The Battle of the Palmetto State came a little early this year, dividing Myrtle Beach’s Coastal Grand mall in half on Sunday.
Legions of fans poured in to get a picture, an autograph or both for a fee from former University of South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw and former Clemson University quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Shaw’s event was held at Palmetto Moon, a store that offers state merchandise, and Boyd met fans at sports memorabilia store Knarf & Kram.
The simultaneous events left the former rival college stars and NFL draft hopefuls about 100 yards apart in the area’s biggest mall.
“I love opportunities like this,” said Shaw, whose presence drew the bigger crowd. “It’s been a while since I’ve been to Myrtle Beach so I’m glad to be here right now. It’s beautiful weather, and I’m excited to see these fans one-on-one.”
As South Carolina fans filled half of the mall, a sea of orange descended upon the other to welcome Boyd.
“This is my favorite city,” said Boyd, who charged $30 per autograph and $50 for two. “Honestly, it’s a humbling experience. Every time I get the chance to interact with the fans, the support that they’ve given me and the team throughout the past four years, it’s been good. I love it. I love the embrace, I love the warm welcome. Clemson will always be home for me.”
Around noon, there were already around 50 fans in line to meet Shaw, who signed basic autographs for $20 and personalized ones for $25. Around 1 p.m., the number of fans doubled.
Coastal Carolina alumna Megan McCrary waited in line for three hours and was first in line to greet Shaw, the winningest quarterback in the history of a football program she’s followed for about 25 years.
“From the very beginning I’ve watched him, and I’ve been pulling for him the whole time,” she said. “He’s so good and he’s the most underrated quarterback the Gamecocks have ever had. Hopefully he’ll get signed [in the NFL].”
Boyd’s crowd took a little more time to accumulate but eventually formed a sea of orange at the store. Whenever he had free time, though, Boyd was seen perusing Pokemon cards in the store.
“You know, it’s more of a [refresher] of the childhood moments,” Boyd said, explaining his interest. “Pokemon was something I was pretty big on for a while; I used to collect all of them.”
The duo was in town a day before making appearances at the 20th annual Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Course.
Shaw is taking part in the golfing event, while Boyd will be a spectator.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, “ Shaw said. “Being able to go with [Hootie lead singer] Darius Rucker and all them, I’m really excited for it. It’s been a while since I’ve played golf. I’m pretty rusty but I’m happy to be in it.”
But on Sunday it was about the quarterbacks, who greeted fans of college teams that separate the state into two legions.
On this day the rivalry separated a mall. Other times the allegiance goes even deeper.
“[I’ve been] a [USC] fan ever since my brother Gavin went to Clemson,” 13-year-old Dalton Propps said.
Jackson McCoy, 8, even corrected his father when explaining how long he’s been a USC fan.
“Nine years because I’m almost 9,” he said.
While Boyd was aware Shaw was making an appearance, the former Gamecocks quarterback found out just before arriving.
“I guess [the rivalry continues], but college days are over with so I’m pulling for him and I’m pretty sure he’s rooting for me as well,” Shaw said.
Indeed, Boyd is.
“Connor’s a good friend. He’s a really good dude; I have a lot of respect for him. We got a chance to talk formally a few times. It’s great that he’s over there doing what he’s doing,” Boyd said.