COLUMBIA — Josh Belk’s football career is over.
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp released a two-sentence statement late Wednesday following a day of wondering and whispering exactly what was going on with the highly-rated yet highly puzzling defensive-line prospect.
“After talking with Josh Belk, he has decided to give up the game,” the statement read. “He is a fine young man and we wish him the best.”
Nowhere in the statement did Muschamp or USC contradict or clarify what Belk seemed to confirm earlier, that he had a back injury and was giving up the game due to that. A tweet from VizorSportsSC claimed to have spoken to Belk Wednesday, and Belk replied with, “I fractured a vertebrae and decided to choose another path in life. One that won’t potentially mess me up in the long run with injuries and all. Been praying and this is what God has led me to.”
Belk’s Twitter account re-Tweeted that message with the hashtag, “Godsplan.”
USC also didn’t contradict or clarify that Belk was leaving due to not enjoying the game anymore, as was told to The Post and Courier from a source close to the situation. It would seem, if Belk had a career-ending injury, he could receive a medical redshirt, keep his scholarship and earn his degree, although he wouldn’t be able to play.
None of that was confirmed by USC or anyone else. The attorney that represented Belk when he transferred from Clemson, Everett Stubbs, did not return a call seeking comment.
One source said that as of Wednesday, Belk was not listed in the NCAA’s transfer portal.
Running back Caleb Kinlaw responded to one report on Belk with a Tweet reading, “Prayers up for our bro, dnt (sic) pass judgment. Life is more than just football.”
Whatever the reason, Belk appears to be leaving the Gamecocks seven months after joining them, and just over a year since he enrolled at Clemson for the spring semester. It’s the latest sharp turn of a strange journey for Belk, the big-time defensive line prospect from tiny Richburg and Lewisville High School.
A U.S. Army All-American who signed with Clemson and enrolled for spring practice, Belk was reported to be dominant at times in scrimmages but still wanted out by the summer. After Stubbs met with Belk, the two asked for and received a full release from coach Dabo Swinney.
Belk enrolled at USC and began practicing with the Gamecocks in August, while filing a waiver with the NCAA to play right away. His family was reportedly the concern then, a family member’s health issue requiring Belk to be closer to home. The NCAA granted the request and Belk was eligible to play, although he reported to camp much heavier than his listed weight at Clemson.
Belk recorded seven tackles in six games but also fought an ankle injury throughout the season. He raised eyebrows when the injury kept him from traveling with USC to Ole Miss, and he instead went to Clemson's home game against Louisville.
Muschamp didn't know of it at the time, but said later on he had spoken to Belk and the issue was resolved.
He was expected to be part of a deep and talented defensive line for the Gamecocks this season.