South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw has proven he can handle pressure.
Starting record: 27-5 (17-0 at Williams-Brice)
Passing: 480-733, 56 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Rushing: 452 carries, 1,683 yards, 17 TDs
Receiving: 1 catch, 9 yards, 1 TD
But Shaw, called the best quarterback to ever play at USC by coach Steve Spurrier, admitted he felt overwhelmed Friday afternoon when he saw the crowd gathered around the Fan Zone waiting for a chance to get his autograph.
Fans began lining up as early as noon and by the time Shaw arrived for a two-hour autograph session scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., the crowd numbered well into the hundreds.
"I've played in front of 100,000 people and not been nervous but I'm getting nervous about this," Shaw said. "This is my first time in Charleston and to be with my Gamecock family here is really exciting. I'm a converted Carolinian. I grew up in Georgia but this is my home."
The first person in line Friday was Diane Welsch, a South Carolina fan from birth and a USC graduate. She was going to get a poster signed for a friend who is recovering from an automobile accident on New Year's Eve.
"I've waited my whole life to see the Gamecocks do this well in football," she said. "It's just the excitement, watching the team progress and really make a name for us throughout the country. It's been an exciting roller coaster to ride.
"I'm sad (Shaw's Gamecock career has ended) but I wish him the very best. I hope he has a fabulous career wherever he goes, whether it's in football or not. I think he's a great leader, a great role model for young kids. I'm proud he was a Gamecock."
Nine-year-old Joshua Gibbs, wearing a No. 14 Conner Shaw jersey, was with his grandfather Charles King. They arrived at 1:30 p.m. to secure a spot near the front of the line.
"I'm here because I want a Conner Shaw autograph to go with my Marcus Lattimore autograph," said Gibbs, who was going to get the signature on a football purchased by his grandfather.
For those too far down the line Friday, there is another Shaw autograph session Saturday starting at noon at the Fan Zone on 5070 International Blvd. in North Charleston.
Shaw's first professional appearance comes on the heels of his MVP performance in the Gamecocks' 34-24 victory over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day. Shaw ended his career by completing 22 of 25 passes and throwing for three touchdowns. He also ran for a TD and caught his first-ever pass for another score.
"I'd say he's overtaken Jadeveon Clowney in Carolina's hearts right now. He's our guy," said Fan Zone owner Luke Flood, who began making arrangements for Shaw's appearance soon after the Capital One Bowl.
"We were able to put things together after the game and here we are," Flood said.
Flood said it was a challenge getting appropriate merchandise but he had footballs, helmets, mini-helmets and panoramic photos, among other memorabilia.
Shaw is still enjoying the fruits of a career in which he went 27-5 as a starting quarterback and never lost at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"Obviously, the bowl game, my last game, was really emotional," Shaw said when asked about his USC highlights. "That's the one that sticks in my mind. And, of course, beating Clemson."
He hopes his playing days aren't over. After participating in the NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl, an all-star game Jan. 18 near Los Angeles, he will return to Georgia and begin preparing for next month's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Shaw said he's receiving mixed signals from various sources who say he will be selected somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds of the draft.
"We'll see," he said. "The only thing I can control is my work ethic and how I prepare myself for the draft. That's what I'm focusing on right now."
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