Rarely does a day pass in which Caleb Jenerette fails to peer to the locker next to his and remind fellow freshman Sean McGonigal how blessed they are.
Growing up no more than 45 minutes apart, the former Aynor and Myrtle Beach football standouts, respectively, now wear garnet and black as members of the South Carolina football team. Entering school as preferred walk-ons, each recently completed their first college regular season on the scout team.
“It’s a great experience,” McGonigal said. “I’m learning a lot when I’m working with them and I’m getting a feel for playing at the next level.”
In high school, each of them was a big fish in a small pond.
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McGonigal was a multi-year starter during his time in Myrtle Beach. In his final season as a Seahawk, he racked up 14 sacks to go along with 77 total tackles.
He also forced a pair of fumbles and recovered three more.
As for Jenerette, he was a Swiss army knife of sorts at Aynor, playing under his uncle and longtime Blue Jackets head man, Jody.
During his senior season, he saw time at each skill position. His 1,028 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns were a team high.
You talk and hear about how great it is going to be, but you never really understand it until you get the experience. ... That first experience is worth its price in gold.
South Carolina freshman and former Aynor standout Caleb Jenerette
As members of the scout team this season, opportunities to take the field were few and far between. Their best work came on the practice field, primarily seeking to give South Carolina starters a good look at what awaits them on a given Saturday.
“It’s a day-to-day grind. Honestly, the main thing we try to do is contribute what we can and hopefully prepare them for games,” Jenerette said. “There are times where you get screamed at, and some things certain guys don’t like. But our main thing is giving them a look of what they’ll see that week.
“Trust me, it isn’t always fun having to block some of those guys … but I’m having a blast doing it.”
Despite being part of two different position groups, Jenerette and McGonigal tend to admire the work each is putting in.
“(McGonigal) is a great, hard worker,” Jenerette said. “He enjoys competing here at South Carolina just as I do. It’s something to have two Horry County guys on the squad together.”
The two still find themselves in competition with each other, vying for the prized “Scout Team Player of the Week” award. If able to earn the honor, players are given the opportunity to take the field for the Gamecocks.
On separate weekends this fall, each of them was given the award.
McGonigal was first, suiting up for South Carolina’s win over Arkansas. Three weeks later, Jenerette ran out the tunnel for the Gamecocks’ 34-27 victory over Vanderbilt.
“(Running through the smoke) was fun and exciting … but I couldn’t see a thing,” Jenerette joked. “I made sure I was behind (freshman wide receiver OrTre Smith) so I wouldn’t trip.”
Both hopes more opportunities are in the future. But for now, living in the moment will do.
“You talk and hear about how great it is going to be, but you never really understand it until you get the experience,” the Aynor native said. “Like what (former Aynor standout and Wofford fullback Hunter Windham) told me, that first experience is worth its price in gold. I’ll never take it or this experience for granted.”