Originally created 09/10/04

Hometown pulls for Turman, not Gamecocks



WASHINGTON, Ga. - A ceramic English bulldog guards the sidewalk of a house on Poplar Drive.

Across the street, a red and black flag flaps in the breeze. There's another one hanging from the house adjacent to it.

Less than 100 yards south, a red, ankle-high placard has a street address and a 'G' on it.

There is absolutely no doubt which team this town's rooting interest lies.

This stretch of road might as well be situated in downtown Athens, Ga., 45 miles northwest on U.S. Highway 78.

Assuredly, Washington will be rooting for No. 3 Georgia when it plays at South Carolina on Saturday afternoon.

In a perfect world, though, the city will pull for two things: a Bulldogs win, and for a solid performance by native son Daccus Turman, a running back for the Gamecocks.

"I feel a lot of support from back home," Turman said earlier this week, "even though there's a lot of Georgia fans around there."

Turman laughs at the estimate that 90 percent of Washington's residents are Bulldogs at heart.

"Probably more like 95," he said. "Maybe 99."

Despite his hometown's connection to Georgia, Turman said no one really pressured him to try to stay nearby for college.

Fact is, the Bulldogs weren't even that interested in Turman until after he'd committed to South Carolina - even though his record-breaking high school career essentially took place in the university's back yard.

Turman rushed for 3,172 yards his senior year at Washington-Wilkes to break the state's single-season rushing record.

His 2,370 yards during the 10-game regular season also set a new record.

Until that point those marks were held by Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, a name still held in reverence by Bulldogs fans.

Turman's father, L.V., said the gaudy numbers and records weren't enough to counter the prevailing opinion in the college coaching community that his son was "too small and too slow" for Division I-A football.

"I still don't understand that to this day," he said. "I'm still not convinced that the experts are experts."

Understanding and persevering are two different things, though, he said.

L.V. kept Daccus focused on making a Division I roster, even if he had to walk on somewhere.

"I helped him to see it wasn't his football ability. There was nothing wrong with that," L.V. said. "I wanted him to know that was just people's opinions. And that I didn't agree with those opinions."

Lou Holtz didn't either. South Carolina was the only D-I program to offer Turman a scholarship initially. Turman said Georgia followed suit afterward, but he told the Bulldogs staff he had already found a school.

"I went with my heart, where I felt most comfortable," Turman said.

After failing to gain admittance to South Carolina by 10 points on his SAT, Turman spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., before enrolling in college.

Once Turman finally got to Columbia, he rushed for 179 yards his freshman year. He finished last season with 646 rushing yards, first on the team. His seven touchdowns were one-third of the Gamecocks' total for the year.

So more is expected from Turman his junior year, right? Sort of. He's one of five running backs who will get touches this season.

In South Carolina's season-opening win over Vanderbilt last week, he had six carries for 21 yards.

Nothing glamorous about those numbers, but that suits Turman fine, he said.

He's just as big into the blocking side of the game as running the ball. Without a true fullback, that's just what the Gamecocks coaches want to hear.

Given the choice between a 12-yard run for a first down or bone-jarring contact, Turman had to stop and think.

"I'd take both," said the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder. "I'd run 12 yards and then look for someone to run over."

His father said that mentality separates Turman from other backs, both in the Gamecocks' backfield and across the country.

"I see Daccus as something like a throwback," he said.

That's the way he taught him from a young age. When Daccus was 8 or 9, L.V. said he started to tutor him on proper blocking and ball-carrying techniques.

He said he sees the fundamentally sound side of his son each time he touches the ball. He's said there's a little bit of Daccus' idol, Barry Sanders, in him, too.

"He's got that," L.V. said. "I know he does. I want to see more of it."

He added he thinks his son is still not fully appreciated.

"I'm not sure even now that people know how good he is," L.V. said, "or how good he is going to be."

His hometown believes in him. Just so long as he doesn't go and beat the Bulldogs.

Reach Travis Haney at (706) 823-3219 or travis.haney@augustachronicle.com.