USC football: D.J. Shoemate's desire to play tailback led to transfer
In two seasons as a fullback at USC, Shoemate rushed twice.
The chance to once again play tailback and showcase his skills, Shoemate said, was the main reason the 6-foot, 220-pound junior decided to leave USC and transfer to Connecticut. NCAA sanctions imposed upon USC, including a two-year bowl ban, allow juniors and seniors to transfer without having to sit out a season.
"My love for the game was at tailback. Deep down inside, I knew I needed to explore my options," said Shoemate, one of four players who have left the Trojans since the sanctions were announced in June. "When you have an opportunity like that and you're going to be able to fulfill your dreams and that spark that's inside you, you have to go somewhere else."
Shoemate verbally committed to the Trojans after his sophomore year in high school and never made official visits to other schools. He initially played receiver as a freshman in 2008 but was moved to fullback midway through the season. He was a backup for starter Stanley Havili last season and was projected to be in a similar role this season.
Shoemate said he "checked out" Boise State and considered other schools before visiting UConn, which produced running back Donald Brown, the Indianapolis Colts' first-round draft pick in 2009.
"I wanted to go to a program where guys were starting to prove themselves," Shoemate said. "I asked a million questions and got a million answers back. I really felt that I could contribute and be a big piece of the puzzle."
Shoemate met last week with USC Coach Lane Kiffin and informed him of his plans.
"He was very surprised, but I thought it was important to talk with him one-on-one," Shoemate said. "I wanted to leave with class, not being at the airport and texting the coaches.
"I'm definitely going to miss the place, but football is everything to me. I understand the significance of the degree and the education. And I love SC. But I had to eventually detach myself. And I know I'm going to excel."
-- Gary Klein
Photo: D.J. Shoemate celebrates his touchdown against San Jose St. in 2009. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times