COLUMBIA -- Marty Markett is an All-American. But he's only been in for a handful of special teams plays this season for South Carolina.
How can that be, you say?
Markett's career as a Gamecock began, actually, up the street -- at the school's Weems Baskin track facility.
The York native was a top-tier sprinter for South Carolina, part of a relay team that earned All-America honors in 2008.
But it wasn't enough for Markett. No, if he was going to be running at USC, he wanted to do it on a football field.
That was the goal all along, but USC was offering a track scholarship and not a football ride.
Markett spent two years on that track scholarship, all the while trying to save enough money to play football. Wait, money?
Correct. If he wanted to walk on to the football team, he would have to relinquish his track scholarship. He eventually mustered the courage to make that jump in 2009.
Markett appeared on the practice fields and was acclimating himself rather well until he dislocated his wrist the week of the season opener against North Carolina State. That left Markett sidelined for the fall, forcing him to take a redshirt.
It was a disguised blessing, in a sense. Markett used that time to work at a warehouse in West Columbia, saving money he would need to pay for school.
"I pretty much saved every check that I could," Markett said. "I didn't have an option. School had to be paid for. It was rough, but I managed it."
Healthy again, Markett opened the coaches' eyes in the spring, making a couple of interceptions and several athletic plays in the team's scrimmages. The staff named Markett the spring's most outstanding defensive walk-on.
Markett was again trying to move up the depth chart, the same way former walk-on and trackster Bryce Sherman did last year. This time, though, Markett tripped himself up by missing too many classes.
He got himself in line -- he now meets once a week with an academic advisor -- but not before the coaches punished Markett, relegating him to the scout team.
Markett only escaped that fate recently, as in Monday.
Head coach Steve Spurrier was impressed enough with Markett's hustle on special teams last week against Tennessee that he mentioned Markett after the game -- and gave him a game ball.
Markett, hustling down the field, rushed Vols returner Eric Gordon, forcing Gordon to fumble a punt that USC recovered.
"Coach (Spurrier) is probably tired of watching guys that don't finish plays, either lack of concentration or effort or whatever it is," defensive head coach Ellis Johnson said Saturday. "I think he's just excited about the fact that the kid's got a little energy.
"The thing he shows is effort."
It took enough effort just to get on the team, leaving behind the comforts of having your school paid for. How many players across the country take their scholarships for granted?
Markett was confident enough to believe he could play.
"I always believe that if you have a doubt in anything, you probably shouldn't be trying it," Markett said. "I never doubted it."
Spurrier told Markett on Monday that the next available scholarship is going to him. You could sense that made Markett emotional as he talked about it this week.
What a bumpy ride to reach this point.
"That'll help me and my family out, from the stress of having to pay for school," Markett said. "I'm just going to keep working hard, see what happens for me."
The next chapter in Markett's career, one on the rise, could play out Saturday. Spurrier has said he'll get a chance to help replace injured senior Chris Culliver at cornerback this week against Arkansas.
C.C. Whitlock, the Chester native who encouraged Markett to come out for the team, will start in place of Culliver. But Markett is currently listed as the backup, secondary coach Lorenzo Ward said.
"He's showed a little promise," Johnson said.
Markett has come this far. Why not a bit further?
"I'm confident in my skills," he said. "I'm working hard every day, trying to get better. … I believe I can step in and do what coach asks me to do.
"I've been waiting for this moment."
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.