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Worley's first start for Vols to be against high school rivals

Starting at a little after 7:15 tonight, Sam Foster Sr. will cheer for the first time - ever - against his beloved South Carolina Gamecocks.

Oh, don't worry, this icon of South Carolina education, politics and civil rights will yell for USC and its players, whom he knows and loves that come from right here in Rock Hill.

His son was the first-ever black trustee at USC. His grandson recently graduated from USC, with honors in civil engineering.

Foster has bought USC football season tickets and gone to more games - home and away and bowls - for far more years than anyone can count.

But tonight is different. Tonight, a gangly young quarterback from Rock Hill's Northwestern High School who plays for the University of Tennessee makes his first start as a true freshman against the Gamecocks.

Justin Worley will come out of the huddle on the field wearing an orange jersey, approach the line, and look right as Foster, watching on TV, looks with him.

Foster was the first principal at Northwestern High School and stayed a decade before being elected to the General Assembly. He is not just some fan of Northwestern teams. He is a legend whose devotion to the school and its young people continues to this day.

Uncountable times he has been asked to speak to students there about life, success, achievement

Scanning the line of scrimmage, Worley will see a mountain in a white jersey with "Carolina" and the number 7 across it. Number 7 last year lined up against Worley's Northwestern Trojans as Number 7 for Rock Hill's South Pointe Stallions.

His name is Jadeveon Clowney, the top recruit in the nation last year - the best.

In just more than half a season, Clowney already has destroyed opposing quarterbacks.

"Worley will have to see Clowney," said Foster, who knows all there is to know about football and life and winning.

Worley will point at Clowney as he did last year and tell a behemoth offensive lineman, "Block that guy!"

Worley will consider a pass play. He will look left and see a defensive back, number 5. Stephon Gilmore, an All-American candidate, also from South Pointe.

"Worley will know where Gilmore is," Foster said.

Somehow, Foster will try to do the impossible as the ball is snapped. Worley will drop back to pass and Clowney will rush in like an avalanche unleashed. Gilmore will run stride-for-stride with a receiver. Worley will hold the ball and prepare to throw it.

Foster will then succeed at the impossible - hope and cheer and pray that all three succeed on every single play, even when one's success for a touchdown or sack or interception means beating the other guy you are rooting for.

"That moment is what education, what excellence, what dreams are all about," said Foster. "That is when all of Rock Hill will see these three young men at the same time the country sees them and we all can say - we have greatness come from here."

But do not think for a minute that Foster wanted Worley to play football at Tennessee.

"Imagine if he was playing for South Carolina," Foster said. "Think about if they pursued him as they did Clowney. Two of the top players in the country go together.

"All these Rock Hill young men playing on the same team after competing against each other in high school. It would have been...special."

Worley was so good in his high school career that last December - after an undefeated season and a million touchdown passes and a state title - he was named the national Gatorade Player of the Year.

The award was for stellar play and top grades and great character. He only beat out 1.1 million other players to be declared the greatest of them all.

When Worley was presented with that award, Foster went and introduced himself to Worley and his parents. He congratulated Worley on his achievements, and told him how proud he, the Northwestern man, was of him.

Then Foster asked Worley the question: "What am I supposed to do?"

"We are Northwestern, the two of us," Foster said. "We are from Rock Hill, the two of us. But South Carolina, I have my season tickets. My family. My loyalty. Who am I supposed to cheer for when you play against the Gamecocks?"

And Worley, top student and top player, told Foster something he will remember for the rest of his days.

"This young man who had just received such a big award said I can root for South Carolina and for him," Foster recalled. "He said, 'Sir, you don't have to root for the whole Tennessee team - just for me. And then you can root for South Carolina, too.' "

Foster hopes that every rabid, loyal, thrilled USC fan does that tonight.

"I am taking that young man's advice and I will cheer on the successes and exploits of all our young men from here," said Foster.

In another living room in Rock Hill watching the game tonight will be a chiropractor named Winslow Schock.

Schock cheers for all kids from Rock Hill at football games, no matter what school they go to. He is also famous for laminating newspaper articles and delivering them to the families of those whose exploits are shown. He does this for free.

Schock has delivered hundreds of laminations to the Gilmores and the Clowneys and the Worleys.

"I know them all and I love them all," said Schock of the three families.

Schock cheers so much and for so long for success of all kids that 19 years ago he created "Cheer for Children," an annual Christmastime event that has given out tens of thousands of gifts and school supplies, clothes and joy and more to the young of this city.

High school players volunteer each year at Cheer for Children, mentoring young kids. These same players who will play against each other tonight have been a part of that achievement: Gilmore and Clowney for USC, Worley for Tennessee.

"People have asked me all week, who will I root for, I tell them the same thing every time - 'I root for them all!' " Schock said. "This is not a decision to root for or against someone. This is rooting for Rock Hill.

"This is rooting for success of young people at the highest level of achievement. Man, this is rooting for all of us!"

Yet the quarterback position, where Worley plays, touches the ball each time Tennessee is on offense. He is the focus. He is the guy America sees each play.

No other position has a name that transcends sports. When your boss says: "I need you to quarterback this big deal," he means lead the deal. Run the deal. Be in charge and responsible. Make the tough decisions. Save the day. Win the game. Be the hero.

In sports, the quarterback succeeds and most fans love him. Fail and fans who are too stupid to differentiate football from life want the quarterback who might not even have to shave yet, who has never thrown a pass in college until tonight, to drown.

"Players don't make mistakes on purpose, but sometimes fans think so for some stupid reason," said Schock. "Justin Worley will make mistakes in this game. But it will not be because he is not trying his best."

Tonight, Sam Foster, in house with his loyalty for the Gamecocks, will cheer for the quarterback in Volunteer orange and not wish him anything but the stars.

Winslow Schock - his laminating machine ready to roll Sunday morning when the paper comes out - will clap.

"Clowney!" both will yell.

"Gilmore!" both will scream.

"Worley!" both will call out.

Around America tonight, watching on ESPN2, the words "Rock Hill" will be spoken many times by announcers. The words will flash on the screen. All because of these young men on a football field in Tennessee.

Somebody from Rock Hill will have won the game when it ends.

Shown the way by the names Foster and Schock, Clowney and Gilmore and Worley will have achieved something far larger than sports no matter which team wins.