It only makes sense to have some trepidation going off to college.
It’s leaving behind friends, family and everything familiar. And that says nothing of everything that comes with being a college football player, when a youthful passion becomes a de facto job.
However, there’s a healthy way to look at what’s coming, a mindset incoming Gamecocks freshman defensive lineman Darius Whitfield has embraced.
“It’s scary, but it’s not scary because I know if I want to make it to the next level, I’m going to have to accept the fact that I’m going to go into a real organization and a business,” Whitfield said.
“I’m really nervous because my senior year went by really fast. It really just hit me. ... Like dang, I’m going to be a college freshman. College and high school are two totally different levels, so it’s really a maturity level.”
Having an advisor in the family can’t hurt.
His brother, Josh Casher, went off to Alabama in 2014, and was even recruited by Gamecocks defensive line coach Lance Thompson. Casher has had to take the patient route, redshirting his first year and only playing against an FCS foe in the second.
Whitfield said Casher’s biggest piece of advice was not to rush things and not lose sight of the larger picture.
“I have a role to really come in there ready to go and perform in the classroom and on the field,” Whitfield said. “I’m really trying to come in and (compete) as a true freshman. That takes responsibility, discipline, everything. I really feel like they expect me to come in and knock it out.”
Whitfield made the unusual choice to committing to the Gamecocks the day Steve Spurrier officially retired. It was a bit peculiar, but he pointed out the Gamecocks had been on him since ninth grade.
So had Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson, hired as head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively, a few months later.
“It was bittersweet because when they got the job. I already knew them and I already had a relationship,” Whitfield said.
He’s been told the staff projects him either at defensive tackle or at the standard defensive end spot that requires more bulk. He played his senior year between 265 and 270 pounds, and is currently between 285-290. He expects he’ll play a little smaller than that.
“The running part is going to come,” Whitfield said before he enrolled. “They said I’m going to lose all the fat, just gain it back in muscle.”
Now on campus, he’s getting indoctrinated into the lifestyle of college football – the workouts, the more complex playbooks, the demands during summer. He will wear No. 75 for the Gamecocks.
As someone who expects moving to a new stage in life won’t be easy, he didn’t shy away from the reality of the biggest challenge in the short term.
“Just the growing up part,” Whitfield said. “I’m not there yet. So I can’t really tell you the mental part of it, but just growing up and transitioning from high school to college.”