WILLISTON — Former Williston-Elko High School running back Kendric Salley has been on the University of South Carolina football team for a year. He's hoping to get something this coming season that wasn't possible last year – a chance to play.
A knee injury during his senior year for the Blue Devils limited his production and led to surgery after the 2011 season. Still recovering, Salley was redshirted by the Gamecocks last season. Now healthy and further removed from surgery, Salley's eager to get back to work.
“I'm looking forward to fall camp in about four or five weeks, you know, to get on the proving ground and actually prove what I can do and actually earn some more playing time,” he said.
Salley had no shortage of carries in Williston. In spite of injuries, sharing the load with stars like Dexter Staley and Jarius Jenkins and often sitting out the second half of blowout victories; Salley rewarded the Blue Devils for calling his number.
He ranks third all-time in the South Carolina High School League record book with 96 career touchdowns. He only trails a pair of former Gamecock running backs – Demetris Summers (127) and Marcus Lattimore (104). Salley's junior campaign in 2010 – when the Blue Devils played in the Class A, Division II state championship game – marked the fourth-highest touchdown total for a season in state history with 40.
Now, Salley sits third on the depth chart at tailback for the Gamecocks, behind sophomore Mike Davis and redshirt sophomore Brandon Wilds. The former All-Aiken Standard selection said not being a starter provides fuel for his efforts.
“That's just motivation,” he said. “I've been dealing with adversity since I've been a little kid, so adversity that actually gives you confidence, puts a chip on your shoulder, actually makes you work harder to do things you want to do.”
Davis had 52 carries for USC last year for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wilds took his redshirt year in 2012 after racking up 486 yards and three touchdowns on 107 carries in 2011.
The Gamecocks, despite losing Lattimore and other major contributors like safety D.J. Swearinger to the NFL Draft, have high expectations after a second consecutive 11-win season. Even if his team has work to do to get back to that level, Salley said he and his teammates are ready.
“We're looking forward to having a season like last year, if not better,” he said. “We're willing to do what it takes, to put in the extra work to get better as a team and as a unit, we can do it.”
From an individual perspective, Salley's ready to do his part to contribute to the greater good.
“I just want to get on the field. I feel like the time given, something will happen,” he said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.