One look at Byron Jerideau and the first thought might be how much a guy like him must love Thanksgiving. It’s clear that USC’s 316-pound defensive tackle enjoys eating.
But the senior from Green Pond, a small town near Walterboro, loves the holiday for far more traditional reasons.
“It’s being able to go home and spend time with my family. We don’t get to go home a lot during the season,” Jerideau said. “Mom cooks a lot of good stuff. Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring some teammates home so they can enjoy it.”
It should come as no surprise that Jerideau mentions spending time with his teammates. The muscular 6-foot-1 lineman has become well-liked since arriving before the 2010 season as a transfer from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, where he went for two seasons after finishing at Colleton County High.
“Everybody on the team likes Jerideau,” USC defensive line coach Brad Lawing said.
Mention his name to some of his fellow defenders and a smile will invariably cross their faces for both his playful manner off the field and his intense enthusiasm on it.
“He’s a fun guy, a little more talkative and vocal than me,” senior end Devin Taylor said. “When he makes a big play, he does his what his calls his ‘Jerideau kick.’ Off the field, we all hang out together, play games and stuff, and just have a good time.”
Senior spur DeVonte Holloman notes the inside doesn’t match the outside.
“People would probably be intimidated by his size, but he’s a pretty nice guy,” Holloman said. “He’s a good person to be around. He always likes to have fun.”
But that fun guy can turn into a real force in the middle of the defensive line. That stems in large part from being one of the strongest players in the history of the program. He can power clean lift well over 300 pounds. He has bench-pressed 500 pounds, and his best squat lift was 670 pounds.
“For his little short, stout body, he’s actually very strong,” Taylor said.
Holloman describes him as “too strong. He’s a strong dude. But he’s not a mean guy until he steps on the field.”
That strength can create problems for opposing offensive lines that sometimes have to devote more than one man to get Jerideau out of the way.
“I envisioned him as a block-gobbler when this season started. When I recruited him, I thought he’d be a block-gobbler. He’s a big ol’ guy, and there’s a place for those guys,” Lawing said. “But he has really improved his agility, and he has made some plays this year. He has gotten better.”
Through 11 games this season, Jerideau has 36 tackles, four for loss, with two sacks. He also blocked an extra-point attempt against Florida that was returned for a defensive two-point conversion.
Jerideau’s pride in his play is shared with his senior teammates. He appreciates this class will leave the program as the winningest in school history.
“We just formed a bond that we’re all brothers. We’re a family,” he said. “We look out for each other. We do everything for each other.”
He also will finish this season as a South Carolina graduate, earning his criminal justice degree in December. Lawing can see a bright future for Jerideau that doesn’t include football because of his ability to get along with people.
“He’s got as good of a personality as anybody we’ve got upfront,” Lawing said. “Jerideau could get a sales job one day, I really believe that, if he ever wanted.”