The South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday took some time away from their summer football preparations to promote literacy and interact with some of their youngest fans at the Richland Public Library.
The annual Pigskin Poets event, a rite of passage for incoming Gamecocks, was attended by about 200 children. Twenty-seven players, including Damiere Byrd, Kelcy Quarles and TJ Gurley, read stories and gave autographs to a frenzied crowd of preschool and elementary-aged kids.
Team mascot Cocky whipped the audience into a frenzy before the players entered to the familiar tunes of 2001 and Sandstorm, and the cheers of energized kids.
“It’s amazing,” said freshman running back David Williams. “I’m used to adult fans knowing who you are, but when you come here and the kids already know who you are, that means a lot.”
Williams, a four-star running back out of Philadelphia, Pa., and his new teammates started the event with a game of “Simon Says” before enthusiastically reading several popular children’s books.
“When I was young, I didn’t have the opportunity for things like this, so it’s important to be able to do this for these kids,” Williams said.
“This unique partnership with USC allows one-on-one interaction with college athletes,” said Padgett Mozingo, Richland Library’s Marketing and Communications manager in a written statement. “The players help us reiterate that reading is not only important, but cool also.”
While impressing upon the young fans the importance of reading, the event also gave the Gamecocks players a view of themselves as role models for a future generation.
Junior offensive tackle Cody Gibson said, “it was great to come out and give to the community,” mindful that somewhere in the audience was probably a future Gamecock student-athlete.