It was no problem being Shamier Jeffery.
But for the past six years, he’s been Alshon’s Little Brother.
“At first, I was kind of frustrated by it. Now I’m out here doing my own thing,” South Carolina’s fifth-year wideout said during preseason camp. “I ain’t going to worry about it no more. Alshon is Alshon, Shamier is Shamier.”
Shamier and the Gamecocks are hoping that’s true in Jeffery’s last season. Nobody could ever be Alshon, the Gamecocks’ career-leading receiver who caused more “How did he DO that?” remarks than Houdini. It was unfair to compare anyone to that.
Yet it was the price of the last name. Shamier Jeffery could have had a great career with the Gamecocks and folks would still measure it against his brother. That Jeffery hasn’t had a great career is more cement that he’s had to wade through.
“Nothing’s been easy for him. That makes it harder. Is it easy being Steve Spurrier Jr.? No, it’s not,” said Spurrier Jr., the Gamecocks’ receivers coach. “It’s not easy being Alshon’s brother.”
Having an all-star in the same bloodline is a blessing and a curse. The talent could have been shared. In Jeffery’s case, it’s still an undiscovered product.
Jeffery has eight catches for 41 yards in his career. He caught two balls for 9 yards last year. As a fifth-year senior, he’s the most experienced guy in the rotation, and he’s the only receiver not named Pharoh Cooper who’s caught a varsity pass.
He’s still second on the depth chart, behind redshirt freshman Deebo Samuel. Jeffery previously admitted that early in his career, perhaps he didn’t work as hard as he could have. And his brother took a while to get on the field, too.
Alshon Jeffery had five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown in his first five games at USC. He had zeroes in the two biggest games of that stretch (No. 21 Georgia and No. 4 Ole Miss).
Then came Kentucky.
Jeffery started against the Wildcats and caught seven balls for 138 yards and three touchdowns, each a testament to his uncanny skill. A leaping spot with a draped defender; a run-around of another defender to cradle a fade pass; a one-handed nab in the air … and those were only the start.
After that, one couldn’t knock Jeffery out of the lineup with a sledgehammer (he missed just one start, against Navy, the rest of his career). He left for the Chicago Bears with 3,042 yards, 23 touchdowns and a trump of all of his previous catches with the final one – a haul-in of a Hail Mary against Nebraska, then a lunge across the goal line.
Shamier Jeffery is still waiting for his Kentucky. With a wide-open depth chart behind Cooper and one last chance, he feels it will come – soon.
“I was in the weight room working hard, I was doing drills on my own on the field,” he said. “I feel more relaxed because I know a lot, more than any other year. I’m more comfortable.”
Spurrier Jr. has credited Jeffery’s leadership, and congratulated him for earning his sociology degree just before camp began. Big brother’s reputation still looms, but little brother isn’t afraid to challenge it.
“The other day, he put one hand up, he actually caught a little bit, and the guy finally knocked it out. I said, ‘Who do you think you are? Alshon? You’re not. Alshon can make that play, you can’t,’ ” Spurrier Jr. said. “It’s no criticism, but it’s never easy. He always lives with that shadow and that pressure. (I) plan on him having a good year, I really do.”
Jeffery is as quiet as his brother was. Alshon obviously talked loudly on gameday.
Time for Shamier to do the same.
“I got one thing out the way – now it’s football season,” Jeffery said, referring to his graduation. “This year my goal is to just get better, help the team out. I plan on getting on the field this year – a lot.”
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState