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On The Block: Isaiah Johnson


By Charlie Drafts 03/20/2016 | charlie@blockcblog.com




Photo: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Johnson came to South Carolina just when we needed him the most.  The All-Big 12 Kansas transfer was looking for a place closer to home and a place that he could come in and contribute right away. You could say it was a perfect position at the start of the last season for Isaiah Johnson.

Unfortunately, we all know how the 2015 season played out.

Although, the season was an absolute disappointment and huge step in the wrong direction, there were a few bright spots on the defensive side of the ball on last years team. I think that Isaiah Johnson was one of those bright spots.  He finished second on the team in tackles and always gave everything he had no matter what the coach, record or score was at the time.

Isaiah Johnson chose to come to South Carolina and play his final year of college football and now he has his sights set on the NFL.  I truly believe that he will have an impressive Pro Day and will garner the attention of quite a few NFL teams that will ultimately lead to him getting picked up by a team.  He has been successful everywhere he has been and has the talent, resume, mentality and toughness that bodes well at the next level.

We wish Isaiah Johnson nothing but the best and look forward to following his career at the next level.  Even though most of his time was spent at Kansas, he will always be a Gamecock. We caught up with him in this latest edition of On The Block.


BCB: You’ve had a chance to play in the Big 12 and the SEC, in your opinion what are the biggest difference between the two conferences?

IJ: The two biggest differences between the conferences are the pace and tempo that is played. I also feel like it's a lot more of a physical game in the SEC, but a lot more of an endurance game in the Big 12.

BCB: Take us back to your first meeting with Coach Spurrier, what was that meeting like and what ultimately led to your decision to transfer and choose South Carolina to play football?

IJ: My first meeting of Coach Spurrier was great. When we met we got a chance to talk about Cary, NC, where I live because he used to coach at Duke and he talked about being in Cary a lot. The decision that ultimately led me to SC was where I could come in and be an impact right away on and off the field.

BCB: What is that one particular play or moment during your short time at South Carolina that you’ll always remember and why?

IJ: One particular play that I will always remember was getting that interception right before halftime vs Tennesee because my friends would always joke with me about how I could have batted the ball down, but I intercepted it instead.


BCB: Will you be attending the South Carolina Pro-Day and where are you training and what are you doing to help prepare for the NFL draft?

IJ: Yes, I will be attending and I am training in Orlando, FL. I am working on a lot to better myself mentally and physically such as changing my diet, using yoga and meditation. I'm trying to build as many healthy habits as I can to be great.

BCB: Have you had a chance to reach out to any current or former Kansas or South Carolina NFL players for advice on getting ready for the NFL? 

IJ: Yes, I have had a chance to reach out to my friends and former Kansas players and South Carolina. They told me it's a business so make sure I come in physically and mentally prepared.

BCB: What’s the craziest or funniest thing you’ve ever seen or heard on the field during your time playing college football?

IJ: The craziest thing I've seen on the football field was when we played against LSU and the running back #5 (Derrius Guice) broke about 7 of our tackles and kept going until we eventually got him down. The craziest thing I've ever heard was a referee curse out a player.

The LSU play, in case you love depression: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:13854457

BCB: What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to incoming freshmen playing football at South Carolina this year? 

IJ: The biggest piece of advice I would give to an incoming freshman is to make sure you stay on top of your nutrition and your schedule they give you. Don't ever get lazy and always push yourself to being great everyday.

BCB: Who on this current South Carolina team do you see stepping out as leaders on defense next season under the new coaching staff and system?

IJ: I saw a lot of good young leaders last year, but I would have to give it to Toure Boyd because I saw his work ethic and leadership skills practicing with him everyday. He would always push me to be the best I could be as well.

BCB: What’s something you’d like to say to all of Gamecock Nation?

IJ: I would like to say that I loved my five months playing in Columbia and I know this new team is going to give them what they want this season. I will always be grateful to call myself a Gamecock and hope they enjoyed my time.



By Charlie Drafts 03/20/2016 


On The Block: Marcus Lattimore


By Charlie Drafts 8/2/2015 | charlie@blockcblog.com




(Matt Tripp, 247Sports)

On the night of February 2nd 2010 I found myself in my car in a crowded parking lot listening to the radio.
 
