COLUMBIA SC (AP) — Main street. Stand in the right spot and you’ll have a view of the South Carolina Statehouse on one side and Williams-Brice Stadium on the other.
Jackson Hall has been working each end this summer. As a freshman offensive lineman, he is at the South Carolina football facility almost every day. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, he’s in the South Carolina legislative building doing it all.
“I’m a page, well that’s one of my positions. I help whoever needs help,” said Hall, a Honea Path native who signed up for the spring semester at USC and joined the soccer team. “I’m in Senator (Luke) Rankin’s office and I put up flyers, I deliver documents, I answer the phone. If someone comes in and asks me to do something, I do it.”
College is enough of an adjustment for any freshman, but Hall graduated from Belton-Honea Path High in December at age 17, got to college early so he could start coaching football, and held spring practices. Not many know what they want to do when they first get to college; he adds being an athlete where not many want to think about the day the ball stops bouncing, and it’s a lot to get used to.
Hall said he’s not quite sure what he wants to do when he graduates, but he’s majoring in criminology and wants to be involved in the law in some capacity: judge, politician, something like that. He is part of a long-term plan.
“Every year I want to try to explore something new to see what I really like,” he said. “It’s been a change from my usual summers. I hauled straw in high school.”
He is now at the soccer facility at 9am every day, most days much earlier. He completes his daily off-season checklist and then heads downtown for his internship, trading in his training T-shirt and shorts for a suit and tie when lawmakers are in session.
There it is being a multipurpose tool and helping administrative assistants, senators, deputies and anyone else who requests it with their needs. He’s not consulting on specific agendas yet, but he’s heard enough to know the basics of how to eventually be heard.
“We were in session the other day, and I walked in with the governor,” Hall said. “I talked to him a little bit, introduced myself. Then I was able to sit there and watch them do their thing.”
The position is part of the University of South Carolina’s Beyond Sports initiative, a program that works to prepare student-athletes for life off the field. Seventeen Gamecocks from various school teams are working this summer in a variety of positions.
“It is an eight-week program that was started because our student-athletes are not available for regular internships during the year, due to their sport. The training, the travel, the participation, they don’t have a lot of the time that other students have,” said Michael Stovall, assistant director of athletics in charge of student-athlete development and brand awareness.
“They get that mock interview, online, and an in-person interview, before they start looking for a job. They learn to make a resume. They learn about workplace etiquette, how to get to work, how to dress, how to sit at their desk to complete a task. It’s the real stuff they need to be competitive.”
Hall stepped in because his father’s friend is state senator Mike Gambrell. However, it wasn’t as simple as saying, “My dad knows a senator and I’d like to take advantage of him.”
“They knew the senator and were able to make a phone call, but they only got the interview. He still had to interview,” Stovall said. “It’s not like they’re saving his position for us. The first thing is that he came and said that he wanted to be part of the program. So we took his major and his interest, for him, is politics and law, we asked them about his network and how we got there.”
Athletes must apply for the program and then for their desired position, and the university meets with the prospective employer and assesses significant work experience. It is not a course credit per se, although it can be; it’s always a hands-on experience for when they have to do this after school.
“Branding” has become a hot topic among college athletics due to name, image, and likeness legislation, with athletes able to make money off of their personal image and social media presence. Beyond Sports helps build those personal and professional brands by teaching them how to network, which, as Stovall says, “Network determines net worth.”
Hall is learning about filibusters and scrutiny while also memorizing blocking assignments and instant timings. A 6-foot-3 lineman approaching 300 pounds has a distinctive figure on the gridiron, and with scraped and bruised hands on the sides flanking his suit on the Statehouse floor, no one will soon forget him.
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