COLUMBIA -- Years from now, Josh Dickerson will walk into Williams-Brice Stadium and instantly get a charge from looking up at the signage beyond the south end zone. That's where the words "2009 SEC Eastern Division champion" will likely be displayed.
The Gamecocks could very well go on to win other division titles. Or, they might not. Either way, there will only be one first -- and only one senior class that put its stamp on the school's football history.
"It's the memory of a lifetime," said Dickerson, a senior linebacker. "I'll go on with my life knowing I was on the first team to win the SEC East championship and the SEC East. It's a great note to go out on."
The Gamecocks hope to hold that note today in a homefield, Senior
Day celebration of what the team did a week ago at Florida, thumping the Gators to seize the school's first SEC division title.
South Carolina (7-3) hosts Troy (5-4) at 12:21 p.m. in the final home game for a handful of USC seniors, Dickerson included.
Some seniors, of course, have been around longer than Dickerson, the Kingsland, Ga., native who enrolled a year ago after a stint at Georgia Military College. Hutch Eckerson, for example, is among a small group of fifth-year Gamecocks.
Snapper C.D. Turner and kicker Spencer Lanning, now a captain, are fifth-year players that arrived as walk-ons. Linebacker Rodney Paulk and offensive lineman Terrence Campbell have already been granted sixth years, because of injuries.
"This is the last time running out at Williams-Brice," Eckerson said. "It's kind of a hard reality to deal with."
A part of one of Steve Spurrier's first USC recruiting classes, in 2006, Eckerson was enticed to come to South Carolina by the idea of winning a title. It took nearly every ounce of Eckerson's eligibility to make that promise from Spurrier a reality.
"That's how I bought into coming here," Eckerson said. "He told me, 'We want to win an SEC championship here, do things that have never been done.' It's been a long time and lot of ups and downs, as you know, but we're in it. It's a great feeling."
For Eckerson and the team's offensive line, so was the way the Gamecocks did it. South Carolina ran 54 times in the Florida win, leaning on Marcus Lattimore (212 yards) and the line in a game that was never really in doubt.
"Obviously it's better to win like that," Eckerson said.
The Gamecocks will lose more seniors on their offensive line than any other area of the team. West Ashley native Garrett Chisolm has been a quiet, unsung star at left guard, starting every game except one he missed to attend his father's funeral.
North Charleston native Jarriel King has battled concussions the past two seasons, but he'll try to play today as part of Senior Day.
There were a lot of questions for the Gamecocks coming into the 2010 season, but leadership never really was a concern.
It's rare that a captain returns to a team, much less two. Cliff Matthews and Pat DiMarco were identified early in their USC careers as leaders. They were named captains before their junior seasons, retaining the titles for their senior years.
Spurrier credited the class, and particularly the captains, also including defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye, with keeping the team focused during summer workouts and meetings -- when the coaching staff's supervision is restricted.
"They're guys with wonderful attitudes," Spurrier said. "It's a good group. ... Give those guys a lot of credit mainly just for the commitment and the attitude that they've had."
Matthews approached Spurrier this week, lamenting the fact that he didn't redshirt as a true freshman. He's not ready for the end. Not yet, anyway.
Asked about senior day festivities this week, Matthews just sort of shrugged. He chose instead to talk about what's further ahead for the Gamecocks: Clemson and the SEC title game.
"We're not done yet," Matthews said. "We'll talk about what we did when the season's over."
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