This was the moment Gamecock fans had been waiting for, Marcus Lattimore was making his announcement on where he would be playing college football.  As I listened to pre announcement discussions, I found myself looking around the parking lot and noticed quite a lot of other people were in their vehicle's.  I imagined they were waiting on the same news.  As I heard someone on the radio say that Stephen Davis was with Lattimore and carrying the bag with the hats of the chosen school’s inside, I felt a little uneasy.  Certainly he would choose Auburn.

Marcus Lattimore made the decision to play football at South Carolina, and in that decision made on that February night, he would change an entire program.

Lattimore’s story at South Carolina was one of unbelievable highs and devastating lows.

During his true freshman campaign he electrified the nation, earning a multitude of unanimous honors and breaking multiple single season records at South Carolina, all while helping to lead the Gamecocks to the first ever SEC East Championship.  That 2010 season will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of Gamecock fans for a long time to come.

In Lattimore’s sophomore season he had an amazing beginning to the season, rushing for over 800 yards and 11 total touchdowns.  He had four 100-yard rushing games and was averaging 116.9 yards a game.  Marcus was showing all signs of having another record breaking season.  A little more than halfway through the season, in the 4th quarter against Missisippi State, while blocking for WR Bruce Ellington, a bulldog defender rolled up onto Lattimore’s left leg.
 
Marcus Lattimore’s would require season ending surgery and his amazing sophomore campaign was cut short. "Our worst fears were realized," Spurrier said following the game.

After successful surgery and unbelievable will and determination during his more than six month rehabilitation, Lattimore would play his junior season at South Carolina.  Again, he started the season with record breaking stats and honors each week.  Then, on Saturday October 27th in the 9th game of the season at home against Tennessee, the unthinkable happened.  Marcus suffered a horrific leg injury.  The entire stadium and Gamecock fans all over the nation were left speechless, it was one of the most emotional moments that I can recall as a Gamecock fan.

Lattimore would again, go through grueling rehab and become an inspiration to millions across the world.  Lattimore announced that he would be entering the 2013 NFL Draft.  With the 131st pick in the 4th round, the San Francisco 49ers selected Marcus Lattimore.

The 49ers signed a four year deal with Lattimore worth over $8.4 million. After working hard to make it back to 100% and after just one month short of two years in the league, Lattimore announced his decision to retire from the NFL.

Lattimore is back home in South Carolina and is very hard at work.  He’s going back to school to get his degree, working as an ambassador for USC and is making huge impacts on the lives of young football players all across the state with The Marcus Lattimore DREAMS Foundation and his company The Xtra Inch.

Marcus Lattimore has left a legacy at South Carolina that will never be matched.  His character, perseverance and talent can never be overstated.  He will always be the ultimate representative of what it means to be a Gamecock.

I caught with Marcus and asked him a few questions in this exclusive addition of “On The Block”. 

BCB:  You had an unbelievable freshman year at South Carolina, take us back to that first SEC start in 2010 against Georgia.  You carried the ball 37 times, 182 yards and had two touchdowns to help South Carolina pull out the win.  What do you remember most about that game, both during and after?

ML: "Obviously, that was a big game for me and the most fans I have ever played in front of to that date. I am always nervous before games but once I take the first initial hit my nerves calm down and I am good to go. I was really feeling it that game. The more I carried the ball the stronger I got. After the game it was an unbelievable feeling to beat a national powerhouse like the Georgia Bulldogs as a freshman starter."

BCB:  During your recruitment you were one of the most sought after recruits in the country.  What’s one of the funniest or craziest things that a coach has said to you to get him to come to their school during that process? 

ML: "I did not really entertain a lot of craziness from coaches. I just always wanted to be treated as just another player coming in to help the team instead of a hot commodity. The craziest thing I would say is, I did have a coach that wanted me to visit his school so bad that he tried to meet me half way because he could not simply wait for me to get there."

BCB:  What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for incoming freshman football players at South Carolina?

