USC linebacker finally starting after two years of injury

By Rick Henry - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - We've heard Steve Spurrier say during the preseason that the 2010 Gamecock squad has more leaders than his five previous USC teams. One of those leaders isn't very vocal, but he sets an example for everyone else to follow -- especially when it comes to overcoming adversity.

Rodney Paulk hasn't had much to smile about the past two years. He missed most of the 2009 season after tearing his ACL in the first game. A knee injury also limited him to just four games in 2008.
He received some good news this summer. The NCAA granted him two more years of eligibility, and Thursday night he'll begin his fifth season with the Gamecocks. If he chooses, he can return next fall for a sixth year.

"I have faith in the Lord, you know, and there's a reason for everything," said Paulk. "Fortunately I've been given the opportunity to be granted a sixth year, this year and next year, so right now I'm going to make the most of this opportunity.

Paulk has started 23 games for USC, but only one since 2007. Now he's listed as Carolina's starting middle linebacker.

"I can honestly say while I was hurt, it's given me the opportunity to look at the game from a different perspective," said Paulk. "You never know how good you've got something until it's gone."

"Physically he's fine," said assistant coach Ellis Johnson. "They tell me the knee feels great. He said it gives him no pain. And if there's anything that's affecting his movement and quickness, it's that brace."

"I can't really run like I'd like to run, but I won't say it's slowing me down much," said Paulk. "Because I mean, I'm still able to go out there and do things that I'm used to doing. I can still play for the most part, so I'm going to continue to play until the wheels fall off. I'm still able to do all the things I used to do."

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