South Carolina football: JT Ibe on Pigskin Poets, start of Gamecocks’ fall camp
Along with SEC Media Days, South Carolina football kicked off the unofficial start of its season with the 23rd annual Pigskin Poets event at the Charles R. Drew Wellness Center on Friday.
More than a dozen Gamecocks, most of them freshmen, mingled with several hundred excited children, playing Simon Says, reading books and signing autographs, two weeks before the team’s preseason practices begin Aug. 2.
“It means so much, it’s a pleasure to come out here every year and have the opportunity to do it,” redshirt junior Jay Urich said. “A lot of people might not have the opportunity, but these kids are always such a pleasure being around, (as well as) being able to teach the importance of education and the importance of reading. I was fortunate when I was younger to have people like us come in and teach us that reading is important.”
Of course, while the official start of football practice is still a few days away, the Gamecocks have been putting in work all summer in the program’s new operations center.
“That was my favorite part. I’m not really into the game room or the video games or the studio and all that stuff,” redshirt junior Spencer Eason-Riddle said. “I’m more of a weight room guy. So I’m all about the weight room, it’s really nice, state of the art, best in the country, and we used it really well this summer. We got a lot of work in. And hopefully that translates to the field.”
Coming off an embarrassing bowl defeat to end 2018 and then spring practices, USC didn’t need any extra motivation to put in work since the Garnet and Black Game, Urich said. But the facility did give the players all the equipment and convenience they could have wanted.
“There’s a lot of good energy from it,” Urich said. “It was sort of just like normal, whether we’re in the stadium working out or over there, we still have the same mindset of working hard and grinding. The mindset hasn’t changed. You just have a couple new bells and whistles that you used to not have.”
The end result, redshirt senior JT Ibe said, is that everyone has made strides in the offseason and are already prepared to go to work.
“I’m ready. I hope everybody’s ready, I think our team’s ready. I hope the community’s ready. I hope we just have a big season. We’ve all improved a lot over the summer,” Ibe said.
Before football really starts, though, it was important for the student-athletes, especially the younger ones, to participate in the community event and give back, Ibe said.
I think it’s extremely important. I came from Rice, and Rice pushed that a lot, and the Gamecocks are doing that now, and you can kind of see it as these freshmen come out, they’re reading to kids, they’re doing a lot more in the community events,” Ibe said. “I think it’s a very important part, because football doesn’t last forever.”