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Sept. 10, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The program player profile will be featured here each Wednesday after a home game. Senior defensive tackle J.T. Surratt was the second profile in the 2014 game program. Here is the feature that was in the game program last Saturday for the East Carolina game.

By Madison McCartney – Media Relations Student Assistant

J.T. Surratt’s most significant moment as a Gamecock may surprise you. It wasn’t the defensive tackle’s first career start in 2012 at Florida. It wasn’t the 11-yard sack he was credited with in the win during the Mississippi State game last season or the wins during the 2013 Outback Bowl against Michigan and the 2014 Capital One Bowl against Wisconsin.

No, for the fifth-year senior his most important memory was the time he tore his rotator cuff in the fall of his freshman year during camp and subsequently had to undergo season-ending surgery.

“That was the first time that sports has ever been taken away from me, ” said Surratt.

It was the lessons the defensive tackle learned from that time away from sports that pushed him to where he is now.

“Through the adversity and the determination I had to have it taught me everything,” noted Surratt. “From wanting to quit, wanting to get out of here, I wasn’t going to class. I about failed, about flunked out of school my freshman year.”

That, Surratt believes, is probably the best thing that could have happened to him his freshman year. Having something so central to his daily life taken away from him forced Surratt to step back and not take football for granted.

Since the end of last season, Coach Deke Adams has been stressing to Surratt that it was going to be his time to lead. And in order to lead you have to do the right things all the time.

“Being a leader isn’t something you turn on and off. If you’re going to be a leader, you have to be a leader all the time,” said Surratt.

Whether it’s when he steps on the field, inside the meeting room, or outside of football, J.T. is putting himself in a position to help out his teammates.

“Any aspect I can help with, I’ve been trying to do that. On and off the field. Whatever needs to be said outside or off the field, it’s being said now.”

If you watched any fall camp practices, you would have seen Surratt taking initiative to show the younger guys what it means to do the right thing. All the time.

“Every drill we’ve done since camp started, I’ve always been first in every drill.”

It’s actions like those that helped Surratt win a share of the spring Everyday Attitude award for the defense.

It may not be a role Surratt’s particularly familiar with coming off a season where the Gamecocks lost experience and leadership in players like Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Victor Hampton. But being the only returning starter on the defensive line, Surratt knows it will be his job to teach the younger guys.

Going into winter and spring workouts, Surratt had a different mindset from previous seasons. He wanted to make the people around him better.

“I tried to stress to everybody and say look, everyone is already counting us out. So why not take this year and make a name for yourself and show these people that we can do this. Yeah we lost good talent, but we have talent that is still here that can get the job done. The whole defense is trying to be one. [It’s about] bridging the gaps and coming together and doing what we know we have to do so that we’re all on the same page.”

“Everybody’s just thinking I’ve got your back, and you’ve got mine. Let’s do this. We lean on one another. That’s what we’re all depending on this year: each other. As long as we do what we’re supposed to do, we feel like the sky is the limit for us this year.”

When asked what he was most looking forward to this season, you might think the redshirt senior would mention something about his future NFL draft stock; but he’s more excited about the outcome.

“I want to see what this group [can accomplish], because there is no selfishness on this team. This is probably the best team I’ve ever been a part of. Nobody is for themselves. Everybody is for their team. I really want to see what this team can do when everybody holds everybody accountable and everybody tries to do something for one another.”

As he looks around and puts a finger to his lip to `shhh’ the already quiet room, J.T. explains, “Our whole mentality is, I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to let my actions speak for themselves.”

Surratt knows that it’s the actions on the field that actually win games. And winning here at South Carolina has become the norm.

“It’s about winning. The fun is in the winning.”