There were times when South Carolina football player Shameik Blackshear wondered what his future would hold.
The redshirt freshman defensive end was shot multiple times in an incident last December near campus. In the immediate aftermath, he had to wonder.
“It was a point where I didn’t know if I was going to play ball again,” Blackshear said. “I was just praying and praying. And I got good news.”
He eventually came through his recovery, lost strength and missed spring practice. From all appearances, he’s been full-go all of August, and Tuesday he spoke publicly for the first time since the shooting.
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He didn’t seem to want to dwell too much on what happened in December, instead looking forward to the role he’ll hold this coming season. That said, reaching this point hasn’t been easy.
“It was just a lot of hard work,” Blackshear said. “Some days, I was out of it, I was down, felt like I couldn’t come back. Some days I was up. I was like, ‘I’ve got to get back, I’ve got to get back.’ I just pushed through it.”
He set a goal of making it back for fall camp, and he hit that. He’s been a relatively consistent presence on the second-team defensive line in open practices, and with the coaching staff’s plan of heavy rotation, projects to be a factor for playing time.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said earlier in camp that Blackshear being able to get back in the weight room was key, as he lost time and progress after the incident.
“Shameik Blackshear is a young defensive lineman I’m excited about,” Muschamp said. “He’s had a very good camp. Shameik runs extremely well. Because of the offseason he had, he missed lifting for a year. It’s really set him back strength-wise. Shameik is going to be a contributor for us this year.”
Even before getting shot, Blackshear came through a tumultuous first season on campus. The four-star prospect out of Bluffton didn’t play in the early going, got a little action in two games and then was shut down. He battled several nagging injuries and at one point posted a tweet implying dissatisfaction about his choice to play at USC. He received a medical redshirt his first season.
All that pales in comparison to what happened in December and the long road back. He knows it creates a certain kind of image around him, and it’s one he wants to change.
“I feel like right now I’m in the process of rebuilding my image,” Blackshear said. “It’s not a thing that just happens overnight. It just takes a little bit of time. Just keeping my face clean, do the right things, be respectful and just be thankful that I’m still living.”