Roland latest Mr. Football to opt for Gamecocks

Lexington High star says he will play only one sport at USC

jkendall@thestate.comFebruary 1, 2012 

Lexington Wide receiver Shaq Roland chats with head coach Scott Earley as he prepares to sign to play for the Gamecocks during a signing day ceremony at Lexington High School, Wednesday, February 1, 2012.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Shaq Roland’s Wednesday morning signing ceremony at Lexington High followed the pattern of his entire recruitment — low-key and drama-free.

Roland committed to the Gamecocks in July and never wavered from that pledge, he said.

“I knew ever since (the summer) I was going to be a Gamecock, and I never looked back on it,” he said. “No other school tried to contact me. After I made my commitment, the recruiting process has been easy. I just relaxed and focused on what I needed to do. It’s a great day for me, shows all my hard work. I give thanks to all my family and friends. It’s just a great day.”

Roland (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) is considered a five-star recruit by Scout.com and a four-star recruit by the other major recruiting services. Although he lives 30 minutes from Columbia, he said the biggest factor in his signing was South Carolina’s recent success, including the 2010 SEC East title and last year’s 11 wins.

“They had a great recruiting class, and I just wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “It’s a place where I can go and come in early and play as a freshman and all my family and friends can come see me play and that’s why I chose them.”

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier saw Roland in person this year during the first half of Lexington’s 56-49 victory against Dutch Fork, in which Roland scored three touchdowns.

“Shaq has got that burst of speed that you can’t coach,” Spurrier said. “He’s a talented young man.”

Roland became the state’s fourth consecutive Mr. Football to sign with the Gamecocks. Lexington High coach Scott Earley said the state’s top football players almost never gave the Gamecocks a second look when he started coaching in the state in 1997.

“It has totally changed,” Earley said. “It’s done a complete 180, and I think that’s attributable to the notoriety the head coach had before he took that job.”

Roland also is a standout basketball player at Lexington but will play only football at South Carolina, he said. He will not have to have surgery on a nagging shoulder injury, Earley said, and will enroll at South Carolina in late June or early July.

Roland is close with fellow wide receiver recruits Kwinton Smith and Jody Fuller, he said.

“I think (the Gamecocks) are a team on the rise,” he said. “Next year, they can do great things.”

Roland was one of four Wildcats to sign college football scholarship agreements Wednesday. Wide receiver Taquan West signed with South Carolina State. Wide receiver Jalen Cook signed with Newberry, and linebacker Rivers Bedenbaugh signed with Wingate.

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