Football players, by virtue of their position, are in a unique place. They are constantly in the spotlight during, after and before the season. On Friday, some of the South Carolina football players were able to use their position to read to Columbia area children.
In the 23rd year of a partnership between the football program, the Drew Wellness Center and Richland Library, 31 South Carolina football players donned their garnet jerseys to read books, play games and sign autographs.
For a lot of the players, it was a special event to give back to a community that supports them so much and to show area children how reading and learning is vital to their lives.
"It means so much," Jay Urich, a redshirt sophomore quarterback, said. "It's a pleasure to come out here every year and just be able to have the opportunity to do it. A lot of people might not have the opportunity, but these kids are always just such a pleasure being around, and being able to teach them the importance of education and importance reading."
Players also enjoyed using their role as a student athlete in a positive way. It is something players such as redshirt senior J.T. Ibe said they hope to continue.
"As football players, we have a platform, and I've been kinda thinking about that the past couple weeks. I want to use my platform to influence. Kids, adults, whoever. Influence is our biggest factor. Having to read to these kids, sign autographs," Ibe said. "We have a platform; we should use it well."
Ibe said he believes that using this platform and knowing that life can be bigger than football can go a long way, and he has seen the impact it can have.
In addition being with the children, players also gave updates as they prepare for the 2019 season, and specifically how they are looking ahead to fall camp, which begins on Aug. 2.
"I'm ready. I hope everybody's ready. I think our team's ready. Our whole community's ready," Ibe said. "We've all improved a lot over the summer. It's Gamecock. Let's get it."
Like Ibe, Urich emphasized getting ready for 2019, despite the ending to the 2018 season.
"That was last year, and this is a new year and new opportunities," Urich said. "We can't focus on last year. Our mindset is 'leave no doubt,' so we're focused on this year; the opportunities we have this year."