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August 14, 2011
Rodney Paulk has been through six of them.
He was still amazed.
"It just gets better and better," he said as he signed his name on poster after poster during Sunday's Fan Appreciation Day. "We like to give back to the fans. I mean, Carolina fans stay faithful, whether we win or lose. We want to show our appreciation to them because they do a lot for us."
An estimated crowd of 3,070 jammed the floor of Colonial Life Arena for the annual event, where the Gamecocks' football team was split into position groups and seated in U-shaped table sections. Fans were able to file through the lines and get the schedule poster autographed by the entire team, if willing to wait long enough, and also meet and greet the cross country, volleyball and men's and women's soccer teams.
It was football that drew the most, as usual, with the crowd estimated well above last year's. A USC marketing official said the crowd was in the 2,000-range last year, but knew it would be much greater than that once the CLA doors opened and the line to get to the floor was almost as long as the ones around the tables.
"This is as unbelievable as it gets," said freshman Damiere Byrd, a New Jersey native getting his first taste of USC's rampant support.
The players signed in silver ink while a highlight video of the 2010 season played on the CLA videoboard. Many were asked to pose for pictures - freshman Jadeveon Clowney had more than his share, and quarterback Stephen Garcia had at least one shot while holding a newborn - and some even approached Cocky for his overstuffed scrawl.
The signatures varied in size, from Corey Addison's brief "CA 22" to Shaq Wilson's precise writing. Marcus Lattimore signed over the picture of himself in the upper right corner of the poster, while one assistant coach usually signed his name over the tiny Clemson logo in the lower right corner.
Plenty of smiles and flashbulbs, as posters were passed down the line. And it wasn't only limited to fans - even Kelcy Quarles was caught in line, waiting to get a placard autographed by Lattimore and Kenny Miles.
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