South Carolina middle linebacker Shaq Wilson's maternal grandfather is 7 feet tall. He has an uncle on his mother's side who is 6-5.
Unfortunately for Wilson's hoop dreams, he got his height from his father, who measures 5-2.
"My mama's taller than me," said the 5-11, 210-pound Wilson. "I still look my mom right in the eye."
But Wilson's stature has not inhibited him on the field. After Wilson took over for the injured Rodney Paulk, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the N.C. State opener, many observers figured he was too small to hold up against the beefy SEC offensive lines.
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The critics appeared to be right when Wilson finished with one tackle the following week at Georgia.
Nine weeks later, Wilson is the Gamecocks' leading tackler with 69 stops, and has posted double-digit tackle totals in three of the past four games. But what Wilson remembers is USC lost three of those four games.
"The stats will come, but I want to win," he said after Wednesday's practice. "We've got two games left. We want to go out on top. We want to be different around here."
USC faces No. 1 Florida on Saturday before closing the regular season against 24th-ranked Clemson on Nov. 28.
Wilson grew up in Lakeland, Fla., and went to high school in Jacksonville. But his family pulled for Florida State and did not keep up with the Gators, who did not recruit Wilson.
After deciding in seventh grade he was not big enough to be a standout basketball player, Wilson focused on football. He modeled his game after smallish Florida State linebackers Ernie Sims and Buster Davis, and was recruited as a safety or linebacker, the two positions he played in high school.
Wilson chose the Gamecocks over Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Mississippi and South Florida, and enrolled early in January 2008. As a freshman last season, he played in all 13 games as a backup linebacker and special teams player.
He began this season on the second-team defense before Paulk tore a knee ligament early in the N.C. State game.
"That was horrible. I didn't think it was that serious. I just thought I'd go out there a couple plays and he'd come back in," Wilson said. "Once they told me he was out for the season, I was just like, 'Gotta step up.'"
With USC's strength coaches imploring him to gain weight, Wilson eats the way most people would like to - cinnamon buns, milkshakes, snacks before bedtime. The calories have not stuck.
"I think the strength coaches want him up there in the 220s," senior linebacker Eric Norwood said. "But he's just a ball-hawk. He's been a ball-hawk since day 1 - at 210, 215. I think he could play at 205 if he wanted to. He's just a ball player."
USC receiver Moe Brown recalls watching Wilson during his first spring practice with the Gamecocks. Brown said Wilson had a way of making "some moves (to) get to the ball," regardless of how big the blocker was across from him.
"He personifies heart. He's fearless on the field. Put a 320-pound lineman in front of him, he's going to take him on just like anybody else," Brown said. "This is what this game is mainly about. If you have heart, you can stick in there and persevere over a lot of things."
Wilson will continue to lift weights and suck down those late-night shakes. But he seems happy to make the most of the genes his father gave him.
"I think I play bigger than what I weigh," he said.