Jarriel King: "I'm an overachiever"

When Jarriel King takes the field at Williams-Brice Stadium on August 28th, it'll be the realization of a dream a lifetime in the making. King's long and winding journey to enroll at South Carolina and play football for the home state Gamecocks is now over, but the obstacles that King faced along the way are a story in themselves.

To fully understand and appreciate the saga of Jarriel King, one must go back to the beginning.

In the fall of 2004, King was an undiscovered but dominating prep player at North Charleston High School in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The athletic two-way lineman, who measured in at 6'7" and 270 pounds his senior year of high school, was a tenacious player on both lines of scrimmage, recording 86 tackles and 13 sacks at defensive end and boasting an impressive 29 pancake blocks at offensive tackle.

Yet the mammoth lineman managed to fly beneath the proverbial recruiting radar of college coaches until that December when he was invited to the North-South All Star Game in Myrtle Beach, SC to compete against several of the state's other top prospects. That's when the whispers about King began to circulate and spread like wildfire in the recruiting world. The athletic lineman had the spotlight firmly placed on him, and he did not disappoint, dominating throughout the week of practice and in the game itself.

King quickly picked up offers from in-state programs South Carolina and Clemson following his performance at the North-South Game. Over the next month, Steve Spurrier Jr. and the Gamecocks won a head-to-head recruiting battle with the rival Tigers for King's services, and he gave his verbal commitment to USC on January 19th, 2005. A couple weeks later, he firmed up his college plans and signed his letter of intent to play at South Carolina.

That would be the end of the recruiting process for most prep prospects. But for King, that was just the beginning of his journey to don the Garnet and Black.

After failing to qualify out of high school, King took the fall of 2005 to work on improving his SAT scores. But after multiple attempts, he fell just short and was left with one other option - to go to junior college.

King then enrolled at Georgia Military College in the fall of 2006, where he looked to be rejuvenated both on and off the field. King played defensive end on GMC's three-man front that fall, and quickly earned the reputation for being one of the best and most athletic JUCO defensive linemen in the country. Despite playing alongside current Georgia Bulldogs Jarius Wynn and Corvey Irvin, several scouts believed that King was the best player on that defensive front as a freshman.

King totaled 23 ½ tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 ½ sacks in 2006 for GMC. Heading into his sophomore year at junior college, many even considered King to be one of the top overall JUCO prospects in the country, regardless of position.

GamecockAnthem.com spoke with Georgia Military head football coach Bert Williams back in February of 2007, and he raved about King's ability on the football field.

"He's got exceptional speed and quickness for a man his size. He's about 6'6" and 285 (pounds), and he just really runs extremely well," said Williams. "He plays with a really good motor, and he‘s athletic. With his body size, his attitude, and his ability, I think he has the potential to be an all-conference type of lineman."

The pieces seemed to be falling into place for King.

That is, until another hurdle presented itself. King never got the opportunity to play his sophomore season at GMC because he was kicked off the team for being accused of stealing $5 from a teammate's dorm room.

The details surrounding that particular incident may never be fully known, but King was sent packing nonetheless. He returned to his North Charleston, SC home for the fall of 2007, where King said he did a lot of "soul searching."

King admitted that there was a time when he wasn't sure if he'd ever make it to South Carolina, but he credits the support of friends and family for giving him the strength to push on through his darkest hours.

"There was a point in my personal life (when I thought I might not make it to USC)," admitted King. "But there were people who kept calling me and writing me and telling me to 'Keep your head up' and 'You're gonna make it.'"

With only one more semester needed to graduate from junior college and achieve his dream of making it to South Carolina, King paid his own way back to GMC earlier this year for the spring semester. He finished up his academic requirements and graduated in May, but much to his dismay, there was one more obstacle that had to be overcome.

South Carolina's admission standards did not accept one of the math courses King took at GMC, and he was forced to take one more class over the summer, essentially on his own, to be able to transfer into USC. According to King, it was just one final road block. But he had come too far and had learned too many lessons along the way to let that stop him from reaching his goal.

"I made a 'B' on my own almost, with one tutor," he said. "I wasn't going to settle for a 'C,' which is all I needed. I can't settle anymore. Settling is what got me waiting three years."

After finishing up the math course, King got the phone call that he'd been waiting on for over three years last Thursday, when he was told that he'd made the grade and was officially accepted into the University of South Carolina. In a whirlwind of events, King threw his belongings together and drove up to Columbia to join his new teammates for the start of preseason practice on Friday night.

It was a long journey for King that stretched from January of 2005 to August of 2008. But on Friday night, King saw his commitment and perseverance rewarded when he strolled onto the South Carolina practice fields donning the #76 garnet jersey for the first time.

When asked following Friday's practice if he was glad to finally be a Gamecock, King replied with a smile, "Glad is not the word, man... It feels good. It's been a long time coming. Everyone's been waiting to see me. Everyone's been pulling for me and keeping the faith in me. I've been keeping the faith for everyone believing in me. It was three long years. There's been a lot to overcome. But being out on this field in the Garnet and Black, that's a good feeling."

Expressing an obvious sense of joy and relief, King continued, saying, "If you look at what I've been through the past three years just getting here, I've been waiting for it for so long," he said. "I just appreciate everyone and everything that's been moving in my life, especially God and the way he's been putting the obstacles in front of me and just helping me overcome."

Indeed, King has had a long and challenging road to get to this point - to become a South Carolina student and a Gamecock football player.

The story of Jarriel King is one of inspiration, and it serves as proof that dreams do come true. It's a chronicle of faith, perseverance, and lessons learned. But the story doesn't end there now that King has arrived in Columbia. Not at all. According to King, his story is just beginning.

"Man, I'm an overachiever. I've still got too much to work for. I can't look back. God has brought me a long ways from where I was," he said. "This is just the next chapter for me. I'm more motivated than ever, and I'm ready to play football."

Stay tuned to GamecockAnthem.com for Part II of this series with King later in the week.

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