South Carolina fullback Connor McLaurin didn’t touch the football last week against UCF, but the crucial role he played in the 28-25 victory did not pass unnoticed.
Awarded a game ball for his blocking in front of tailback Mike Davis in the second half, when the Gamecocks went primarily to the I-formation, McLaurin helped pave the way for 28 points in the third and fourth quarters, as Davis finished the game with 167 yards and three touchdowns.
“Saturday, that’s what I told him,” quarterback Dylan Thompson said. “Every time we scored on one of Mike’s runs, I just go up to him and said, ‘Man, that’s all you.’ Nobody’s going to point out and say, ‘Oh man, the fullback made that play,’ but sure enough, him and the offensive line just busted their butts all day.”
McLaurin, a junior who never has carried the ball, was thrilled to get a game ball. But he was even more thrilled to get into the game, especially after the Gamecocks struggled to score in the first half while running the zone read.
“Any time you get a chance to go in a game, it’s a great feeling. Guys like Mike and the O-line and Dylan and Connor (Shaw), when you out there with them, you expect to play your best because you know they’re going to give it their all,” McLaurin said. “It’s an amazing feeling, and I’m glad I could help out toward a win.”
McLaurin’s emergence at the position gives true meaning to qualities such as perseverance and attitude. He came to Columbia as a walk-on linebacker in 2010, but he did not see game action until 2011, when he played in five games on special teams. He entered this season as the starting fullback, but that position is normally as important as a sixth toe in the USC offensive schemes.
McLaurin came to USC out of Garner High in Raleigh because former high school teammates Chris Culliver and Reginald Bowens played here. He spent one year at Wake Tech Community College.
“I watched a couple of their games, and I loved it down here,” McLaurin said. “I told myself if I was going to walk on, I wanted to walk on in the best conference in the country, play against the top competition, and see what I could do.”
Thompson, a fellow junior, was immediately impressed by McLaurin’s work ethic.
“As a matter of fact, the first day he was here, I saw him in the weight room,” Thompson said. “And it’s just crazy how you see a guy come through, from the first day as a walk-on to working their butt off with no recognition and just giving everything they have for a team when no one really writes anything about them or says anything about them. You see inside here how hard they work and the time they put in. He deserves all the credit he gets.”
That hard work earned him a scholarship at the end of fall camp in August. In spring practice, the 6-foot, 237-pound McLaurin received the outstanding weight room award for the offense.
“It’s just been a been a real thrilling experience, starting from the bottom and just trying to work your way up to gain respect with the coaches, your teammates and the fans. You just try to do the best you can,” he said.
Now he can add a game ball to his accomplishments, given how he opened his share of holes for the ground game in the second-half surge against the Knights.
“I’m very honored,” he said. “It’s nice to get a little attention. I’ve just got to keep on pushing every day and every week.”
He would be even more honored if the offense used his skills more often, and not just his blocking. McLaurin would love to get a carry or catch a pass, too.
“I hope they gained a little more trust in me,” he said. “When my number is called, I’ll definitely be ready.”