USC Recruiting

Facing a life-changing choice, Joyner made a point to honor his late father

Damond Alton Joyner, the father of Fort Dorchester quarterback Dakereon Joyner, only saw his son play one season of football.

Dakereon Joyner remembers his father, who died of a heart attack in his sleep in 2009, praying with him before every game. Even after Damond Joyner was gone, as Dakereon Joyner’s career took off and made him an in-demand college recruit, Dakereon still prayed with his father before games, albeit in a different way.

There was a picture of Damond Joyner looking over the auditorium Sunday at Fort Dorchester High School as a South Carolina Gamecocks logo faded into view and a massive cheer went up for Dakereon Joyner’s college choice. He’d waited until Father’s Day to officially pick USC over N.C. State to honor his dad, and he couldn’t imagine what he’d say in the moment.

“Me and him would probably just sit here and cry,” Joyner said, adding he went to his father’s grave Saturday. “I know he’s on my back right now. Throughout this whole process, he was with me.

“I always told him when I make it some day, I’m going to give him a big Range Rover and a big house. I’m going to make sure I get my mama a Range Rover and a big house, believe that.”

Waiting for Father’s Day wasn’t easy. The race to fill limited quarterback spots in recruiting classes is a factor. The Wolfpack and Virginia Tech had been in the mix, but they picked passers through the process leaving Joyner not wanting to scramble. He’d also had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Oklahoma.

But the Father’s Day factor was important to him.

“You put those colleges in jeopardy because they want their quarterback to (commit) early, that way they’re not going to get anybody else that year,” Patriots coach Steve LaPrad said. “It’s been tough, but he has been just hell-bent on, ‘I’m going to do it for my dad.’ ”

The four-star 6-foot-4, 200-pounder said he told Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks staff his decision months ago. They kept it quiet. He got a moment, years in the making.

South Carolina offered him what might feel like a lifetime ago, as an eighth-grader and under another coaching staff, in the midst of another era for Gamecock football.

Steve Spurrier first offered Joyner as a 13-year-old, surprising LaPrad, who has sent plenty of talent to the Division I ranks.

“South Carolina coming down there, ‘Coach, we want to offer that kid.’” LaPrad said. “I said, ‘Coach, he’s only 13.’ It was funny, at the time, I said, ‘Coach, you’re probably not going to be here.’

“He says, ‘Coach, that might be true, but we want to be the first ones.’”

Spurrier’s gone, but Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper made him a priority and closed the deal, securing the commitment of the No. 4 prospect in the state, according to 247Sports’ Composite rating.

Joyner split time behind center as a freshman before stepping into the starting role in 2015 and leading the Patriots to an undefeated state championship season. He threw for 3,197 yards, 30 touchdowns and ran for 1,022, reaching the end zone 18 times.

Last fall, he accounted for 3,643 yards through the air, 1,091 on the ground with 56 total touchdowns (44 passing, 12 rushing), on the way to being named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

Joyner is the ninth commitment of USC’s 2018 class. According to reports, USC still might be looking for a second passer.

There was a moment, as he was surrounded by cameras, media members and a sea of friends and family, Joyner grabbed the bill of his Gamecocks hat as it all finally hit him.

“This is real,” Joyner said. “This is for real, oh my God.”

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