COLUMBIA, S.C. – An ACL tear, arrest, disappointing freshman season and two gunshot wounds can humble even the most confident of men.
Welcome to Shameik Blackshear’s world.
For the former blue-chip recruit, that series of events began during his senior year at Bluffton (S.C.) High School.
Blackshear, once hailed as the next Jadeveon Clowney, missed most of his final season at Bluffton with a torn ACL. A little more than a week after he signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Gamecocks, Blackshear was arrested for petit larceny — the charge was dropped that spring.
Last fall, after playing in two games at South Carolina, Blackshear was sidelined for the season so he could recover fully from the knee injury.
It wasn’t long before he dropped a couple of surprises via Twitter.
Then, in December, less than two weeks after Will Muschamp was hired to be South Carolina’s head coach, Blackshear was shot – once in the leg and once in the upper body.
Nine months later, he’s thankful to be alive and happy to have another chance to prove himself on the gridiron.
“Any time somebody gets shot, it’s serious. I could have died, but God saved me. I just give him thanks for that,” Blackshear said. “I just thank coach Muschamp and the staff for still believing in me and believing I can become who I was, as far as being on the field.”
Earlier this month, Muschamp told SEC Country that he was pleased with Blackshear’s preseason-camp progress, even though there was still some catching up to do, strength-wise.
“He’ll build that stuff up, and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Muschamp said.
When asked to quantify his strength on a scale of zero to 100, Blackshear told reporters on Tuesday he’s up to 75.
“Seventy-five and still growing,” he said.
Like Muschamp, Blackshear isn’t all that concerned about playing catch-up. He’ll get there.
“With our strength staff, they can do amazing things. They’re working with us to the point where we can stay strong and get stronger during the season, without heavy lifting,” Blackshear said. “But, at the same time, we still get a lot of work in and still get stronger.”
The once-troubled player appears to be in a good place as he heads toward South Carolina’s season opener on Sept. 1 at Vanderbilt.
“I’m the same person, but I’ve learned a little bit of things. I got humbler than I have been,” Blackshear said. “Things have been getting better for me every day.”
For now, he’s working with the second-team defensive line, and that’s fine. The redshirt freshman defensive end would prefer to let his play do the talking.
“Whenever I get my chance to get in the game, I just want to produce and just show everybody that I’m still here and I’m still the same player I was when I came out,” he said.
This is the new Shameik Blackshear, mind you.
“I feel like, right now, I’m in the process of rebuilding my image,” he said. “It’s not something that happens overnight. It takes a little time, but in the meantime I’m just going to keep my (nose) clean, do the right thing, be respectful and just be thankful that I’m still living.”