Sumter High School defensive back O'Donnell Fortune dreamt of this day his whole life, and on Wednesday his dream became a reality when he officially became a member of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.
Fortune committed to USC back in …
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Fortune committed to USC back in June and his loyalty never wavered. He closed his recruiting immediately and didn't take an official visit to any other schools despite the fact that he was one of the most talented defensive backs in South Carolina.
"It's an honor," said Fortune "I've been waiting for this moment for a long time. I'm just ready to get on the field with my boys, get to know the coaches a little bit better and just get ready for the opportunity."
Fortune has already made connections with several players, including a couple teammates in the secondary that he'll be working closely with next season in Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn. "I met them on my official visit and we had a good connection," said Fortune.
Fortune is currently in Spartanburg for the Shrine Bowl where he'll compete with the top players in state against the top players from North Carolina at Wofford College's Gibbs Stadium on Saturday.
"It's great, there's some good competition here (in Spartanburg)," said Fortune. "They're getting me better every day. I'm really looking forward to Saturday. I'm going to turn out and play."
He won't have to wait long to get started at USC. Fortune will graduate early from Sumter and is enrolled to begin classes in early January.
"It's been good to get a head start on everyone so I can get on the field a little earlier," said Fortune. "I'm really looking forward to coming in January and giving everything I have."
Fortune will be greatly missed at Sumter where he's helped lead his team to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons.
"The No. 1 thing is he's a 3-year starter, and he's a versatile player," said Sumter head coach Mark Barnes. "He played some corner and safety all throughout those three years. He has great ball skills and is a good tackler, which is hard to find in a high school player -- someone that can defend the pass and also do a quality job of tackling the back. He's been a great player for us."
Barnes has coached Fortune throughout his career and has seen him progress over that time.
"He's gotten stronger," said Barnes. "He was always a great athlete, but now he uses all of his athletic abilities to make plays easier for him. He had some deficiencies, but he's worked on those things and become more physical and worked on his zone coverages. He was always a natural man coverage, but he's worked hard on his zone coverages. He's just developed himself as a player, in the weight room, and as a student and that's great to see."
When asked about Fortune and fellow DB signees Joey Hunter and Eric Shaw during his press conference on Wednesday, USC head coach Will Muschamp was highly complementary of all three.
Muschamp said he and his staff look for players who have the mental aptitude to be versatile and play different spots in the secondary, the athleticism needed, the physicality to tackle and ball skills and ball judgment down the field.
"All three of those guys were very good in all of those situations," Muschamp said.
USC struggled to a 4-8 record this season, and questions have surrounded the team about whether or not Muschamp would be brought back for next season. When asked if any of that turmoil ever made him reconsider his commitment, Fortune didn't hesitate when he said, "No sir, no sir, not at all."
Fortune had 46 tackles in 10 games this past season, five of the tackles being for loss. He had three interceptions for 49 yards in returns and broke up five passes.
As a junior, Fortune had 48 tackles, including 41 unassisted stops He had 3.5 tackles for loss, and returned five interceptions for 55 yards, taking one of them back for a touchdown. He also broke up five passes and recovered one fumble.
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