USC Gamecocks Football

USC football chaplain back in business after heart problem

Gamecocks team chaplain Adrian Despres
Gamecocks team chaplain Adrian Despres Tracy Glantz/

Preseason football camp is a hot and grueling experience for everyone involved. Adrian Despres can’t wait.

The character coach for the South Carolina football team, Despres is happy to be doing anything after recently discovering and fixing a blocked artery in his heart.

“For the first time in my life I enjoyed mowing the yard. I started tearing up because I was out there mowing the yard,” said Despres, a pastor who serves as a team chaplain among other duties. “I get to be the life coach for the USC football team. I get to hug them and take care of them. I get another chance at life, a brand new chance at life. I look at this as a gift from God.”

Despres, 50, was mowing his grass Saturday, three days after a surgery in which a stent was placed to alleviate two blockages in the same artery. He first felt a problem two weeks ago and consulted Dr. Jeff Guy, the Gamecocks’ orthopedic surgeon. Guy sent him to another doctor for what became a series of tests that eventually discovered the blockage.

“Dr. Guy walked in the room later that day saying, ‘Man, the Lord gave you a gift,’ ” Despres said. “That artery is called the Widow Maker, and there is usually very little warning.”

Despres returned to his team duties at an early morning run Friday, two days after his surgery.

“They all went crazy,” he said. “The team was really behind me. I said, ‘Listen guys, the theme for this year because of what happened to me is ‘More.’ I want them to have more of everything in life, never take anything for granted. Be more than what you are now. That’s going to be the theme for this whole year for us.”

Despres, who has been with the football team for 16 years, played football at Furman.

“I exercise a lot, sometimes right next to (head coach Steve Spurrier),” he said. “I guess my message to people is, I was exercising, played ball in college, living a fairly healthy life, no drinking, no smoking, but I think it was worth it to me to be checked.”