Lemuel Jeanpierre was a defensive tackle, always had been, and earned all-state honors at Timber Creek (Fla.) High.
Recruited and signed to South Carolina as a defensive tackle, he redshirted his first year and played in all 13 games the second, making his first start in the Liberty Bowl, coach Steve Spurriers first bowl win with the Gamecocks. Things were looking up.
Coach Spurrier and coach (Tyrone) Nix were my coaches then, and a lot of coaches there were like, We can picture you at O-line with your work ethic. They all thought I could really do it, Jeanpierre said.
His immediate reaction was, Huh? His second was, Well, if you think its best
He doesnt quite remember his third. Whatever it was has been lost in the journey since that day. Offensive lineman Jeanpierre is set to play in Sundays Super Bowl, when he backs up Seattle center Max Unger and any other lineman who needs a rest.
The switch worked out.
I played D-tackle, D-end, my redshirt freshman year, then my last three years, I was on the O-line, Jeanpierre said. Really got in a groove my senior year, luckily. Coming out of high school, my coaches were telling me that some teams were asking about shifting me to O-line. I was like, Im not going to be an O-lineman. But you just go out and do the best you can.
Jeanpierre started five games at right guard in 2007 for the Gamecocks, then another five in 2008 (four at left guard, one at right) before suffering a knee injury. As a senior, he bounced between starting jobs at left guard and center.
After signing with Kansas City as an undrafted free agent, Jeanpierre was cut in training camp. He was signed three days later by the Seahawks and added to the practice squad. He was on the postseason roster as well but did not play in either of the Seahawks two games.
In 2011, Jeanpierre impressed enough to be added to the active roster, and when the line caught the injury bug, he started five games four at right guard and one at center and played in all 16 games. In 2012, he played in 15 games, mostly on special teams or as a late-game center.
This season, Jeanpierre was again asked to sub when Unger was hurt in midseason. Jeanpierre started three games, also playing in the other 13 regular-season games and both playoff games.
Gamecock fans can expect to see No. 61 on the field Sunday, as his versatility has become an asset for the NFC champions.
The championship opportunity has come, he said. I was just really blessed from the get-go. Going back to what coach Spurrier taught me, its getting used to playing all positions. I just go in and do whatever needs to be done.
Jeanpierre has Palmetto State company with him, although receiver Sidney Rice (torn ACL) and cornerback Akeem Auguste (practice squad) wont be active for the game. Byron Maxwell (Clemson) starts at cornerback for Seattle.
The growing number of Gamecocks in the NFL and the Gamecocks success on the college field has been proudly watched by Jeanpierre.
They know Im a Gamecock, Jeanpierre said. Everybody knows when theyre playing, no matter what it is, Im going to be loud for the Gamecocks.
Now hes adding another name to the list of Gamecocks who have played in the Super Bowl. USC has done it two years in a row, as Chris Culliver played with San Francisco last season.
Ive just been blessed, Jeanpierre said.
(Seahawks) coach (Pete) Carroll gave me a chance and Im just so, so appreciative.
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