WILLISTON | The memories are few and far between for Kendric Salley.
The Williston-Elko High School tailback was just 4 years old when his father Kenny tragically died in a 1997 car accident, so his recollections of him are limited to a handful of distinct moments forever tucked away in a corner of his mind. Yet, his father’s memory lives with him every day in the form of a memorial tattoo on his left arm.
The South Carolina commitment wants to ensure that his greatest act of commemoration comes in actions and not just words. That’s what has driven him to become one of the state’s top prospects in the Class of 2012.
“It motivates him to be better,” Salley’s mother, Hattie Salley, said of Kenny’s death.
“He’s always had a great work ethic. He gets that from his daddy. He was the same way. They’ve got that certain drive to be as good as they can be.”
That’s why you’ll often find Salley – typically all by himself – running sprints, pushing sleds or flipping tires out behind the high school here in this small town located about an hour east of Augusta, Ga. Ready to go home, Blue Devils coach Dwayne Garrick and his coaches routinely kick Salley out of the school’s weight room when his marathon afternoon workouts stretch into the early evening.
Salley has worked even harder since becoming the first member of USC’s next signing class with a December commitment, Garrick said.
“I know [my father] would want me to be successful,” said Salley of his father. “I go out and do everything right and go hard.”
That extra effort has helped him put up sizeable numbers in his first three seasons.
Playing second fiddle as a freshman, he rushed for nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns on 45 carries. He put himself on the map with nearly 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns during a standout sophomore campaign. Last fall, he rushed for 2,191 yards and 39 scores despite rarely playing in the second half.
With 74 career touchdowns, Salley has an outside shot of breaking Demetris Summers’ state record of 127 if he’s able to put together a big senior campaign.
“We were so focused on some of the other guys we had, he didn’t really stand out his freshman year,” Garrick said. “ But by the end of his sophomore year we knew that he was special. We switched to more of a spread offense. Putting him in the split-back shotgun, he got more touches playing as a true one back.”
College coaches from around the country were lured to Williston-Elko by Class of 2011 standout Dexter Staley, who signed with Georgia Military, and Salley. Programs from every BCS-level conference were after the Class of 2012 talent before he effectively ended his recruitment before it began, committing to USC, his favorite team since childhood.
At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Salley has the frame and the athleticism to fit in nicely in the SEC. He has 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, likes to take on defenders as a ball carrier and blocker and catches the ball smoothly out of the backfield. An added benefit for the Gamecocks: He’s already used to playing in a spread-style offense.
“I think he’ll do a great job at Carolina because they do so much running the zone,” Garrick said. “He’ll fit right in there. He reminds me a lot of Marcus Lattimore, but I think Kendric may be a hair bigger. That may help him as well. He benches over 300 pounds and squats over 450, so he’s put together well. He’s got everything it takes.”