COLUMBIA -- In a sense, the positions South Carolina's football team and the Houston Texans find themselves in are similar.
Granted the Gamecocks have had quite a bit more time than the NFL's youngest team, the 8-year-old Texans, but both are knocking on the door of higher levels of success. Neither has quite gotten there yet.
The common denominator in the formula is Texans 73-year-old owner Bob McNair, a 1958 graduate of USC who pulls from afar for the Gamecocks.
"We're a new franchise, but it's the same thing for us," McNair said. "We've got to get over the hump. We've got to get to the playoffs. We've got to push it to the top ourselves."
On Monday evening, McNair was part of an eight-member class inducted here into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
The hall's 50th anniversary class also included longtime Furman tennis coach Paul Scarpa, a Charleston native; former Clemson and NFL offensive lineman Joe Bostic; former South Carolina and NFL defensive back Bill Currier; former Clemson and NBA forward Horace Grant; 2000 Olympic gold medalist women's swimmer Courtney Shealy Hart; Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith; and major league baseball standout Wayne Tolleson.
The man who introduced McNair at a Monday afternoon news conference noted the difficulty in starting a new NFL team. McNair shrugged off that notion.
"No, it's easy to get the people in the NFL to like you," he said, pausing. "All you have to do is give them $700 million."
McNair has been the founder and operator of a number of successful business ventures in his life, including a winning horse racing stable that had a claim in rearing the 2000 Kentucky Derby champ, Fusaichi Pegasus.
All those businesses, though, paled in comparison to the interest people have taken in his football team. That's not a surprising development, so much as it's a constant reminder.
As the brand has taken off, Houston has come to inhale and exhale to the rhythm of the Texans' outcomes on Sundays.
McNair, wearing a Texans necktie and lapel pin Monday, says it's like having "five million owners."
"It's amazing how important it is to them," he says. "That's an added responsibility. If you win, they feel good. If you lose, they feel bad.
"So, all of a sudden, if you lose, you're making five million people unhappy. You really want to win for your fans."
Slowly, surely, the Texans have started to make Houston happy. After five consecutive losing seasons to begin, Houston went 8-8 in 2007 and 2008 -- and then 9-7 in 2009, narrowly missing the franchise's first playoff berth.
"We've got some outstanding players. I think the country's just starting to recognize that," McNair said, specifically mentioning quarterback Matt Schaub, receiver Andre Johnson and linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. "We've got young guys; that's what's exciting."
One thing, somewhat beyond McNair's control, could bring the Texans' gradual success to a halt: a potential work stoppage in March 2011.
It's no surprise to hear McNair say -- even as the other owners are meeting in Dallas (he's being represented by his son, others) -- he wants to see the league continue on without any games canceled because of a lockout.
Capping rookie salaries is something McNair says everyone, even the NFL Players Association, agrees should be done. Beyond that, he thinks the sides can come together to avoid something detrimental to the game.
"We're optimistic. Our attitude is we're going to get it done," McNair said. "I'd hate to miss any games. ... It'd be harmful to everybody -- players, fans."
Genteel in his interactions and a step or two removed from the player-personnel process, McNair plays his part a bit differently than the other NFL owner in the state, Dallas' Jerry Jones.
There might only be room enough in Texas for one, lone star, but there's plenty for two successful NFL franchises.