For the past three years, University of South Carolina football fans have had plenty to cheer about with three consecutive 11-win seasons.
And Thursday evening, the 40 or so Charleston County Gamecock Club members who gathered at The Alley to watch the 2014 NFL Draft were able to celebrate again.
They came to the Draft Party expecting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to join George Rogers as the second Gamecock to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and they weren't disappointed when the Houston Texans chose the Rock Hill native, cheering loudly and chanting GAME - COCKS as they exchanged hugs and high fives.
The cheering didn't abate as ESPN showed Clowney highlights - the famous tackle in which he knocked a Michigan player's helmet off in the 2013 Outback Bowl, a sack of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, and a variety of other big Clowney plays. A few minutes later they even cheered, though not nearly as loud, when the Tigers' Sammy Watkins became the fourth overall pick by the Buffalo Bills.
"This is huge, a South Carolina player going No. 1," said Stephen Rivers, who was wearing a gray Gamecock football jersey with Clowney's name and No. 7 on the back.
"With all the hype going against him, how he laid off plays ... I watched him for three years as a fan, going to the games. I know how hard he played. If anyone doubted him, they can tune in on Monday mornings to see what he did on Sunday (in the NFL).
Rob Bennett, who graduated from South Carolina in 1982, said it has been a long journey for Gamecock football fans and he wanted to be there with others to share the moment.
"When I went to Carolina, there were three football coaches in the four years I was there," Bennett said, reeling off the names of Jim Carlen, Richard Bell and Joe Morrison. "To see this now, the No. 1 pick, South Carolina has come a long way."
Jen Skoy, a 2003 USC graduate originally from northern Virginia, said she became hooked on Gamecock football when she attended the school. Wearing a garnet No. 7 Gamecock jersey, Skoy was nervously wringing her hands before the Texans' pick but had a big smile on her face after Clowney's name was announced.
"(South Carolina football) has come a really long way and Jadeveon Clowney has done so much for the school," she said.
Former Gamecock offensive lineman Jonathan Alston spoke to the group prior to the draft, talking about his days as a professional football player, and then hung around to watch the draft selections.
"South Carolina football is on another level now," said Alston, who played for Stratford before attending South Carolina.
"I tell people it's kind of like watching your little brother complete something you started. Not only have the facilities gotten better, but we're able to keep (recruits) in state and bring in better guys. It's amazing. I'm very proud of what's happening now."
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.