Casper and Jasper Brinkley tried to encourage their roommate, but words couldn't replace stepping onto the gridiron.
After suffering a shoulder injury late in preseason camp, Brandon Isaac spent the rest of 2006 watching his South Carolina teammates from the sideline.
"We just tried to help him deal with the pain," Casper Brinkley said. "He wanted to play with us real bad but he couldn't. This year he's back. He's anxious. He's studying his playbook real hard. He's ready every day to go out and work hard."
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound Isaac is back on the field ready for his senior season once again. Penciled in as the starting free safety, Isaac will line up in the defensive backfield behind the Brinkleys at linebacker.
"Football is my love," Isaac said. "It's what wakes me up in the morning. I go to sleep thinking about it."
It's been a long road for Isaac since his playing days at Blackville-Hilda. During his senior season in 2002, he passed for more than 500 yards and seven touchdowns, rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns all while recording 87 tackles. He went on to play two seasons at Georgia Military before transferring to South Carolina.
In his first season with the Gamecocks, he split time at cornerback and safety and made two starts. He recorded 34 tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Isaac was slated to replace standout Ko Simpson, who departed early for the NFL. His plans were derailed last August, when he was deemed ineligible for the first three games because of a transferable degree credit issue. Days later, Isaac tackled running back Mike Davis in practice - his last tackle of the year.
Isaac tore the labrum in his left shoulder and underwent season-ending surgery. He received a medical redshirt, leaving him plenty of time to think about the 2007 season.
"I'm glad the wait is over; it was hard," said Isaac, who spent six months rehabbing the shoulder. "I'm here now in camp working hard trying to get better."
The Brinkleys kept his mind in football, showing Isaac how to break down film. He now understands the nuisances of certain offensive formations and knows what to expect.
The 22-year-old Isaac will complete his criminal justice degree this fall. He'd like to be a probation officer, but that's contingent on what happens in April, when the NFL Draft occurs and Isaac will have more than a passing interest.
Isaac, who shared Most Improved Safety honors with Emanuel Cook after spring drills, understands he'll have to work hard and have a good season to get the same type of hype his roommates are receiving. When the Brinkleys move on to the NFL, Isaac doesn't want to be left behind.
"I want the same thing they want," he said. "They want to play in the NFL. So do I.
"The work you put in is the work you get out. Hopefully, the work pays off."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.