The threat of rain didn’t dampen the spirits of Gamecock fans who met their favorite Gamecock student-athletes at the Colonial Life Fan Appreciation Day Sunday.
Before the event started at 1 p.m. a line of dedicated fans wrapped around the Colonial Life Arena, eager to meet student athletes from the football team, both male and female soccer teams, the volleyball team and the cross-country team.
Fans were given free posters of the teams and towels for the athletes to sign.
Frank Garcia of Columbia said he was one of the first people in line, arriving a little before 8 a.m. to get autographs from the athletes.
“My wife is a big sports fan and I am out here getting autographs for her,” Garcia said.
Garcia wanted to make sure to get an autograph from Mike Davis because he missed him at last year’s event.
On the main concourse of the arena, senior forward Asa Kryst, of the men’s soccer team, began signing posters for fans who were pouring in from a long wait outside.
“It’s really cool to see the kids come out and meet the teams they have been supporting all year and get a face-to-face meet with them,” Kryst said.
On the basketball court, fans began lining up, again, to meet the football players from both sides of the ball including linebackers, wide receivers, running backs and the coaches that are often only faces on TV.
Coach Steve Spurrier was a big attraction for many fans seeking autographs, giving out fist bumps and taking pictures.
“It’s an opportunity to see our players up close and without their helmets on,” Spurrier said. “Our fans seem to like to do that, so we do this.”
Standing in line to see the running backs was Rob Rubin and his two sons – 9-year-old Matthew and 6-year-old Jonathan – who traveled from Charlotte to spend the day meeting their favorite football players.
Matthew, who plans on playing baseball for the Gamecocks in 10 years, said he respects the football players because they can knock people over.
“I love seeing the players and it is fun saying hi to them, and they are always nice,” Matthew said.
As Matthew and his brother neared junior tail back Mike Davis and freshman tight end Kevin Crosby, they showed them their victory dance.
“They are out there cheering loud for us and trying to get us hyped, so this is our way of giving back and showing that we appreciate them a lot,” Davis said.
Crosby said it was his first year at the event and it was exciting to see all of the people coming out to see the players face-to-face.
“It means a lot to see the people that support us and give back to the community,” Crosby said.
Randy Deredita Sr. stood in line to see Spurrier with his son, Randy Deredita Jr., and his grandchildren, including Summer, 4, Randy III, 6, and Victoria, 7.
“I have been following the program since the 60s and I haven’t seen anything like it,” Deredita Sr. said.
Victoria said it made her happy to see the “Head Ball Coach.”