Gamecock Nation is large and proud. The football team is poised to have a big year with Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney and the return of Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks are looking to build on their 11-win season in 2011.
Some of the most faithful fans are musicians who wear their colors loud and proud. They are devoted to the original USC.
The Gamecocks have a few famous friends. Meet the top-five biggest “Crowers” and read on as they tell me why they are so loyal and how they represent their team.
These three musicians are all alumni of the University of South Carolina. This makes them Crowers.
Amos Lee—He graduated in 1995 after majoring in English. He also minored in education.
His music has been featured in an AT&T ad, Grey's Anatomy and Just Like Heaven. In 2011, Lee's album Mission Bell debuted at No. 1.
Lilian Garcia— She graduated from USC cum laude in 1988.
Perhaps best known as a WWE ring announcer, Garcia is also a singer. She frequently sings the national anthem at WWE events. She has released two albums. In 2002, her single “Smile” reached No. 69 on the Billboard charts.
Ed Sloan— The lead singer of Crossfade attended the University of South Carolina and majored in computer programming.
The band has released three albums. In 2004, they released their biggest hit, “Cold.”
Country singer Julie Roberts is an USC alum and lifelong Gamecocks fan. She attended USC-Lancaster from 2007-2009 (she later graduated from Belmont University).
Roberts explained that she was born a Gamecocks fan since her mom and aunts are alumni. Her older sister graduated from the university as well.
When asked about her favorite memory, Roberts says, “When I think about a Gamecock memory, I always think about watching the USC-Clemson game with my family every year. It was an event in my house and my family. We planned our life around that game and it's still one I look forward to every single year.”
She wrote the song “Sweet Carolina” for the university's Carolina Promise program. The program hopes to raise $1 billion for scholarships, facilities, technology and more.
When Roberts met USC president Harris Pastides at a football game last October, he asked her to write a song for the campaign. “I am proud of the University of South Carolina and getting to write about it and sing about it is so much fun!''
A dream of Roberts is to perform “Sweet Carolina” at Williams-Brice Stadium. “It gives me chills just thinking about what that would feel like! I think I would probably be singing with tears in my eyes!”
For more on Julie, visit http://julieroberts.com/
Early Ray is a country band hailing from Rock Hill, S.C. Its album Country Music reached No. 7 on the iTunes country chart this year. The band recently released the music video for “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Early Ray has shared the stage with Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels Band, Hootie & the Blowfish and Corey Smith.
Early Ray is a diehard Gamecocks fan. He frequently wears his colors on stage. He says his earliest memory in life is being at a game with his dad when he was 3 or 4.
When asked about his coolest moment as a Gamecocks supporter, he tells the story of touring Japan with his former band. “I used to travel and play bass with a shock rock band all over the world and during the day I would wear my Gamecock hoodie to go running. "This particular time in Tokyo, some Japan fans saw me and looked it up on the Internet and that night in the middle of the show, I had some kids yell 'Go Gamecocks!' at me in between songs!
"Here I was playing to 5,000 heavy metal kids in Japan and I hear 'Go Gamecocks!' So I tossed 'em a guitar pick and word spread on the 'net and wherever I went that tour (Japan, Europe and Australia), these kids would yell 'Go Cocks!' Some would show up with a Gamecock shirt on knowing it would get my attention.
"I always pointed and tossed 'em picks. It was fun! So now a small contingency of heavy metal kids from all over the world follow the Gamecocks because of my hoodie.”
Gary Greene, Early Ray's drummer who is also a percussionist for Hootie & the Blowfish and plays with Patrick Davis), is also a big Gamecocks supporter.
For more on Early Ray, visit www.earlyray.com.
Patrick Davis is a singer-songwriter from Camden, S.C. He has written songs with and for Lady Antebellum, Jewel, Pat Green and more.
He co-wrote “Where I'm From” by Jason Michael Carroll, which made the Top 10. His song “Be Wary of A Woman” is featured on Darius Rucker's Learn to Live.
Davis was bred as a Gamecocks fan while listening to the late Bob Fulton's radio broadcasts of teams led by coach Joe Morrison. Davis fondly recalls wearing a “Fire Ant Defense” shirt while listening to games on the radio.
As a long-time fan, he has many fond memories of the Gamecocks. The one that stands out the most is Brad Edwards' interception return against Clemson in 1987.
“I was maybe 8 or 9 and I just remember jumping up and down in my grandparents' living room as Mr. Edwards sealed the win for the Gamecocks. To this day, the memory of that play still gets me excited.''
Davis is such a die-hard Gamecocks fan that he has written a couple of songs about his team. One song is “Big Ole Cock.” Davis received a huge honor when his song was played at Williams-Brice Stadium during a game.
He describes what it was like to experience this honor. “It's a real thrill to have my little ode to Gamecock football played in Williams-Brice,'' he said.
For more on Patrick Davis, go to www.patrickdavismusic.com.
Possibly the most well-known of the Gamecock faithful is Darius Rucker. He and his Hootie & the Blowfish band members graduated from USC together.
Rucker was one of the first to publicly represent his team before it was commonplace. He can be frequently found wearing a Gamecocks hat and talking about his team on stage. He even has a custom-made Gamecocks mic stand.
Rucker has never been one to hide his love for the Gamecocks. Recently, he played a show in Charleston and was booed when mentioning the Gamecocks, to which he replied that people only boo greatness.
The band left the stage to “Take Me Home, West Virginia,” an obvious shot at Clemson and its historic bowl game loss last season.
Hootie & the Blowfish percussionist and Early Ray drummer Gary Greene is also a Crower. His favorite Gamecocks memory is playing at the spring game at Williams-Brice Stadium with Hootie and the Blowfish.
When asked what it's like to play with all three top Gamecocks Crowers, Greene replied, “They're all great, but they'll never dance like Lou Holtz or sing like Corey Miller.”