ORLANDO, Fla. — Standing next to the white convertible that would carry him through Monday morning’s Florida Citrus Parade, George Rogers looked more than ready to serve as a VIP guest of the Capital One Bowl.
Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner and greatest tailback in South Carolina football history, was thrilled to be representing his program along with former Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne, who won the 1999 Heisman Trophy and served as the Badgers’ VIP guest.
“I feel good,” Rogers said. “I love Ron Dayne. He treats his school the same way I treat mine. We love our universities. What better way to show it than in a parade?”
Rogers, whose car rode behind the black convertible of USC president Harris Pastides and his wife, Patricia, led a school contingent that also included Cocky, the cheerleaders and the marching band.
The parade, famed for its signature floats made of citrus fruit, cruised along the 1.4-mile route in downtown Orlando in front of many local residents as well as the college football fans who have arrived for the bowl game.
Many South Carolina fans got to town Sunday in anticipation of the parade.
Beth Miles of Darlington made the trip with her husband, Rick. The couple has supported the Gamecocks by traveling to bowl games for more than 30 years.
“I like the excitement of the Gamecock fans, especially when we see each other,” she said. “They have this spirit, and it’s exciting to see them bond together like that.”
Rogers has watched that spirit grow as the Gamecocks pursue their third straight 11-win season and Top 10 national ranking that a win over Wisconsin would bring.
“Coach (Steve) Spurrier is a great coach. He has done it the right way. Nobody can dispute that,” Rogers said. “It’s just great to be a Gamecock right now, and we all ought to be out here enjoying ourselves.”
Jordyn Augustus, a high school senior from Allentown, Pa., can’t wait to be part of the USC athletic family. A softball signee for next year, she made the trip with her brothers, Joe and Jake, and their friend, Veronica Lichtenwalner. They all sat on the Orange Avenue curb waiting for the parade to pass.
“This was our Christmas present,” Jordyn said. “We also went to the Outback Bowl (in Tampa) last year.”
She likes what she has seen during the bowl trips.
“It’s so exciting because Carolina fans are everywhere. There’s so much team pride. That’s one of the main things I liked about the school,” she said.
As the USC band pumped out the fight song early in the parade, Cocky spotted Norma Luden of Charleston clapping along while dressed in garnet and black. The mascot rushed over to hug her — much to the delight of her and husband Richard.
“I see Cocky at the games all the time, but I’ve never been able to hug him,” she said. “I just love him. He’s fantastic.”
Larry Green drove down from Blythewood with his wife, Patricia, ready to mix some fun with his football.
“It’s like a little vacation,” he said, predicting a USC victory over the Badgers Wednesday.
“We’re going to do good,” Green said. “(Quarterback Connor) Shaw is going to be hot. It’s his last game, and if Shaw gets going, the team will get going.”
Rogers had the same assessment when asked for his prediction.
“We’re going to win,” he said, followed by a big hearty VIP laugh.