South Carolina football also functions as a Statehouse page

Main Street. Stand in the right spot and you’ll have a view of the South Carolina Statehouse on one side and Williams-Brice Stadium on the other.

Jackson Hall worked every end this summer. As a freshman offensive lineman, he can be found at South Carolina football facilities almost every day. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, he’s at the South Carolina legislative headquarters, doing anything and everything.

“I’m a page, well, that’s one of my positions. I help those who need help,” said Hall, a Honea Path native who enrolled in USC’s spring semester and joined the football team. “I’m in Senator (Luke) Rankin’s office, posting flyers, delivering papers, answering the phone. If someone comes in and asks me to do something, I do it.

College is a good enough fit for any freshman, but Hall graduated from Belton-Honea Path High in December at the age of 17, arrived at college early so he could get soccer practice, and attended spring training. Few people know what they want to do when they arrive at university; add being an athlete where few people want to think about the day the ball will stop bouncing, and that’s a lot to get used to.

Hall said he’s not quite sure what he wants to do when he graduates, but he’s majoring in criminology and wants to be involved in the law one way or another – judge, politician, something like that. It’s part of a long-term plan.

“Every year I want to try and explore something new to see what I really like,” he said. “It has changed from my usual summers. I carried straw in high school.

Now he is at the football center at 9 a.m. every day, most days much earlier. He fills out his daily off-season checklist and then heads downtown for his internship, swapping his training t-shirt and shorts for a suit and tie when lawmakers are in session.

There it is to be a multi-purpose tool and help administrative assistants, senators, representatives and anyone else who asks for it with their needs. He’s not consulting on specific agendas — yet — but he’s heard enough to know the basics of how to ultimately be heard.

“We were in session the other day, and I happened to walk in with the governor,” Hall said. “I talked to him a bit, introduced myself. Then I have to sit there and watch them do their thing.

The position is part of the University of South Carolina’s Beyond Sports initiative, a program that aims to prepare student-athletes for life off the field. Seventeen Gamecocks from various school teams are working this summer in a variety of positions.

“It’s an eight-week program that was started because our student-athletes aren’t available for regular clinics during the year because of their sport. Training, travel, participating, they don’t have a lot of time that other students have,” said Michael Stovall, assistant athletic director in charge of student-athlete development and brand awareness.

“They get this mock interview, online and an in-person interview, before they even start looking for a job. They learn to make a CV. They learn workplace etiquette, how to get to work, how to dress, how to sit at their desk to complete a task. These are the real things they need to be competitive.

Hall had an in because his father’s friend is State Senator Mike Gambrell. Yet it wasn’t as simple as saying, “My dad knows a senator and I’d like to take advantage of that.”

“They knew the senator and were able to make a phone call, but that only resulted in the interview. He still had to go for an interview,” Stovall said. “It’s not that they keep our position for us. The #1 thing is he came over and said he wanted to be on the program. So we take their major and their interest — for him, it’s politics and law — we ask them about their network and how do we get there?

Athletes must apply for the program, then for the desired position, and the university meets with the potential employer and assesses meaningful work experience. It is not a course credit per se, although it could be; it’s always a hands-on experience when they have to do it after school.

Branding has become a hot topic in college athletics due to name, image and likeness legislation, where athletes can make money from their personal image and presence on the social networks. Beyond Sports helps build those personal and professional brands, teaching them to network, which, as Stovall puts it, “network determines net worth.”

Hall learns filibusters and canvassing while memorizing blocking assignments and instant cadences. A 6-foot-3 lineman approaching 300 pounds cuts a distinctive figure on the gridiron, and with scraped, bruised hands at his side flanking his suit on the Statehouse floor, no one will soon forget him.

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