Five seconds don’t go by without one of the Old English black-breasted red gamecocks belting out a boisterous crow.
Mary Snelling and husband Ron Albertelli don’t mind the noise. These gamecocks are family.
The most well-known of the brood is Sir Big Spur, who lives on the nearly 30-acre property with some horses, a few of his own relatives and other feathered friends.
For 16 years, Sir Big Spur and his predecessors have become family to the many South Carolina fans they’ve encountered at Williams-Brice Stadium, Sarge Frye Field, Carolina Stadium and dozens of road venues. While he is not called upon to help his on-field counterparts wearing USC jerseys, it’s in his blood to battle.
“These gamecocks are born to fight,” Snelling said. “They are very fierce and competitive. It’s a perfect mascot.”
Snelling, a USC alumnus and die-hard fan, received her first rooster as a pet from her father. Cocky Doodle Lou was the original live mascot, named after coach Lou Holtz, and became the first Sir Big Spur. He was renamed as a tribute to the costumed mascot Big Spur that preceded Cocky.
The one you’ll see this spring on his motorized perch at USC baseball is Sir Big Spur IV. Sir Big Spur V already is being groomed by Snelling and Albertelli, but he won’t be pressed into service for at least a few years.
These aren’t your typical barnyard roosters. There’s great care taken to choose a bird with deep red coloring, the right build and a coachable personality. Snelling and Albertelli interact with them to help shape their demeanor so they aren’t aggressive around people.
Sir Big Spur has been to Omaha for the College World Series six times. Snelling and Albertelli have followed the USC basketball teams to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and Alaska.
Yes, that’s Sir Big Spur’s picture painted on their pickup truck and motor home. He even signs “autographs” upon request.
“Our Gamecock has at least 80,000 adoring fans,” Snelling said. “He’s treated like royalty wherever we are. He’s treated well because he’s part of our family and our love for the university.”