The line of people standing in the sun at the State Fairgrounds, waiting to have their pictures taken with the Heisman Trophy, was modest Saturday afternoon in the hours leading up to the USC-Florida game. Nothing like the crowd nearby awaiting autographs from members of the Gamecocks baseball team.
No surprise for Jay Couch, part of the Nissan team that brought the world's most famous piece of football statuary to the Midlands, as part of a seasonlong road show to promote its alliance with John Heisman's award.
Most places, it's a bigger deal, Couch said. "People always ask, 'Can I touch it?' They're almost awestruck.
"This is the Holy Grail of college football, especially in the Southeast. It's one of the most coveted awards in all of sports."
All true, but rather irrelevant to South Carolina fans, who have had nearly three decades to get used to the presence of a living, breathing Heisman Trophy winner in their midst.
"People in Columbia are more desensitized" to the Heisman "because of Mr. (George) Rogers," Couch said.
This day, there was a mega-confluence of Heisman vibe here. Three Heisman winners - Rogers (1980), USC coach Steve Spurrier (1966) and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (2007) - would spend the evening within a couple of first downs of one another.
Couch laughed and gestured toward nearby Williams-Brice Stadium. "(Rogers) has his (trophy) over there," Couch said. "People have had a chance to see it."
They did again Saturday as the 50-year-old Gamecocks icon stood next to his Ford Expedition, his Heisman sitting on the tailgate. For a contribution to his educational foundation, the smiling Rogers signed autographs, posed for photos with an array of fans, more than a few wearing Florida gear, and made small talk punctuated by his booming laugh.
Madison Roth, an Erskine College student, stared open-mouthed when told she could pose with his Super Bowl ring. "No way!" she squealed, before settling next to her new hero as friend Brantley Wiggins forked over a contribution.
"Best $10 I ever spent," he said afterward.
No doubt they understand in Gainesville, too, where Tebow has equaled, if not exceeded, Rogers' (and Spurrier's) stature. But while the latter two are mostly about memories these days - "most of the kids don't know who I am, but their parents do," Rogers said - Tebow's accomplishments only seem like ancient history.
In his first two seasons, the Gators' quarterback won not only a Heisman but also a national title. Like Rogers, those achievements seem exceeded only by his modesty and apparent lack of concern about winning another Heisman in this, his senior season.
Tebow, who national observers say trails Alabama tailback Mark Ingram in the race for this year's trophy, did little to make a case for his candidacy vs. USC. Except win the game, of course.
Yes, there was his 68-yard touchdown bomb to receiver Riley Cooper on Florida's first possession, a play Gators coach Urban Meyer termed huge. "When you come out and bang it with a 68-yard pass, it settled us down," he said. "We kind of had control."
In the fourth quarter, Tebow scored the 53rd touchdown of his career to tie ex-LSU back Kevin Faulk for the SEC record - and put the Gamecocks away.
In between, though, there were too-long throws to (or weak efforts by) Cooper that could have produced two more touchdowns. There were missed passes (11, in 25 attempts), several on third down, and his no-gain rush on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter set the stage for USC's late drive - which was negated by Justin Trattou's interception, a play that overshadowed everything else.
Tebow's numbers - 199 yards passing, 26 rushing - won't wow Heisman voters, especially those who saw Florida sputter and fume in the middle of the game. And Tebow, it seems, could care less.
His early bomb? "It was good for momentum, giving our defense some room to work, and also the excitement of going out and opening it up," he said. "Scoring that first drive was good."
But the end was the thing for Tebow: a 10th win, 8-0 SEC record, the Gators' national championship hopes undiminished. "That's the most important thing out of everything that's going on," he said. "Just winning."
Hearing that brought to mind Rogers' words earlier in the day, reflecting back on his 1980 season. "(Winning the Heisman) speaks about the players I played with, those guys," he said.
Both players - and, based on history, Spurrier, too - won the Heisman because they helped make their teams greater than the sum of their parts, as much as the stats they compiled.
"Obviously, Tim gets a lot of recognition, but these other (Florida) guys play hard, too," Meyer said.
Tebow, no doubt, would agree. Rogers, too, in his heyday spent more time praising teammates than seeking the spotlight. That's why, whether 29 years or two removed from their moment, both were still surrounded by smiling faces and outstretched arms.
Desensitized? Not this day.