COLUMBIA --- Jasper Brinkley's knee had hurt for months. Now, his heart did, too.
It was December and South Carolina's injured all-Southeastern Conference linebacker learned his friend and mentor, defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, was off to join Mississippi. It was too much to bear, and Brinkley, a former Thomson High School standout, planned to leave as well.
Calm down, Nix counseled, rehab your injury, finish what you began and play like the terror you were before you got hurt. Turns out Nix's words were perhaps the best advice Brinkley had ever received.
"I'm part of a No. 1 defense right now," Brinkley said with pride. "It's something I've never been part of, so pretty much everything's followed through."
While Brinkley, doesn't have the dazzling stats he did before his injury, he's watched the Gamecocks' youngsters blossom into the South-eastern Conference's saltiest unit.
"Honestly, guys, it's not me anymore, it's the whole defense," Brinkley said, smiling.
Brinkley and twin brother Casper came to South Carolina from Georgia Military College before the 2006 season. Jasper Brinkley was a sensation right from the start finishing fourth in the conference with 107 tackles, five sacks and 141/2 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
His first career interception sealed South Carolina's 16-12 upset at Georgia.
But two weeks later at Louisiana State University, Brinkley's season was done. He damaged knee ligaments on a soggy field and required surgery.
Coach Steve Spurrier and brother Casper immediately pointed the injured star toward this season.
Brinkley's worked hard to fit into the 4-2-5 alignment of new coordinator Ellis Johnson.
At first, Brinkley tried to fly around like he did before the injury with little success. He had only three tackles the first two games, but has gradually found his stride. He tied for the team lead with seven stops in a 14-7 loss to then No. 2 Georgia.