Dustin Lindsey has been through a lot at South Carolina.
The senior linebacker underwent two knee surgeries, watched his brother get stabbed in the neck with a broken beer bottle and fell into the coaches’ doghouse with his chatter before the Georgia game.
That was just last year.
Throw in Lindsey’s assorted academic and off-the-field problems, and it’s amazing the 22-year-old from Mobile, Ala., has endured to see his fifth season.
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“If I didn’t want to be here, if I didn’t love the Gamecocks, I wouldn’t have stuck around through everything,” Lindsey said. “I made some bad choices. I had some bad breaks. But I want to be here. I love the Gamecocks. I want to win here. That’s why I came here.”
Lindsey has appeared in one game during the past two seasons. After failing out of school and missing the 2006 season, Lindsey returned the following spring and tore the ACL in his right knee in the spring game.
Before USC’s trip to Georgia in September, Lindsey said he was ready to “whup some Georgia butt.” But Lindsey re-injured his knee during the game, underwent a second surgery and missed the rest of the season.
As a result, Lindsey will play his final season alongside his twin brother, Jordin, a defensive end who was academically ineligible in 2007.
“Thank God that happened because I’d love to finish up my college career with my brother,” Dustin Lindsey said. “I know he’s going to do a great job, and I’m trying my hardest to get back out there with him.”
Dustin Lindsey began preseason drills behind Eric Norwood at weak-side linebacker. Jordin Lindsey, the defensive MVP in the Gamecocks’ 44-36 victory against Houston in the 2006 Liberty Bowl, is expected to start at defensive end.
While not always enamored with the Lindseys’ candor, USC coaches appreciate the way the brothers play the game.
“They’re hard-nosed football players,” defensive line coach Brad Lawing said. “I’ve been to south Alabama recruiting before, and south Alabama is really good football. They’re tough kids. Their attitude is good for our football team.”
That attitude has led to some troubles off the field.
Dustin Lindsey was charged with DUI in his hometown in the spring of 2005, but the charge was reduced to speeding. A year later while living in Columbia as a non-student, Lindsey and ex-Gamecock Shea McKeen were arrested following a Five Points bar fight.
In December, Lindsey took his brother to the emergency room after an early morning altercation with a Columbia teen left Jordin Lindsey with a four-inch laceration in his neck.
Given the problems, some wondered whether the Gamecocks should have cut ties with the brothers.
Steve Spurrier placed the Lindseys on probation last winter, but Dustin Lindsey is glad the USC coach kept them around.
“(Spurrier) told me face to face, if I didn’t like you, if I didn’t think you could be a good ballplayer, you wouldn’t be here,” Dustin Lindsey said. “Me and him had a lot of 1-on-1 meetings. I look up to coach Spurrier.”
The Lindseys are among seven players remaining from the Lou Holtz era, which ended with a brawl at Clemson that cost both schools bowl bids.
Though the Gamecocks finished last season on a five-game losing streak after a 6-1 start resulted in a No. 6 national ranking, Dustin Lindsey believes the program is in better shape under Spurrier.
“It’s a lot different than when Holtz was here. With Spurrier here, he’s finally cracked down,” Lindsey said. “He’s a winner. He wants to be a winner. He made that choice a couple of years ago. He wants to stay here until we win.”
Dustin Lindsey believes Spurrier has done a good job weeding out the “little gigglers” not committed to winning and replacing them with players serious about taking the Gamecocks to the next level.
Lindsey, who has posted three consecutive semesters with a 3.0 grade point average or higher, puts himself in the latter category.
“I was never a giggler. I must have bull-crapped a lot when I was a freshman and sophomore. That’s what got me in some trouble,” he said. “But we all make mistakes. I’m ready to get back out there and show ‘em what I got.”
Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.