High School Football

Daughter biggest factor in Calhoun County lineman's recruitment

Eric Mack was getting a heavy dose of the Floridas, South Carolinas and Oklahomas shoved down his throat.

Everybody, it seemed, wanted a piece of the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Calhoun County offensive linemen.

But what many didn't know about Mack - who is in town preparing for Saturday's North-South All-Star football game at Myrtle Beach High School - was that the pressure that comes with making a college decision paled in comparison to what he faces every day.

Next week, Mack's daughter, Kaliyah, will celebrate her second birthday. So for the highly touted offensive linemen, his senior year has been as much about family as it has football.

"At the same time, that's a big responsibility," Mack said. "And I just gotta do what I gotta do to make sure she is in the best position possible."

Part of that responsibility led Mack to commit to South Carolina. He said he picked USC - he can't officially sign until February - in order to remain close to Orangeburg, where Kaliyah lives with her mother.

It hasn't stopped other schools, mainly Florida, Auburn and Oklahoma, from continuing their recruitment. And it hasn't stopped Mack from keeping a scheduled visit to Florida in January.

But even that, he said, has more to do with him simply wanting to take advantage of the process.

His Calhoun County teammates have already watched him do that in other ways too.

Defensive back Dante Stewart, who will also be playing for the South squad on Saturday, said Mack has done more to bring in college recruiters than anyone, specifically for the purpose of getting some of those other teammates noticed.

That modicum of respect is something Stewart says defines Mack's day-to-day style.

"What I've seen from Eric is a straight-up, grown-man attitude - and a leader," Stewart said. "I mean, he does nothing without putting his whole heart into it. When it comes to school work, football work, anything, he puts everything into it to get it accomplished."

For the time being, that path appears to be keeping Mack en route to Columbia, and close to his little girl.

It's a far cry from his original plan, which had him committing to a school to keep those coaches off his back during his senior season. Instead, he picked the Gamecocks in July and has repeatedly said nothing will change his mind.

"At first, I was thinking about committing to any school and just waiting until the season was over and de-committing," he said. "But then, the commitment to South Carolina wasn't like that. I really liked Carolina."