COLUMBIA — There will be a delay, but only because of the time zone.
South Carolina fans, and all college football fans, will be refreshing their favorite team’s live feed and Twitter pages throughout Wednesday, hoping for all the best and none of the worst. National Signing Day can be an all-day commitment, waiting for those announcements that say yes, the paperwork is in and recruits are bound to schools. Or, hold up, there’s been a change in thinking.
The fax machine (or these days, screenshots of the signed letter) will fire up first thing Wednesday morning. The Gamecocks are breathlessly waiting for when the biggest names of their big-time class come rolling through.
Five-star prospect Zacch Pickens, recently named South Carolina’s “Mr. Football,” could be first. Maybe four-stars Cam Smith or Joseph Anderson will beat him.
The One has to make them wait. Ryan Hilinski will sign his letter at 7 a.m. Wednesday and send it in.
But he’s in California, so that’s 10 a.m. Columbia time.
“No problem,” Hilinksi said Sunday night. “I’m waking up early, signing that thing, and going to breakfast.”
One of the most anticipated recruits in school history will make it official on Wednesday, although he’s been committed since April. Hilinski picked the Gamecocks early and never wavered despite interest from nearly everyone else in the country, even his long-time "dream" school Stanford.
A four-star prospect rated among the top three pro-style quarterbacks in the country, Hilinski has already endeared himself to the Gamecocks faithful with his love of USC and his remarkable maturity. Just 18, Hilinski has already been through more tragedy and personal growth than people twice his age after his older brother, former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, committed suicide in January.
The way he’s handled it has made him a household name before he has stepped foot in a classroom or thrown his first pass at his first practice. On Wednesday, he starts the journey he’s been planning since he first told Will Muschamp and staff, “Yes.”
“We lived in Irvine, California, and now we’re in Newport Beach, preparing for the move,” Hilinski said. “We leave Thursday for Mexico City, then we’re going to Puerto Rico for Christmas, then back to Texas for the All-American game, then to South Carolina.”
Hilinski originally planned to sign his letter of intent live from the Pro Football Hall of Fame World Bowl on Dec. 22 in Mexico City. He opted instead to just sign alongside his parents, Kym and Mark, who have already bought property in Columbia and will move with Ryan (his other brother, Kelly, will enroll at USC’s medical school).
Hilinski will also play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 5 in San Antonio, then be in Columbia by Jan. 7. The spring semester begins a week later.
He’s already graduated high school, so he was taking it easy leading up to the end-of-the-month trips, packing his things and getting ready for the cross-country move. Now that the moment is nearly here, it’s a relief.
Hilinski has been waiting to sign for so long, to get it over and be able to fully concentrate on his USC future is a big exhale.
“It will definitely be a fun day,” he said. "I committed in April, so it feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been talking to (quarterbacks coach Dan Werner) and everybody there, and I’m just ready to sign all the papers and get it to them.”
It will arrive a few hours past the first sheaf, but it will arrive. Ryan Hilinski is on his way.