spring game (copy)

South Carolina defensive end Shameik Blackshear wants to prove that he can live up to the promise and expectations people had for him when he signed with the Gamecocks. File/Staff

COLUMBIA — He was shot. 

Shot. 

Twice. 

Chest and leg. 

South Carolina defensive end Shameik Blackshear was the victim of a shooting in December 2015, a case that was never solved and left his future in doubt. He didn't know if he'd ever play football again, much less ever play for USC. 

The Gamecocks didn't have to stick by him, even though he wasn't charged with anything related to the shooting. Blackshear had already run afoul of the expected code of conduct, being arrested as a high school senior for petit theft (the case was dropped) and for firing off a grumpy Tweet in October 2015. When the former four-star recruit wasn't playing as a freshman, he tweeted that perhaps he should have looked around more before committing to USC. 

At that point, most were prepared to wish Blackshear well and see him off. It clearly wasn’t in the cards for him to succeed at USC. The talent was there, but the attitude and choice to put himself in bad situations was a major red flag.

“I feel like I kind of lost the trust of everybody because everybody was expecting me to come in and be a huge asset to the program and the team. It took time to build everybody’s trust and let them know that I’m back on track and ready to play ball,” Blackshear said Wednesday as the Gamecocks neared the halfway mark of spring practice. “Just my mental approach to things, how I present myself, body language, I work on being the best person I can be.”

USC stood by him, even through a coaching change and when he couldn't contribute much in the 2016 season (recovering from the gunshot wounds cost him an entire spring and summer of practice and conditioning). He only had six tackles in 2017 but played in seven of the final eight games after a concussion cost him some of preseason camp, and he’s currently working behind Aaron Sterling at defensive end, with some first-team reps.

A long look in the mirror and constant talks with teammate Bryson Allen-Williams changed the direction of his career. 

“Bryson would say, ‘You’re an athlete, bro, you got it. You just need to supply it and take it day by day,’” Blackshear said. “It’s been very frustrating for me, coming in as a top recruit, All-American this and that. This is going on my fourth year, but it’s all in God’s plan for me to be great. Whenever he wants me to be great, I’ll be great.”

Blackshear was being pegged as the next Jadeveon Clowney when he chose USC out of Bluffton High School way back in May 2013. Just a high school sophomore, Blackshear was still growing, adding more muscle and height, while putting up eye-popping pass-rushing statistics.

Then came the injuries, costing him the majority of his final two years of high school ball. A torn ACL left him stiff and recovering throughout his freshman season at USC, where he only played in two games, but he received a medical redshirt to replace the season.

Then came the trouble, and that fateful night where he was on the ground with two slugs in him that required spending Christmas in the hospital.

Nobody’s excusing his previous behavior, least of all him. But nobody’s saying it will be his reputation forever because he’s working to change it.

“If he can just develop and keep working on a day-to-day basis, I think he could develop into a solid pass-rusher for us and a solid edge guy,” defensive line coach Lance Thompson said last year.

The Gamecocks could use it. As Will Muschamp always says, once a big guy (lineman) is gassed, he’s done for the day. USC likes to employ a constant rotation to avoid that, and with Sterling and D.J. Wonnum expected to play heavy minutes in 2018, they need backup.

Blackshear was never a backup until he got to college. That attitude held him back.

After tiptoeing toward the edge of throwing everything away, he's happy to be a part of a team in any role. 

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.