Eventually, Darius Rucker stood on the Gamecocks logo.
He was far from the first notable person with University of South Carolina ties to walk across it at the end of the stage that jutted into the center of Colonial Life Arena.
He followed football coach Will Muschamp, the Gamecocks football team whose success allowed for the concert, plus a national championship women’s basketball coach, a Final Four men’s basketball coach and a university president, just for good measure.
The students who braved Wednesday’s stormy weather to attend the concert Rucker promised if the football team reached six wins got more than a concert. They got a show.
The stage was built to mimic Williams-Brice Stadium, with an end zone patterned after USC’s, a set of goal posts and even hedges behind it. The part of the stage that led out into the center of the floor had hashmarks along the side, leading to a midfield logo surrounded by an ecstatic floor crowd.
Soon after opener Patrick Davis finished his set, the video board showed the scoreboard from Williams-Brice. Fans saw the usual pregame hype video, shouting along with the words, then a series of highlights and other Gamecocks videos.
The lights faded out, and when they came back, they glinted off a national championship trophy in the arms of school president Harris Pastides. He held it aloft, flanked by women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, whose team won the thing, and men’s basketball coach Frank Martin, whose team just finished the greatest postseason run in program history.
Pastides said a few words, calling the school the best in the United States and declaring he wished he could high-five everyone in the building. He also had glowing words for the pair joining him onstage.
“It is my honor to be with the two best basketball coaches in America,” Pastides said.
The president riled up the crowd as his coaches led a cheer. Behind them, the band assembled, and the trio descended into the crowd for more than a few selfies with fans.
Then came “2001” and the fight song, as the cheerleaders and Cocky led the team down the narrow stage.
As players got to the end, surrounded by plenty of students, cell phones held aloft, players were shooting back, taking in the moment.
There were no speeches, no proclamations or public conversations about everything swirling around them. The players made their way down stairs into the crowd as the video board came back on, and Rucker appeared, breaking into a rendition of “Lighter Up.”
Most of the players filed over to an open section, but a few stayed back, clustered at the edge of the crowd, surrounded by fellow students on a night they helped make happen.