Maxwell Iyama committed to South Carolina’s football program in April. He fully committed to his high school team a few months later.
Mike Copley, Iyama’s high school coach at Siegel in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, remembers the muggy weather that surrounded his Stars during a preseason practice at the University of Tennessee-Martin. It was hot, he said, and with heat can come struggle for a bunch inching through training camp.
But Iyama, all 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds of him, wouldn’t stand for any dragging.
“It just flipped for him,” Copley recalled. “He flipped a switch. He was the first one there and the last to leave. He was doing everything he could to help everybody else around him be better.
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“He was challenging others, he was challenging himself. What a presence.”
Iyama, a Rivals.com four-star offensive tackle, will sign with the Gamecocks on Wednesday and enroll early at USC next month. He’s one of five offensive linemen in Carolina’s 2018 class.
Copley, who took over at Siegel in January, only had Iyama for one season. He came away as impressed with Iyama’s off-the-field contributions as his on-field dominance.
“It was his approach to work that was great,” Copley said. “His leadership as a teammate, his motivation to get things done, his physicality. He’s gotten, in my opinion, so much better. The way he competed, the character that he possessed within the locker room, I couldn’t ask for a better young man.”
Iyama picked the Gamecocks over an offer list that included Georgia, Tennessee, Memphis, Louisville and Mississippi State.
“I feel they are going to give me the best opportunity on and off the field to be the best I can be,” Iyama said in the spring. “I like (USC offensive line) coach (Eric) Wolford, I can trust him.
“The atmosphere was great, and I feel like it’s where I belong. I feel like (Wolford) can use my length and speed on the edge. I feel like if I work hard enough, I can get in there pretty early.”
Copley used Iyama primarily at left tackle, but noted his basketball background as a reason to think he could move as needed.
“He’s got really good feet,” Copley said. “He’ll do whatever coaches need him to do. But there’s no question in my mind that he can stay at left tackle and will do a phenomenal job at it.”
Dennis Daley and Zack Bailey, USC’s primary staring tackles this season, measure 6-6, 330 and 6-6, 311, respectively.
Copley said Iyama’s frame can easily add 30-40 more pounds.
“And he’ll probably not look much different than he does now,” Copley said. “He’s long. He’s got arms for days. I’m guessing his arms measure longer than he is.
“He’s got a ton of room for growth and development, definitely.”
Attempt at such a rise is soon to take place under Wolford and Will Muschamp. Iyama did more than enough to leave a good impression with his high school coach.
“He proved to me in 11 months that when he made his mind up that he wanted to do something, he went to work to do it,” Copley said. “If he goes into South Carolina with that same mindset, you’re really looking at a special young man.”