Meet South Carolina's newest breakout star: 5 things you might not know about Israel Mukuamu
Welcome to Muk Island.
Israel Mukuamu burst on the national scene with 3 interceptions Saturday in an upset win at Georgia, including a pick-6, as he single-handedly made it the worst career game for Georgia QB Jake Fromm.
The somewhat soft-spoken sophomore was not as well known as some of his more talkative and experienced teammates, but his play Saturday wasn’t a total shocker to the team and those close to the Gamecocks’ program.
The first thing that stands out about Mukuamu is his 6-4, 205-pound frame, and a wingspan that is unusual for a typical cornerback.
Here are 5 things you might not have known about the budding star:
A Gamecock hadn’t had 3 picks in a game since 1988
Mukuamu was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week after he made a career-high 11 tackles, but he became the 1st Gamecock to record 3 interceptions in a game since 1988. Fromm had not been intercepted in Georgia’s first 5 games this season. Mukuamu had a pick-6 in the final minute of the 1st half to put the Gamecocks up 17-10. He also had an interception in the 1st overtime.
He was also named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week. He is the 4th South Carolina player to earn Walter Camp National Player of the Week honors since 2004, and the first since free safety D.J. Swearinger on Nov. 11, 2012.
Fierce competitor … just ask Jake Bentley
Alongside the other starting cornerback, Jaycee Horn, Mukuamu developed plenty of respect from coaches and teammates by their talent and confidence in spring and summer workouts.
“I checked curfew last year during camp and there’s 2 guys not in their bed, and it’s Israel and Jaycee. Well, they’re back over here watching film at night, at 10:30,” coach Will Muschamp said, according to the Post and Courier. “They’re supposed to be in their bed at 10. That’s a good thing.”
Added injured starting QB Jake Bentley in August, “The energy and juice that Jaycee and Israel bring … just the attitude they bring each and every day. Just nasty. They ran a different coverage and I went to ask Jaycee what it was, he’s, ‘Man, don’t talk to me!’ That fierceness about it. Out there, he sees us as the enemy.”
Mukuamu said he does it so teammates get a boost.
“When we’re making plays and when we’re flying around, it feeds to the linebackers and the D-linemen,” Mukuamu said. “As long as we have the energy on defense, it’s going to affect everybody else.”
He’s not bashful on Twitter
Shortly before he joined the South Carolina program, he declared his goal as an unconventional cornerback. And the more games he has like this, people around the country will learn to spell his name correctly.
6’4 playing corner??…Yeah I’m about to change the game! #MukIsland🌴
— Izzy 🇨🇩 (@IsraelMukuamu) December 23, 2017
— Izzy 🇨🇩 (@IsraelMukuamu) October 14, 2019
A homecoming of sorts
Originally from Moncks Corner, S.C. and Berkeley High, near Charleston, Mukuamu moved to Louisiana before his senior year of high school. He was selected to the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl out of Parkway High School in Bossier.
He received 20 offers as a 3-star prospect, including from Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss. He decommitted from Florida State following the coaching change when Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.
He was the No. 27 player in Louisiana and the No. 47 safety in the country in the Class of 2018, according to 247Sports. He was an early enrollee at South Carolina.
He leads SEC with 4 INTs this season
Mukuamu got a dose of action last year as the Gamecocks dealt with a host of injuries in the secondary. Mukuamu started 2 of his 13 games at corner and safety. This season, he has shifted back to cornerback after he started the North Carolina game at safety.
He had another interception against Charleston Southern earlier this season, a tackle for a loss against Kentucky and 2 pass breakups.
He leads the SEC with 4 interceptions this season. That’s already as many as any Gamecock has had in a season since Ko Sampson had 6 in 2004.
Last year, he had an interception against Chattanooga, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. He had 17 tackles last season.