COLUMBIA, S.C. — Dante Sawyer took the road less traveled to Scooba, Miss.
His quest to qualify for enrollment at South Carolina required a junior college stop, and rather than graduating from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga., he obtained a GED and reported to East Mississippi Community College in the spring of 2014.
The No. 105-ranked prospect in the Class of 2014 hit the ground running, cramming two years’ worth of classwork into one. On Saturday, Sawyer returns to the state of Mississippi for South Carolina’s showdown with Mississippi State (7 p.m., ESPN2).
“At first, (the schoolwork) was a big struggle. I really wanted to do it. It was a lot of work,” Sawyer said. “Once I put my feet down, I was like, I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to get to South Carolina, so I’ve got to do it.”
And do it he did.
“It was a life-changing experience,” Sawyer said. “It humbled me to the point where I recognized that I didn’t do enough in high school, so it was time to pick it up and do what I’ve got to do. It humbled me.
“I have a different view of everything, life and what it takes to do everything.”
Last August, Sawyer reported to South Carolina. As the 4-star defensive end was preparing for his first season in the SEC, his former teammates at EMCC were spending their first days with a Netflix documentary crew.
Thanks to his diligent work in the classroom, Sawyer missed out on his chance for an appearance on the first season of Last Chance U, which followed the junior college powerhouse throughout the 2015 season.
In August, Saywer and several of his Gamecocks teammates watched all six episodes of the hit program.
“It was pretty fun just for everybody to see what goes on in old Scooba, Mississippi,” Sawyer said. “It was pretty fun. It was a pretty good deal. I liked it.”
One of the show’s stars, DT Ronald Ollie, was Sawyer’s roommate. Their clique included DT Marcel Andry and DT D.J. Jones, who’s at Ole Miss — Ollie and Andry both play for Nicholls State.
While Jones and Sawyer were cutting their teeth in the SEC, Andry and Ollie were commanding the attention of the Netflix camera crew.
Sawyer was impressed with the final product.
“I didn’t think they were going to go full-blown, everybody out there, just showing what really goes on in JUCO life,” he said. “It was interesting.”