Thirty-one players signed with South Carolina in its ballyhooed 2007 recruiting class in February of that year. In February of this year, two remain in the NFL.
Only one person, and maybe not even one, would have guessed then that one of those two pro veterans would be Patrick DiMarco.
“I would put all the money I have made that zero of them would have said that,” DiMarco told The State.
DiMarco was a two-star tight end prospect out of Altamonte Springs, Florida, when he signed with the Gamecocks. Now, he is halfway through a four-year, $8.4 million contract as a fullback for the Buffalo Bills, having caught 47 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns in an eight-year NFL career.
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“I had my ambitions and my goals getting to school, and the first one was to just get on the field,” DiMarco said. “I wouldn’t have thought I’d be going into my ninth (NFL) year, but I kind of always knew that I would at least get a chance and if I got my chance I would be able to take advantage of it.”
He has done that. DiMarco played in every game of his four-year South Carolina career, splitting time between fullback and tight end. He totaled 38 catches and 11 carries for 336 yards combined yards and six touchdowns and then was signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Chargers in 2011. A broken foot cost him that season, but he signed the next year with the Kansas City Chiefs and then spent four years with the Atlanta Falcons before signing with the Bills.
DiMarco made the Pro Bowl in 2015 with the Atlanta Falcons. Not bad for a player whose only scholarship offers other than South Carolina were Florida Atlantic and Florida International.
Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier knew of DiMarco through his uncle, Chris DiMarco, a longtime PGA Tour golfer and friend of Spurrier. Both of DiMarco’s parents attended the University of Florida, which is why Patrick DiMarco attended Spurrier’s summer camps in Columbia throughout high school, catching the eye of Carolina coaches.
“I remember when I got the offer, I was driving out to a local high school all-star game, going to meet with recruiting coaches,” DiMarco said. “Coach Spurrier called me and was like, ‘Hey Pat, we have been talking about this for a long time and we’re finally going to pull the trigger and offer you a full scholarship.’ Being an arrogant 17-year-old kid, I was like, ‘Alright thanks, coach. Let me take some time to think about it, and I’ll get back to you when I have a decision.’
“My dad was like, ‘Who the heck was that and what the heck was that about?’ I said, ‘Coach Spurrier offered me a scholarship.’ And my dad was like, ‘And you told him you were going to wait?’ I called Coach Spurrier back like five minutes later and said, ‘Coach I have thought long and hard about this and I am going to commit to South Carolina.’ ”
DiMarco played well enough his senior year that Florida and North Carolina State had begun to show recruiting interest, but Spurrier had already sewn up the deal by that point.
In the pros, DiMarco believes he has “at least one or two more good years in me,” he said.
“It would be great to play both of them in Buffalo,” he said. “I’ll be 30 this year, which is like the cursed number in NFL terms. I just have to show up to camp this year and try to show them that I’m still one of the best fullbacks in this league.
“Buffalo was an adjustment living-wise, especially weather wise from a guy who grew up in Florida and South Carolina,” he said. “But it’s such a tough city and it kind of embodies everything I stand for a person and a player, toughness and giving it your all.”