Dakereon Joyner wanted this Father’s Day to be one that he’d remember for the rest of his life.
South Carolina fans might not forget this Father’s Day for a while, either.
An emotional Joyner verbally committed to play football at South Carolina before a packed crowd at the Fort Dorchester High School auditorium on Sunday.
Joyner, who is a consensus four-star recruit, picked the Gamecocks over North Carolina State.
As the tears flowed down his face, Joyner said it was South Carolina’s commitment to him as a quarterback that pushed the Gamecocks over the top.
The Gamecocks, under former head coach Steve Spurrier, were the first to offer Joyner a scholarship when he was in the eighth grade. When current head coach Will Muschamp took over the program last year, one of his first calls was to Joyner.
“They were on me from the very beginning under coach Spurrier, and coach Muschamp was there with me, too,” Joyner said. “They were down with me since day one. They believed in me. Coach Muschamp called me the day he got the job and told me he believed in me. He told me he believed in me as a quarterback, and he’s been the only college coach to do that. When I told coach Muschamp I was going to commit, he was really excited, and he said, ‘I’m glad you believe in us.’ ”
Joyner, who informed the Gamecocks' coaching staff of his verbal commitment in May, announced last summer that he would make his decision public on Father's Day to honor his late father. Damond Alton Joyner died of a heart attack in his sleep when Dakereon was 9. Damond Joyner was 35.
“I know he was up there with me today,” Joyner said. “I could feel him on my back. I know he’s got a big smile on his face. I know he’s happy. I think if he was here, I know we’d be up here crying together. He’s been with me through this whole process. It’s a special day for everyone in my family, and I just wish he was here with me right now.”
Joyner had narrowed his final list to South Carolina, N.C. State and Alabama in early spring, but eliminated the Crimson Tide more than a month ago. Joyner also had offers from Clemson, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Louisville, Oregon and Notre Dame.
Several recruiting services have Joyner listed as an athlete, but he was determined to play quarterback in college.
“I trusted the process,” Joyner said. “There’s definitely a weight that’s been lifted off of me. I was crying the whole time I was up on the stage. I just feel so much better.”
Joyner said he plans to graduate from Fort Dorchester in December and enroll at South Carolina in January in time for the opening of the Gamecocks' spring practice.
“Dakereon has improved so much since his ninth grade season as a passer,” said Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad. “If he improves the same amount between now and when he gets up there, he’s going to help South Carolina win a whole lot of football games. He’s a special kid. A different kind of kid.”
The Patriots have had several high-profile players over the years, including defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap and linebacker Robert Quinn. Dunlap played for Florida and Quinn signed with North Carolina, but both went on to fame in the NFL.
“I was glad to see Dakereon stay in state,” LaPrad said. “I don’t think he wanted to be that far away from home.”
Joyner will join another star Lowcountry player, Wando wide receiver OrTre Smith, with the Gamecocks in 2018. Smith, who enrolled at USC in January, was on hand for Joyner’s announcement on Sunday.
“I’m really happy for him,” Smith said. “I can’t wait for him to get up there.”
As a junior, Joyner passed for 3,642 yards and 44 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,089 yards and 12 scores. Since becoming a full-time starter at Fort Dorchester midway through his freshman season, Joyner has thrown for more than 6,800 yards and 77 TDs, while rushing for more than 2,200 yards and 31 TDs.