Jay Wooten has several role models.
None of them is a kicker -- Wooten's position -- or has ties to North Carolina, the school Wooten transferred from last year to walk on at his parents' alma mater of South Carolina.
Golfer Scott Verplank, NBA player Adam Morrison and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler all have something in common with Wooten: Each has succeeded athletically as a diabetic.
"Everybody's got the hardships they've had to deal with," Wooten said. "It's just something I've had to work through a little bit. It's never really held me back or given me any problems."
Other than the Gamecocks' kickers and punters, Wooten said the rest of his teammates probably don't know about his condition.
Wooten said he is not looking for sympathy. What he wants is a chance to kick again.
Wooten, a redshirt junior from Laurinburg, N.C., kicked one season for the Tar Heels, hitting 4-of-6 field goals and going 11-for-11 on extra points in 2008. But after losing his job to Casey Barth, Wooten transferred to USC, where his father has had season tickets since graduating 40 years ago.
After sitting out last year under NCAA transfer rules, Wooten is competing with Joey Scribner-Howard and Adam Yates for the kickoff duties with an eye on succeeding senior Spencer Lanning as the place-kicker next season.
Wooten said it was tough making the transition from a starting ACC kicker to SEC ticket-holder.
"That was definitely a humbling experience, going from playing and starting to not even being on the bus, not even being on the sidelines for some games," he said.
But Wooten might be back in the fold this year.
USC special teams coordinator Shane Beamer likes Wooten's consistency and believes Lanning's steady demeanor has rubbed off on Wooten.
"He's a lot like Spencer in that nothing gets to him. He doesn't let stuff bother him," Beamer said. "If he misses a kick, it's 'let go on to the next one.' He kicks with confidence. ... I think he had a really good summer."
Wooten has type 1 diabetes, which was previously known as juvenile diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetics do not produce insulin, the hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy.
Diabetes affects nearly 8 percent of Americans, according to the ADA. About 5 to 10 percent of diabetics have type 1.
Wooten was diagnosed when he was a 15-year-old, high school freshman. He had been under the weather for several weeks, and was losing weight. When Wooten became sick during a trip to Columbia for a USC-Vanderbilt basketball game, his family headed home and took him to a hospital, where he learned he had diabetes. With no family history of the disease, Jerry Wooten said she missed her son's symptoms "because you don't believe it's happening to you."
For the first year after his diagnosis, Wooten administered the insulin shots, setting his alarm so he would not miss his early-morning injections. Fearful that he would have to give up sports, Wooten was able to keep playing football and soccer for his high school, as well as rec-league basketball.
"He's sort of my hero because he tackled that head-on," his mother said. "He never shed a tear, just kept on going."
Wooten now uses an insulin pump, attached to his hip and kept in his front pocket. He takes it off for practices and games, and says exercise keeps his blood sugar in balance.
Wooten, 22, said dealing with his diabetes helped him mature.
"(It) definitely keeps me toned down a little bit, not just going out and being wild or whatever," he said. "It's one of those things that if you can really monitor and control it, you can be just as healthy if not healthier (than non-diabetics) because I have to eat better. I can't drink regular sodas. I try to (stay) away from fast food."
Wooten also has helped children diagnosed with diabetes cope with the disease, talking with them about it and teaching them how to use the insulin pump.
"You always try to look for a silver lining," said Jim Wooten, his father. "Jay really had to grow up in a hurry and become mature and responsible. It was a life-changing experience, and one that he made a positive out of."
Jerry Wooten said she and her husband have to be among the most excited Gamecock fans this season. The two met at USC after Jim transferred from Presbyterian, where he played basketball for one season. Jerry was a football recruiting hostess, then known as a "a garnet-and-black girl."
Now that their only child has a chance to start for the Gamecocks, Jim Wooten plans to get his four tickets back from his brother-in-law, who used them the last couple of seasons.
As for Wooten, he is just grateful for the opportunity after leaving the other Carolina.
"I really feel like if I did make it back out there, that I'll definitely appreciate this time," Wooten said. "I've kind of started over and built it from the ground up again."