SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. – Jaylin Dickerson’s days as a high school senior are approaching a single-digit countdown.
The Southern Pines (N.C.) Pinecrest senior is headed to South Carolina to enroll early soon after the calendar rolls to 2017. It means leaving behind his family, friends and the place he is most comfortable to get a jump on his career as a Gamecock.
It’s that opportunity he cherishes and a head start he is eager for as one of four players enrolling early at South Carolina.
“You get an opportunity, you have to run with it,” Dickerson said. “I feel like, personally, a lot of people don’t think I can do it because of where I come from and nobody has recruited me. I feel like a lot of people don’t think I can do it. I just want to show them and prove to them that anything is possible. You get an opportunity, you have to go with it.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound safety picked South Carolina over the summer from a list of offers that included Virginia and N.C. State. He was one of the first defensive backs to join the class, a group that has grown to seven in recent weeks with a pair of junior college additions.
Dickerson relishes the competition waiting for him in Columbia and says the two members of the signing class he’s closest with – Zay Brown (Athens, Ga.) and Hamsah Nasrildeen (Concord, N.C.) – also are safeties.
“It’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Everybody is going to want it. That’s going to make it fun. Everybody is on the same mission, competing, competing, competing. You’ve gotta know if you don’t play, you’ve got cheer the man that is playing. Cheer him on and you’ve gotta work harder.”
Dickerson and the rest of the defensive backs joining the roster will have opportunities to play right away, especially on special teams. The Gamecocks return just a handful of players in the secondary, a group that was thin in 2016 and coach Will Muschamp sought to add numbers to in recruiting.
“There’s a lot of opportunity there,” he said. “But at the same time, wherever you go, you’ve gotta compete.”
Dickerson’s first chances to compete will arrive in spring football after he gets a couple months to acclimate to being in college, going through football workouts and being away from home. He’s ready for all, even as it means leaving behind a close-knit family and where he grew up.
“I’m ready to go and start playing and start working with those guys,” he said. “But I don’t want to leave everybody around here. This is where I’m comfortable at and where I know everybody. … My family, the community. The teachers at Pinecrest, I will really miss them. And the principals. Really everybody that has pushed me to get this far. I’m going to miss everything.”