Chisolm's character, determination paying off
Coach Steve Spurrier was quick to praise Chisolm's attitude as being one factor that has set him apart from a lot of other players, and allowed him to progress from the scout team to potential starter in just his first year in the South Carolina program.
"He wants it, he's got wonderful attitude," noted Spurrier after Chisolm's breakout performance against Tennessee last weekend. "He comes early, Coach Wolford says this guy is five minutes early to every meal on the road, he's five minutes early to meetings, (and) he's got a wonderful attitude that hopefully will rub off on all these others players. As a coach, you love those kind of guys that really act like this is important to them. So Garrett is a very serious young man that wants to be a very good offensive lineman. He's got a chance, but he's got to go play a lot more. He'll make some mistakes here and there. But he's got a wonderful attitude about him."
After his senior year of high school, Chisolm was at a crossroads. Having only played football for two years, he had a great deal of potential, but did not have an academic situation that would allow him to attend a Division 1 university. He eventually chose Pikeville College, an NAIA school, to continue his education, but did not walk-on at Carolina until the spring of 2009. Spurrier said that although Chisolm did not start practicing with the team until school had started, it was not long before he caught the eye of his coaches and teammates alike.
"One day coach Lorenzo Ward said ‘that new kid over there has knocked our guys on their butts.' I said, ‘What, what's his name?'" Somebody said, ‘Chisolm, Garrett Chisolm. (Nathan) Pepper and those guys, they don't like going against him all that much.' We started watching him a bit and finally started coaching him over with the varsity, and not the scout team. And sure enough, he does have some good athletic ability, good feet, and takes a stand in there. He had a lot to learn of course, and hopefully now he knows enough to just let him go play."
His former coach at West Ashley, Freddie Hamilton, who is now at Fort Dorchester High School in Charleston, talked about Garrett's potential at the end of his high school career, and what it's taken for Garrett to reach the level of play that he has.
"We first saw Garrett when he was at the end of his 10th grade year. He hadn't played football up to that point, and we just saw this big kid walking around at the school and me and another coach asked him if we wanted to come out for football," said Hamilton. "He came out his junior year; he didn't really know anything about football at all, so really his junior year we just spent a lot of time teaching him the fundamentals. He didn't know how to get in a stance or anything like that, but he had a ton of potential. He was a big guy, had good feet, had an outstanding attitude, just a great character young man, and he came out his senior year and had a real good year. I thought he had a world of potential."
Still, Hamilton knew that Chisolm had a long way to go, and although both of the major in-state schools in South Carolina were interested in him, Garrett would have to continue the hard work long after his high school days.
Hamilton stated, "Academically he wasn't really where he needed to be to get recruited. I know there (were) some schools looking at him, South Carolina and Clemson had interest in him at the time along with several other schools, but he wasn't where he needed to be academically. And he ended up going to Pikeville which was a NAIA school at the time in Kentucky. But that was pretty much with the intention of going there for a year and getting his grades (up) and then transferring to a Division 1 school. And he's worked real hard since then."
Chisolm may not have had the initial upside of some D-1 prospects, but again Hamilton said that it is his work ethic that leads to praise like Spurrier has given him.
"He's just got great character, he's a character young man and just works real hard," proclaimed Hamilton. "He's earned everything he's gotten. Yeah, he's got a world of potential, his upside is tremendous. Like I said, he's got great size, great feet, you know he's a strong young man. As far as the weight room, he worked real hard there in high school. We had to teach him how to work out, because I don't think he'd ever done that before. But he's a very hard worker."
Chisolm has gotten an opportunity to play in four games this season, and according to Spurrier, the Gamecocks will look to utilize him further in upcoming games. With Jarriel King out with a concussion this week, and an offensive line that has shifted throughout the year, this weekend's matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks may be the first start of Chisolm's young career.
For a player with such humble beginnings in football, Chisolm has certainly made the coaching staff at South Carolina happy, and continues to make his former high school coach proud.
"(I'm) very proud of him," said Hamilton. "He stayed in touch with me a bunch when he was up at Pikeville (College). He used to call me a bunch and then he came back home and was actually kind of frustrated and kept trying to get into South Carolina. He actually called me on the phone several times (after Pikeville) and asked me to get him a workout, a weight workout, so that he could stay in shape so he could get into Carolina. So when he got into South Carolina he'd be ready to go. But yeah I'm very proud of Garrett. I'm just thrilled to pieces over what he's done and I'm going to continue to follow him."
Like Spurrier and Hamilton both said, it is attitude that sets Garrett Chisolm apart from his peers, and will continue to drive him throughout his career as a South Carolina Gamecock.
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