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December 15, 2010As his career comes to a close, the lack of playing time stings but is soothed by one fact.
Dion LeCorn signed with South Carolina to play for a championship. The Gamecocks went to Florida on Nov. 13 and won one, although the next championship try didn't turn out nearly as nice.
"Coming in, I was like, 'We've got to win us a championship sometime,'" LeCorn said the week before the game. "This is it, right here."
A career that started with such promise has turned into a player trying to re-discover that lost road to stardom. Injuries and switches between offense and defense shifted LeCorn off the path; he has been trying to find it since.
LeCorn still looked fit and trim, his undershirt peeled off a cobblestone street of abdominal muscles, and the 22-year-old was winded but still bright-eyed. One had to really know the litany of medical ailments, most of them frightening, to really appreciate how comfortable LeCorn looked.
A broken leg on the last play of the 2009 Garnet & Black Spring Game cost him valuable conditioning time, just when he had made the switch back to receiver. He returned in the second game of the 2009 season, only to break an ankle in the seventh game and be lost for the rest of the year.
As he was recovering from that, he lacerated his kidney during 2010 spring drills and again missed a lot of time, time that he wanted to spend turning himself into the Gamecocks' best slot receiver. LeCorn knew that USC was stocked with high-jumping sideline streakers but needed a go-to short-route guy following Moe Brown's departure; he wanted to be that guy.
This year, the position was taken by Ace Sanders at first, then by Tori Gurley and/or D.L. Moore. LeCorn recognized early that he probably wouldn't be called on, so he asked to switch back to defense for a second time.
He is a backup safety and spur, and is ready to go if need be. LeCorn has played on special teams and has recorded just one tackle this year, but has played in 12 of the No. 19 Gamecocks' 13 games.
"It's always good, being a part of a big-time program," he said. "Especially through the years, when you can contribute to a big-time program. It makes you feel good."
A quiet first four games of his career became two catches for 12 yards in his fifth, against Mississippi State in 2007. He caught his first touchdown two games later at North Carolina, then entrenched himself with 109 yards and a TD against Arkansas.
Twenty-seven grabs for 315 yards and three TDs earned LeCorn a freshman All-SEC selection from The Sporting News and he began 2008 with a touchdown in the season-opener. But as USC became dependent on Kenny McKinley, Brown, Jason Barnes and Jared Cook for its passing game, LeCorn became less and less of an option.
He switched to defensive back, hoping to get on the field a bit more, and responded with six tackles over the final six games of 2008. LeCorn discussed moving back to receiver over the offseason, was given permission, then began his list of maladies.
With one season left, LeCorn recovered, began the season at receiver and then moved to defensive back. He never got significant time during 2010, but played in all but one game.
"If they need me, I'm ready," he said.
LeCorn isn't taking it easy on his repaired body, pushing himself to its limits and sometimes beyond. There is no other way to win a spot on the field.
And truly get back to where he was.
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