ML: "Enjoy this time of your life because it will go by fast and do not take for granted the privilege of representing your state university. Have fun, but be cautious in all that you do knowing the consequences whether good or bad of all your decisions because it effects more than just you. It is not about you… That is my advice that I would give to any freshmen."

BCB:  As someone who has come back from two serious injuries playing football, what was the absolute toughest part to overcome?  What was the biggest factor that helped you overcome those injuries?

ML: "Your mental state of mind has to be strong.  Scientifically every nerve in your body is connected to your brain so if you do not believe in your brain that you can overcome an injury your body will follow suit and listen to messages the brain is sending out. You should always surround yourself with positive people during any rehab period. I did not like people coming to see me like they were coming to a funeral. Positivity aides your progress. Keep your mind clear, eat healthy and work hard at making your comeback. Just stay positive."

BCB: The 2010 season at South Carolina will live forever, the Alabama game, the game in the Swamp against Florida and of course the SEC East Championship.  What was your favorite moment or play for you personally during that magical first season at USC?

ML: "My special moment that I will always remember from that season was beating Alabama. My favorite play was one particular touchdown which was in the Swamp. I was tired and came out for a play and was sent back in. I was drained, but I got the handoff and we needed to score to put the game away, I gave it my all and was determined to score, my legs were tired I could not push on and then out of nowhere my brothers came along and helped push me into the end zone to score. I got the credit for the touchdown but my offensive line scored that one! Terrence Campbell, TJ Johnson, Patrick Dimarco, Garrett Chisholm, Kyle Nunn, Rockevious Watkins, Hutch Eckerson all those boys deserve the credit for that touchdown."





BCB:  You’ve openly said we have an amazing backfield this season at South Carolina, who do you see stepping up and taking the reigns as the lead back or do you think it will be a team effort out of the backfield this year?  How do you think this season will look for the Gamecocks?

ML: "Yes, most definitely a team effort. All three of those guys are good enough to start anywhere in the country. This will be a great season."

BCB:  We hear that you’re a great bowler, what’s something about Marcus Lattimore that the average Gamecock fan may not know?  What’s one thing you’d like all of Gamecock Nation to know?

ML: "I was 10 times a better baseball player growing up than football player. I had the opportunity to play varsity baseball as an 8th grader. I love baseball and know a lot of baseball history facts. In my career from age 7 to 14 years old I never struck out. My mom loves baseball but I stopped playing to focus on becoming a better football player so I could get a full scholarship."

BCB:  We all know about the Spurrier dance story in your living room during recruitment, what is your favorite Spurrier story or memory while at South Carolina?

ML: "Right, Coach is very hard to impress and always found a flaw. One time I fumbled in a game and during film session he re-winded the fumble at least 30 times straight and asked me what was I thinking about when I fumbled. I will never forget that film session so I tried not to fumble anymore, haha! That is why he is the best coach in the country. He wants perfection out of his players and if you do everything he tells you I promise you will be a better player. He is an offensive genius."

BCB:  We think that you’d make an excellent coach, have you ever thought about getting into coaching?  Will we ever potentially see a Coach Lattimore at South Carolina? 

ML: “Haha,  only time will tell, but for now I am focused on finishing my degree in Public Health for my mother, running my business The Xtra Inch LLC, and keeping the DREAMS alive of youth athletes everywhere in South Carolina through my foundation.”

BCB: Tell us about your Marcus Lattimore DREAMS Foundation, what can Gamecock fans do to help out this cause?

ML: "My foundation is called DREAMS which means Driven Righteously to Empower Athletes Minds Spiritually. I feel like everything in my journey that has happened to me, has happened for a reason and that life is not about me but about planting seeds in others. I use my experiences to create youth development programs and initiatives that drives character building, values and health and wellness. That is what my foundation is all about. I want to encourage the youth of SC to become productive citizens and to help them realize all their DREAMS can come true! But I know that I will need a lot of support so if any gamecock fans would like to know more or support DREAMS they can visit my site marcuslattimorefoundation.com I also have a Facebook page titled Marcus Lattimore Foundation/DREAMS. Everyone can join my fan club to receive updates by texting help21 to 58885. I have some very HUGE plans for the state of South Carolina!" 


By Charlie Drafts 8/2/2015