BYRON JERIDEAU FITS the part. At 6-foot-1 and 325 pounds, the South Carolina senior defensive tackle appears to be almost as wide as he is tall. Bulging muscles in his biceps make wearing a sleeved shirt virtually impossible. Those arent legs he stands on. Those are tree stumps. At first glance, you get the impression Jerideau has muscles in his eyebrows.
He is the strongest man on the USC football team.
Yet Jerideau is not the kind of strong guy you expect to lift a boulder, or pull a train boxcar or toss a keg of beer over a wall. He has not really showed off his strength publicly since his days at Colleton County High near Walterboro. That is when he occasionally picked up the front end of a small car maybe a Toyota or Volkswagen and rotated it in its parking space just to catch the reaction of the cars unsuspecting owner later in the day.
These days, Jerideau reserves his strength-showing skills for occasional high jinks in the USC locker room and for opposing offensive linemen on the football field where he often occupies two at a time.
Jerideau is a strong guy, says Joe Connolly, USCs director of football strength and conditioning, in a mild understatement. Hes a good football player. His strength definitely serves him well on the field.
Jerideau is slated to replace Travian Robertson in the middle of USCs defensive line. It is an unheralded position, according to defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, one designed to free USCs ends to make tackles and sack quarterbacks. In many blocking schemes, the opposing center and guard double-team the defensive tackle nearest the ball.
So hes going to handle two people a lot, Ward says of Jerideau. He cant give ground. Hes got to push those two guys. He isnt going to get the quarterback, but hes got to get those two guys going back so we can make the quarterback uncomfortable.
It is a role that perfectly suits Jerideau.
Once he realized football was his game, Jerideau began weight-lifting as a sixth-grader in the tiny community of Green Pond, located 12 miles south of Walterboro where S.C. 303 dead-ends into U.S. 17. Lifting weights transformed Jerideau from a skinny middle-schooler to a strong man who could move cars in high school.
By the time Jerideau arrived at USC, following a couple of seasons at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, the Gamecocks had a lineman seasoned in the ways of a weight room.
Genetically, he was very strong already, Connolly says, and he has made a lot of really, really solid gains, not only with body composition but with strength since hes been here.
Genetically, I think everybody has a certain ceiling. But I think your ability to get stronger continues on until the age of 40, or even 50.
Jerideau can power clean lift well over 300 pounds. He has bench-pressed 500 pounds and his best squat lift was 670 pounds. His strength index a number that takes into account three different lifts and uses a coefficient to balance the difference in mass weight of individuals this past winter was 754.61, according to Connolly.
The number does not mean much to the untrained observer until one considers that the best in the previous four years Connolly has been at USC was a 725 recorded by former linebacker Rodney Paulk. The next highest mark on the current roster was a 690 by junior offensive guard Ronald Patrick. Jerideaus numbers are all the more impressive because the strength index usually favors athletes with a smaller body type like Paulk, who lifted at 6-foot, 229 pounds.
Jerideau likely could have improved his strength index this summer, but a mild ankle sprain prevented him from testing. Jerideau was upset, belying his mild-mannered nature. As big and strong as he is, Jerideau admits to being somewhat of a teddy bear.
Im not like a mean person, Jerideau says.
Then he tells of how horsing around sometimes includes toting a few teammates maybe a Kenny Miles (193 pounds), Chaz Sutton (248 pounds) and Devin Taylor (267 pounds) together on his back around the USC locker room.
If pro football is not in the cards for Jerideau, who will graduate in December with a degree in criminal justice, it sure seems like he has a future. Strong-man competition could be calling.
Watch commentaries by Morris Mondays at 6 and 11 p.m. on ABC Columbia News (WOLO-TV)