South Carolina State Bulldogs

South Carolina State’s Corey Fields Jr. plays with guardian angels on his wrists

The redshirt sophomore quarterback has #LLOM and #LLDP on his wrist tape to honor his late father and brother

South Carolina State quarterback Corey Fields Jr. keeps the memory of his late father and brother close to his heart.

Before every game, Fields takes a permanent marker to inscribe #LLOM and #LLDP on his wrist tape. 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 accident in February.

“When I lost my brother, it was kind of tough 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 piece of me, definitely. I didn’t know who I was at that point in time. Mentally, I had my days when I was up and down because I was saying, ‘Man, they’re not here.’ So I have my little mental days, but how to get through it at the end of the day? I gotta do what I came here for.”

Leading up to S.C. State’s spring season opener against Alabama A&M, Fields remained with the team and played a day after burying his brother. His rationale was simply to honor his brother and help his team.

“I’d rather be around my teammates just knowing that we’re one big family. When we go on the field, just leaving it all out on the field as a way to get away from everything,” the redshirt sophomore quarterback said. “On the field, it’s just football. I don’t have to think about nothing else other than what I’m doing right then and there.”

Like most brotherly relationships, Fields’ admiration for his older brother ran deep. Wherever Smalls went, Fields followed without question. His fondest memories were playing basketball together and tossing the football around.

Both Smalls and his late father were instrumental in Fields’ transition to football. The younger Fields was a dual-sport athlete who loved basketball more than football, but football would assume the first position when his father became his coach in the sixth grade. His dad allowed him to play quarterback, a position Fields Sr. had been training his son to play for nearly two years.

“Just him being there to help me focus on my skills. I knew I could throw the football since I was a little kid. It was just the small things of knowing what you got to do, the footwork, and you got to do this and that,” Fields said. “My dad played a part in that. He sat here and watched film. I was 8 years old learning how to play quarterback and trying to do better each and every week.”

Fields misses the verbal affirmations from his father and brother when he’s playing well, as well as the corrective, “You have to be better than this” when things are rough.

Fields sustained an AC joint sprain on his non-throwing shoulder during S.C. State’s loss to North Carolina A&T on Nov. 13. Sophomore Quincy Hill finished the game for the Bulldogs, but with Norfolk State suffering a loss the same weekend, S.C. State clinched the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) title and a spot in the Cricket Celebration Bowl. Fields was still committed to playing despite being at only about 70%.

“I just know at the end of the day, it’s not about me, it’s about the team. The injury, yeah, it happened, but it’s over with,” Fields said. “It was just about us having the best chance to win.”

Fields threw for 250 yards and three touchdown strikes to wide receiver Shaquan Davis in the regular-season finale against Norfolk State, as the Bulldogs (6-5, 5-0 MEAC) finished undefeated in conference play.

“He’s tough [and] smart as all get out, so you put those two elements together [and] the fact that he’s hard-nosed. He’s got a good feel for things [and] he knows the offense inside and out, we’ve got a chance to go far,” said Oliver “Buddy” Pough, S.C. State’s head football coach. “We had to do some stuff to him to give him an opportunity to be able to play [against Norfolk State]. I’m excited as I can be about him starting to play well again, and I think I’m excited as I can be about us understanding a little bit better what this offense can be.

“I think we’ve got to lean more on him and what he can do and the people around him, so I’m looking forward to seeing where we can go for the future with him in the position.”

Fields led the Bulldog offense this season, passing for 2,144 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, earning third-team All-MEAC honors. Only Norfolk State’s Juwan Carter and Howard’s Quinton Williams passed for more yards in the conference.

“He filled the shoes of all the previous quarterbacks that came in. He’s an outstanding player,” said graduate defensive back Decobie Durant. “I think he was freshman player of the year in the conference. Fields is going to have a great career.”

By finishing the regular season a week earlier than the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Fields had the opportunity to travel home for Thanksgiving to heal and regroup following an extended season.

Fields is from Hollywood, South Carolina, a small town of 5,000 people, an hour and a half outside of Orangeburg. Fields played at Baptist Hill High School, against 1A competition in South Carolina High School League’s division for smaller schools, and led the team to a state title his senior year in 2017.

“It’s a great feeling because not too many people know about South Carolina kids. Hollywood is one street that probably goes 5 miles,” Fields said with a laugh. “Just the support from the community. No matter what happens, the good and bad, they’re always there. So I try to do my best to show that anybody can do it.”

The Bulldogs resumed practice last week following Thanksgiving break and are fine-tuning some things while hoping to maintain their finish-games attitude. Four of their wins this season occurred in single-possession games. The nitty-gritty toughness Fields learned from his upbringing and the chip on his shoulder to prove 1A kids can play at bigger institutions have helped propel S.C. State to the Cricket Celebration Bowl on Dec. 18.

“It was a great feeling for me. Some of the guys who’ve been here [haven’t had] a chance to go there. So it’s great to see them have a smile on their face knowing that [we’re] going to the Celebration Bowl and ending it right [and] in a positive way,” Fields said. “Everyone knows our main goal at the end of the year [was] to be in Atlanta, and go there and win. We know no matter how the game starts, just finish. No matter how you start, it’s about how you finish first through the game. Our team, we just know how to finish.”

The Bulldogs’ trip to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to play Jackson State coincides with two important anniversaries for Fields, which adds more motivation for him to leave Atlanta with a trophy. It’s his brother’s first heavenly birthday on Dec. 20 and the fourth anniversary of his dad’s death on Dec. 22. Despite those dates looming in the back of his mind, Fields’ focus is to move forward and play his best football.

“I know my brother and my dad. They may not be here, but I know at the end of the day, they would be here pushing me to get better every day, no matter the circumstances,” Fields said.

“I’m [going to] just keep pushing no matter what.”