to grow. Though the ego is nowhere to be found, confidence oozes through the garnet and white practice uniform when discussing the transition from Military school to Division I SEC football, "Physical-wise and speed, it wasn't too bad. But, learning all the plays and stuff, I'm not used to doing all that."

With strength, confidence and speed of a giant blanketed by the ego of a mouse, Geathers is not only the biggest Gamecock, he might be one of the best someday. There's a chance though, that sometime in the near future he won't be the biggest Gamecock. His little brother, a rising junior in high school who's looking at Georgia too, stands 6'6" and weighs 330 pounds.

"He's still on the Georgia side right now, I think. Maybe - maybe I can pull him over here a little bit."

Whether his little brother decides to come to USC or not, one thing is for sure. A mountain of blazing fury, willing to listen and bound to be even better will be whipping up euphoria at Williams-Brice Stadium for years to come.

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