The words South Carolina offensive tackle Blake Camper used are what a coach wants to hear.
They’re easy to say, they’re hard to live.
“The team is more important than I am,” Camper said.
That’s all well and good to say. Many players do. It’s not the same for most players when they’re experiencing it first-hand, as Camper is.
He’s a senior, and after injuries and questions about his commitment, he worked his way into a starting spot this season as South Carolina’s right tackle. It was a classic story of a veteran getting his chance.
And then a precocious freshman moved past him on the depth chart. But Camper didn’t sulk. He didn’t throw up his hands. He put his emotions aside quickly after the coaches gave him the news.
“It didn’t take me long,” Camper said. “It’s time for me to get back to work. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to help the team.
“I respect the coaches and I put the team before my emotions or anything going on with me. I have the utmost respect for the coach’s decisions.”
He lost the right tackle spot to Dylan Wonnum, a four-star freshman who is developing rapidly, after the bye week. But his next chance to contribute came quickly.
Starting left tackle Dennis Daley was out against Ole Miss, and then backup Malik Young was knocked out with an injury. So in came Camper, at a new spot he’d only somewhat trained for, and held his own, did his job.
“Blake’s a great, consummate teammate and wants what’s best for our football team,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “I think he obviously sees the ability that a guy like Dylan Wonnum has, and as he continued to mature, nobody was probably more helpful to Dylan than Blake in wanting him to be a successful player.”
Muschamp pointed out Camper has seen enough football to know that getting demoted doesn’t mean the chance to play won’t come again (as it did). He also said four players came to him asking about playing time in the past week, and he told them a player could always be called upon, as Camper was.
The senior from Virginia said he didn’t hold anything against Wonnum. Instead, he helped the Georgia product along. One of the other left tackles might be back this week, returning him to a reserve role, but even after losing a job he worked hard to earn, he’s taking the longer view.
“It’s difficult,” Camper said. “But at the same time, I think it’s important that team comes first. It’s about the team. It’s not about me.”