After being a relentless force all afternoon, Javon Kinlaw changed speeds as soon as South Carolina’s game ended Saturday.
Gamecock players ran all over the field at Sanford Stadium after their dramatic double overtime win over No. 3 Georgia. They waved a giant USC flag. They picked pieces of UGA’s famous hedges for take-home souvenirs.
But Kinlaw for a long while, he just walked. Teammates and coaches came up and patted his giant shoulders and Kinlaw would respond with a smile and hug, but his pace rarely changed.
“All I can say is, I left it all out there,” Kinlaw said.
Kinlaw had every right to be exhausted. Georgia ran 95 plays Saturday and while neither he nor USC coach Will Muschamp could immediately confirm just how many Kinlaw was in for, just know the 6-foot-6, 310-pound defensive tackle was rarely noticed on the sideline.
Even though the Carolina staff tried to get him there on at least three occasions.
“And he said, ‘The hell with y’all,’ and went back in the game,” Muschamp admitted to reporters afterward. “You ever seen him? He’s about that big (raises hand). I said, ‘Hey, let him keep playing.’”
Kinlaw’s stat line — four tackles and sack — don’t tell the whole story about his impact. Exhibit A: It was Kinlaw who crushed Jake Fromm as the Bulldog quarterback threw a pick-six to Israel Mukuamu late in the second quarter.
“I was just working,” Kinlaw said. “I came free, got (Fromm) down. Honestly, I was so in the moment I didn’t even we scored. Honestly, I came to the sideline and I saw the board and I go, ‘Oh, we scored?’ I didn’t know it.”
Kinlaw was a known NFL prospect after last season, but decided to come back for his senior year. What’s transpired is an All-SEC caliber campaign that received its proper exposure Saturday.
“DL Javon Kinlaw has outstanding physical tools,” tweeted Dane Brugler, an NFL Draft analyst for The Athletic. “Explosive first step. Converts his initial momentum to power and uses his length to out-leverage blockers. His mechanics are undeveloped, but the talent is there to be an NFL homewrecker.
“First round player.”
Kinlaw now has 65 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks and one huge win in two-plus seasons as a Gamecock.
“Honestly,” Kinlaw said, putting Saturday’s result in perspective, “it’s the second-best feeling this year. Right behind the birth of my daughter. It’s a great feeling. Never felt that before.”
No matter how tired it made him.
“Competitive guys want to play and he’s a competitive guy,” Muschamp said. “He wants to play in the game. We keep trying to take him out and I say, ‘Hell, let him play. He’s playing (well).’’
SEC honors: Kinlaw and South Carolina’s Israel Mukuamu earned conference honors Monday. Mukuamu, a sophomore defensive back, was named the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week, two days after his three-interception game against Georgia. Kinlaw was named the league’s Defensive Lineman of the Week.
Who: South Carolina vs. Florida
When: noon Saturday, Oct. 19
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
Line: Florida by 6