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August 20, 2011

Wooten, Markett earn scholarships



One would think that receiving a scholarship wasn't any big deal. Jay Wooten and Marty Markett have each been on scholarship before.

One would be wrong.

"I found out about a week ago," Wooten said on Saturday, after No. 12 South Carolina held its third scrimmage of the fall. "It was great. I'm just grateful to coach (John) Butler and coach (Steve) Spurrier for giving me that opportunity."

The two fifth-year seniors were awarded scholarships by Spurrier as the Gamecocks inch closer to the Sept. 3 season-opener, elevating them from walk-on status to full-ride players. Each was appreciative and happy for the gift, Markett especially, after having to save for his tuition and hope it would be enough for the full year.

"I was late to the meeting, because I was in the financial aid office trying to find a student loan or something, because I couldn't afford school yet," Markett said. "So I texted Akeem (Auguste) and C.C. (Whitlock), said, 'Tell coach I'm going to be late.'

"They were like, 'But coach said come on up to the stadium,' because I was getting a scholarship. So I just walked out of the financial aid office and headed to the stadium. Helped out a lot."

Markett came to USC as a scholarship track athlete, lettering in 2007 and 2008 as a sprinter. But Markett, a former jack-of-all-trades on the football field at York Comprehensive High School, missed the sport too much and decided to walk on to the football team with another former track star, Bryce Sherman.

A broken arm in 2009 shelved him for the majority of the season, but Markett began to make an impact in 2010. During spring practice scrimmages, Markett hauled in three interceptions and began to turn heads with his exceptional speed, and he parlayed that into a special-teams role and a spot at backup cornerback, which became a start at last season's Florida game.

Again listed as a backup but still making plays - he intercepted one pass on Saturday, broke up another and finished second only to freshman blazer Damiere Byrd in a foot race - Markett was rewarded with a full ride and credited by Spurrier as a player who does everything right.

"Marty was all over the place out here today," Spurrier said. "He's set to graduate, I think, maybe next summer. He's earned it. We've got two or three other guys who are deserving, but this year we just didn't have any available. But I always give them out."

Wooten was also on scholarship, but at North Carolina for the first two years of his collegiate career. Unhappy when the Tar Heels' brass benched him in 2008 after converting four of his first six field goals, Wooten fulfilled a lifelong dream and came to USC.

"I always wanted to come here," Wooten recently said, "but at the time, they had Ryan Succop and I knew I was going to be sitting for a while. Both of my parents are USC graduates, so it was a good thing that it worked out where I could come here."

Sitting out of the 2009 season due to transfer rules but emerging as the team's kickoff specialist in 2010, Wooten is set to be the Gamecocks' starting place-kicker and kickoff man in 2011. Butler has said that the competition is still open, but also that Wooten would be the guy if the season started today, and Wooten has been consistent in drills and scrimmages.

Being back on scholarship was a reward for the work he put in. He was happy, as were others.

"I know my parents will be really happy," he said with a smile.

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