By Jordan Moore on January 10, 2012 5:00 PM
Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
Upon entering USC in the fall of 2006, former Trojan running back C.J. Gable had little trouble acclimating to life on the football field.
During his freshman season at Troy, Gable (pictured right by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) started five games (including the season opener at Arkansas), rushed for 434 yards on 111 carries, ranked 15th nationally in kick return average (27 yards per attempt) and scored four touchdowns.
Outside the white lines, however, life did not start out so easy for Gable at USC.
"I had my fair share of struggles at USC that first year, between juggling football and school work," Gable recalled. "In high school, I could just finish my work in class and never had to bring it home. When I got to college the experience was completely different. You were expected to sit through these long lectures and then complete the homework on your own without any guidance. And because of it, I was getting C's, D's and F's on all of my work. I was overwhelmed."
With the reality of ineligibility a distinct possibility for Gable, the prideful tailback went to Student-Athlete Academic Services (SAAS) and asked for some much-needed help with his studies.
"I'm the type of person that doesn't really like to ask for help, because I like to believe I can do everything on my own," said Gable. "It's a pride thing. But early on it became apparent that I needed to buckle down and find someone who could help."
Gable would receive that help in the form of SAAS learning specialist Dr. Denise Kwok and other peer tutors. For the next three years, rain or shine, practice or no practice, Gable went in for tutoring every day with the goal of earning his undergraduate degree.
"I went to tutoring every day and it was terrible at first," said Gable. "I hated it, because no one likes people telling them what to do. I didn't want to go down there and be bossed around by people who didn't know me. But at some point in the process it just sort of clicked for me. I think deep down I realized that these people actually really cared about me, not just as a football player but as a person."
In May 2010, after four long years of hard work, Gable (pictured right Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) finally received the news from Dr. Kwok, that he says "changed his life forever." He was finally going to graduate from USC with a B.A. in sociology, making him the first person in his family to graduate from a university.
"When Denise [Kwok] told me I was finally going to graduate, I was crying and so was she," said Gable. "It was the biggest thing to ever happen in my life, bigger than getting into USC or going to the NFL. She is the main reason why I graduated from USC. She always made sure that I stayed on top of my work and always pushed me to want more from myself."
Now more than a year removed from his days at USC, Gable isn't shy when expressing what it feels like to know he earned his college degree. While the former Trojan running back (1,549 rushing yards during his USC career) had cups of coffee with the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos last summer, he wouldn't be opposed to a life outside of football.
"Obviously the goal for me is still to play professional football," said Gable. "Although I anticipate hearing from NFL teams after the season is over, there are other things I'd love to do at some point. I don't think I would have said that as a freshman. But, whether it be working with the Boys and Girls Club of America or as a counselor at a juvenile correctional center, I think anything where I could work with kids would be a tremendous opportunity."