QB Peyton Derrick’s journey to The Citadel, from Wofford through Home Depot

Peyton Derrick figures he sent a resumé to just about every college football coach in America looking for a job as a graduate assistant coach.

Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, South Carolina’s Shane Beamer all got emails and resumés from the former Wofford quarterback.

Derrick was living with his family in Conway in mid-February, working at a local Home Depot store, when he decided to make the 90-minute drive to Charleston to deliver his resume in person to The Citadel head coach Brent Thompson. After dropping it off, Derrick hung around to watch the Bulldogs go through a spring practice and chatted with a couple of assistant coaches and players.

He felt good about the way things went as he left the parking lot at the downtown campus and headed back up U.S. 17 to the Grand Strand.

“Things just kind of clicked between myself and the coaches,” Derrick said. “I felt like I had a really good shot at getting the job.”

Peyton Derrick

The Citadel quarterback Peyton Derrick rushed 10 times for 38 yards and threw for 35 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 29-10 season opening loss to Campbell on Sept. 1. John Brush/The Citadel.

When Derrick hit the outskirts of Georgetown, he got a call from Thompson saying the two needed to talk.

“He said he had something interesting to talk to me about,” Derrick said. “At first, I thought I’d gotten the job. I’d forgotten that I’d put on my resumé I still had a year of eligibility remaining. I wanted to give myself as much value in the job market as I could. The only reason I’d put it on there was that it might help me get a job.”

He was right, only it wasn’t the job he applied for.

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A day or two before Derrick made his visit to The Citadel’s campus, the Bulldogs starting quarterback Jaylan Adams entered the transfer portal.

“We were looking for help at quarterback in the transfer portal and then Peyton shows up on campus,” Thompson said. “The timing couldn’t have been better for us.”

Despite having a year of eligibility left because of COVID, Derrick firmly believed that he had taken his final collegiate snap against North Carolina the previous November. He had made peace with the idea that his playing career was over.

Citadel offense sputters in season opening loss to Campbell

“I remember being on the field with my family and taking a moment,” he said. “I thought that was my last college game and I was OK with that.”

But like many Palmetto State college football fans, Derrick had followed the situation at South Carolina last season, when graduate assistant coach Zeb Noland ended up as the Gamecocks’ starting quarterback.

Could this be a case of déjà vu all over again?

“When I try to explain to people what happened and how I ended up playing quarterback, I make the comparison with Zeb Noland as my SparkNotes version,” Derrick said with a chuckle. “I enjoyed being retired, but to have one last chance to play on Saturdays, I wasn’t going to pass on that.”

Derrick and redshirt freshman Ahmad Green battled during preseason camp for the starting position. After the Bulldogs’ second scrimmage, Thompson knew he had his man.

The Citadel coach Brent Thompson has picked a starting QB, but he's not telling

“It was a comfort level with Peyton,” Thompson said. “He picked up the offense pretty quickly.”

Derrick’s first start against Campbell on Sept. 1 in the season opener had mixed results. He rushed 10 times for 38 yards, and threw for 35 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions in the 29-10 loss.

“I thought Peyton played well and managed the game extremely well,” Thompson said. “He made some really nice checks and got us into good plays and did some things that gave us an opportunity to score and threw a really nice ball to Tyler Cherry for the touchdown.”

Derrick knows there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Ex-Wofford QB wanted to be a Citadel grad assistant. He might end up as Bulldogs starter.

“I thought I played well, but I think I need to play better,” Derrick said. “Campbell had a bunch of old guys on defense and you can’t make a bunch of mental errors against a defense like that. I think it’s good we saw a good team like that early so we can improve and make some adjustments.”

And playing football sure beats working at Home Depot.

“They had some really nice employee discounts,” Derrick said. “I still have my orange vest.”

Reach Andrew Miller at 843-937-5599. Follow him on Twitter @APMILLER_PandC

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