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Birmingham postcard, day 3

Greetings from Birmingham.

I joined USC’s team Thursday for its visit to the Civil Rights Institute, rated one of the top 10 museums in the country by USA Today. The museum is across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church, where a bomb exploded on a Sunday morning in 1963, killing four young girls who were attending Sunday School.

A tour guide told USC’s black players had they played during that era, they would have been suiting up for schools such as Grambling or Jackson State. The SEC was for whites only until ’66.

The guide asked players if they knew who USC’s first black player was. A couple guys jokingly mentioned George Rogers and Jackie Robinson. (Correct answer: Carlton Heyward in 1969.)

But the tone turned serious when players entered the museum and saw exhibits honoring Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders, and read the text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from a Birmingham jail.

The team took a picture on the steps of the historic church before boarding the buses.

“Just seeing the guys go inside and read the events of what happened and the seriousness of it – not too many people get to see that stuff,” fifth-year senior Gerrod Sinclair said. “This is definitely something we wanted to see. This was a must.”

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Moving on to football matters …

–Steve Spurrier said the Gamecocks had a much better practice Thursday, including QB Stephen Garcia after the right-hander was erratic during Wednesday’s workout.

–It was the final practice for the team’s small group of seniors. Some schools honor the seniors by carrying them off the field following their last practice. USC does not do that, although Spurrier and Ellis Johnson both recognized the seniors in their post-practice comments.

–No real lineup changes for the bowl game. Tailbacks Kenny Miles and Brian Maddox will share carries in the first half. And though RBs coach Jay Graham said he’d like to find a spot to get Jarvis Giles or Bryce Sherman in the game, we’ve seen that there are just so many carries to go around.

–USC is healthy. The only player in a yellow jersey was backup cornerback Addison Williams, who has a minor leg injury. Johnson was unsure of Williams’ status, but pointed out that he was not really in the defensive game plan.

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