South Carolina State quarterback Corey Fields Jr. holds the memory of his late father and brother close to his heart.
Before each match, Fields takes a permanent marker to write #LLOM and #LLDP on his bracelet. One wrist honors his father, Corey Fields Sr., who died in December 2017. His other wrist honors his brother, Deon Smalls, who died in an all-terrain vehicle crash in February.
“When I lost my brother, it was a bit hard for me. I had my little moments because in my senior [year of high school] I lost my dad, ”Fields said. “So losing my brother was like losing a part of me, definitely. I didn’t know who I was at the time. Mentally, I’ve had my days I had my ups and downs because I was like, ‘Dude, they’re not here.’ So I have my little mental days, but how do I get out of it in the end? I have to do what I came here to do.
Ahead of SC State’s spring season opener against Alabama A&M, Fields stayed with the team and played a day after he buried his brother. His raison d’être was simply to honor his brother and help his team.
“I prefer to be with my teammates knowing that we are a big family. When we go out on the field, leave everything on the field to get away from it all, ”said the second-year quarterback in the red shirt. “On the pitch, it’s just football. I don’t have to think about anything other than what to do right now.
Like most sibling relationships, Fields’ admiration for his older brother ran deep. Everywhere Smalls went, Fields followed without asking questions. His best memories were playing basketball together and playing football.
Smalls and his late father were both instrumental in Fields’ transition to football. Young Fields was a dual-sport athlete who loved basketball more than football, but football would take the top spot when his father became his coach in sixth grade. His father allowed him to play as a quarterback, a position Fields Sr. had trained his son to play for almost two years.
“Just him being there to help me focus on my skills. I knew I could throw the soccer ball since I was little. It was just the little things of knowing what to do, the game of legs, and you had to do this and that, “Fields said.” My dad played a part in there. He sat here and watched a movie. I was 8 years old, learning to play the quarterback and I was trying to do better every week.
Fields misses his dad and brother’s verbal assertions when he’s playing well, as well as the “You gotta be better than this” fix when the going gets tough.
Fields sustained an AC joint sprain on his non-pitching shoulder in SC State’s loss to North Carolina A&T on November 13. Sophomore Quincy Hill finished the game for the Bulldogs, but with Norfolk State suffering a loss the same weekend, SC State won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Title and a place in the Cricket Celebration Bowl. Fields was still determined to play despite being only around 70%.
“I just know that at the end of the day it’s not about me, it’s about the team. The injury, yes, it happened, but it’s over, “said Fields. “It was just for us to have the best chance of winning.
Fields threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns to receiver Shaquan Davis in the regular season final against Norfolk State, as the Bulldogs (6-5, 5-0 MEAC) were undefeated in conference.
” He is hard [and] smart as all come out, so you put these two together [and] the fact that he is uncompromising. He has a good sense of things [and] he knows the offense inside and out, we have a chance to go far, ”said Oliver“ Buddy ”Pough, head coach of SC State. “We had to do things for him to give him the opportunity to play [against Norfolk State]. I’m as excited as I can be that he is starting to play well again, and I think I’m as excited as I can be that we get to understand a little better what this attack can be. .
“I think we need to lean more on him and what he can do and the people around him, so I can’t wait to see where we can go in the future with him in this role.”
Fields led the Bulldog offense this season, recording 2,144 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, earning third-team All-MEAC honors. Only Juwan Carter of Norfolk State and Quinton Williams of Howard had more yards in the conference.
“He replaced all the previous quarterbacks. He’s an exceptional player, ”said graduate defensive back Decobie Durant. “I think he was the first year player of the year in the conference. Fields is going to have a great career.
Ending the regular season a week earlier than the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Fields had the opportunity to return home for Thanksgiving to heal and regroup after an extended season.
Fields is from Hollywood, South Carolina, a small town of 5,000 people, an hour and a half from Orangeburg. Fields played at Baptist Hill High School, against 1A competition in the South Carolina High School League Small Schools division, and led the team to a state title in its final year in 2017.
“It’s a great feeling because not many people know the kids in South Carolina. Hollywood is a street that is probably 5 miles away, ”Fields said with a laugh. “Just the support of the community. No matter what happens, the good and the bad, they’re still there. So I’m trying to do my best to show that everyone can do it.
The Bulldogs resumed training last week after the Thanksgiving break and are tweaking some things while hoping to maintain their late-game attitude. Four of their wins this season have come in single possession games. The substantive toughness Fields learned from his upbringing and the chip on his shoulder to prove 1A kids can play in bigger institutions helped propel SC State to the Cricket Celebration Bowl on December 18.
“It was a great feeling for me. Some of the guys who have been here [haven’t had] a chance to go. So it’s good to see them have a smile on their face knowing that [we’re] go to the Celebration Bowl and finish well [and] in a positive way, ”Fields said. “Everyone knows our main goal at the end of the year [was] be in Atlanta, go there and win. We know that no matter how the game starts, you just have to end it. It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s about how you finish first in the game. Our team, we just know how to end.
The Bulldogs’ trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to play at Jackson State coincides with two important birthdays for Fields, which further motivates him to leave Atlanta with a trophy. It is his brother’s first heavenly birthday on December 20 and the fourth anniversary of his father’s death on December 22. Despite these dates looming in his mind, Fields’ goal is to move forward and play his best football.
“I know my brother and my father. They might not be there, but I know that at the end of the day they would be there to push me to improve every day no matter what, ”said Fields.
“I am [going to] keep pushing no matter what.