COLUMBIA — Most days, South Carolina cornerback Victor Hampton either talks to former teammate Kenny Miles on the phone or sends a text message.
They stayed in close contact, even after Miles graduated with a degree in criminal justice following last season. That friendship makes their lack of contact in the past 48 hours all the more troubling.
Hampton said Tuesday he unsuccessfully tried to call Miles after the former Gamecocks running back was shot in the forearm Monday afternoon in a parking lot near Columbia.
“It’s definitely been tough,” Hampton said. “Can you imagine being close to someone, and then they get shot or something, and you can’t really communicate with them how you feel like you should be able to? So, yeah, it’s definitely been tough.”
Miles’ ever-evolving situation is peculiar.
Initially, Miles told police he was shot in a failed robbery attempt. In a news conference Tuesday, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said investigators determined there was no armed robbery. Lett said he did not know the reason Miles was shot.
His former team offered nothing but support Tuesday night. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was unavailable to the media after practice.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said coaches hadn’t discussed Miles’ situation with the team, though he was sure players talked about it among themselves.
Ward was right.
The suddenness of Monday’s shooting took players by surprise. Miles was on the Gamecocks’ sideline Saturday, watching USC’s win over Mississippi State from field level. It was a chance for Miles to see his former teammates.
Junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles thought about seeing Miles during the game when he heard his former teammate had been shot.
“We’re just praying for Kenny,” Quarles said. “We love Kenny to death. He’s a great, funny guy. The sad thing about it is I just seen Kenny, Saturday on the sidelines. Just to think about a nice, loving guy like Kenny, man, that just hurts your feelings. I know God’s going to take care of him. He’ll be all right.”
Miles was listed in stable condition Monday night. On Tuesday morning, he assured his Twitter followers he would make a full recovery.
“So thankful for all the support and prayers sent my way. I’ll be just fine people I promise, I’m blessed y’all have a great day. Love you all,” Miles tweeted.
Still, his former teammates yearned to hear from Miles. Hampton said none of USC’s players had spoken with him, as far as he knew.
“He’s one of those guys where, when something like that happens, you’re just like, ‘Wow, Kenny Miles? How does that happen to Kenny Miles?” Hampton said. “It just makes you grateful. It makes you want to wake up every day and just work hard, because you never know when something like that is going to happen.”