When South Carolina signed Lemuel Jeanpierre he was a little-known defensive tackle from Orlando. Ranked as the No. 71 defensive tackle in the nation Jeanpierre was considered a solid pick-up in Steve Spurrier’s first class, but by no means a blue-chipper. Luckily for the Gamecocks, those rankings fail to take into account heart, determination and work-ethic. All things Jeanpierre isn’t lacking.
It probably came as no surprise to those who know him best, when the 6’3”, now 293-pound offensive lineman, walked across the stage and shook South Carolina President Dr. Harris Pastides’ hand Monday. In a college football world where student-athletes are constantly stereotyped as being more athlete than student, Jeanpierre received his Retailing degree in just three and a half year, sporting a 3.1 GPA.
“It felt good; it was a lot of hard work,” Jeanpierre said. “I’ve got that out of the way now I’m just trying to go on to other stuff.”
The palmetto state airwaves and Gamecock message boards lit up this week with anger, questions and constant negativity when the news that junior All-SEC safety Emanuel Cook had not passed six hours of classes towards his major and had likely competed for the last time in the Garnet and Black. The Palm Beach, Fla. native was singled out as an example of all that is wrong at USC and in college athletics in general. But what many failed to recognize was the 80-plus other scholarship football players who did things the right way in the classroom, like Jeanpierre.
Jeanpierre or “Lem” as his friends call him, didn’t just start making good grades in college, but graduated high school with over a 3.0 GPA as well. He says college life was never particularly easy, but all worked out due to the work ethic his parents instilled in him early in life.
“(My parents) were like if I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to then I couldn’t go out there and play,” Jeanpierre said. “I loved playing and competing, so I made sure I got my work (done) and my grades were good.”
And that guidance from his parents did not stop at the end of high school. While the always humble Jeanpierre admits he did have to sit down and do all the work himself, he is not ready to take all the credit for his success in college. Jeanpierre was always driven by a support staff that kept him on task in the midst of the countless hours that go into practice, film study and workouts.
“I never want to say that I did anything alone,” he said. “Mr. Raymond (Harrison, Director of Academics/Life Skills), is over there to help us now. They helped me out when I needed it, but a lot of it was they already knew I knew how to take care of my grades. My parents were always calling to check on my grades. They were checking on me from home, so they were always the pushing factor.”
Now a South Carolina graduate, and with one challenge conquered, Jeanpierre has another challenge to overcome, rehabbing the knee he injured earlier this year against Tennessee. Like he has every other obstacle in life, Jeanpierre has attacked this one the only way he knows how, with persistence and hard work, just like his parents taught him.
“When they said there was an option, a possibility (surgery wouldn’t be needed)the only thing I knew I could do was work hard like I do with everything else and get back out there as soon as I could,” he said. “I mean I’ve worked real hard, but I’m still working. I haven’t got the full-go yet, but there’s still time before the bowl game for me to get back out there.”
Still holding out hope he can make it back for the bowl game, Jeanpierre is not only rehabbing his knee, but learning under a new offensive line coach. Having played under Coach John Hunt since he moved to the offensive line in the spring of 2007, he is also presented with the task of becoming acquainted with interim offensive line coach Cedric Williams’ coaching techniques. Still, Jeanpierre says it hasn’t been a hard transition, and he thinks the Outback Bowl isn’t out of the question for him.
“We just take it day-by-day; they haven’t really said if I can be back by the bowl game or not,” Jeanpierre said. “But I feel good. I think I’ll be able to be out there. But we’ll just have to see. They’ll tell me; they know more about what’s going on than me.”
Whether allowed to play in the bowl game or not, Jeanpierre will be back with the team next year competing for a starting guard spot as a Graduate student, and constant reminder to all Gamecocks fans that while the bad news will always garner more attention, there are many other student-athletes who do things the right way.
“People out there they say a lot of things when they don’t know what’s really going on,” Jeanpierre said about the constant negativity some harp on. “And we players can’t really do anything about it, we hear it though, we hear what the fans are saying. Sometimes I don’t know if the fans know that. They put it on message boards and we read it, we hear it, we take it in. And I know personally that that’s not the real Gamecock Nation, because when I go out and they see me they know me and keep cheering us on. We might not get recognized by (some), but the real Gamecock Nation, they know who we are.”