As a youngster, D.J. Park did not plan on playing football with the Dillon Wildcats.
“I was planning to go across the state line for high school, but the first varsity game I watched in middle school, I knew I wanted to be part of this team,” Park said.
The 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle has never regretted the decision.
On January 15, when the junior decided to commit to the University of South Carolina, coach Jackie Hayes considered the matter settled.
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“I really think because he’s kind of a quiet young man, he really did not want the attention and the hype,” Hayes said. “He just wanted to make his decision and get back to work.”
It is not as though Park’s decision was a hasty one.
With 15 offers from programs across the ACC and SEC, Park’s stock already was high in his junior season, and he had studied his options.
“D.J. has been all over the country visiting schools and he heard a lot about South Carolina from his teammates, too,” Hayes said.
Park said the word of teammates such as Kwinton Smith — who signed with Carolina on Wednesday — was helpful in making his choice. For Park, team always has been the priority.
At Dillon, Park was part of the 2009 Class 2A state championship team, and the 2010 state finalist squad. The Wildcats missed the title game this year, and that is what Park will be thinking of as he hits the weight room this spring.
Park knows his senior season still will include recruiters trying to woo him away from his first choice. But, as he looks to help the Wildcats back to the championship game, Park’s commitment to South Carolina is as strong as his high school team’s will to win, and not likely to be broken.
“I’m going to South Carolina,” he said.
Park, part of a line that drove the Wildcats offense to more than 400 yards and 44 points per game, is one of the first commitments for the Gamecocks’ 2013 class and a fine start as far as Hayes is concerned.
“His potential is unreal,” Hayes said.