Ryan Hilinski had never been to a South Carolina football game before this weekend.
But before that, he got to see another side of the South Carolina Saturday experience.
“From the very start, I walked up to Gamecock Park and met a bunch of people,” Hilinski said. “I saw some Hilinski’s Hope bands being sold out, and I took a bunch of pictures with people, which is amazing.”
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Many photos found their way on social media, Hilinski and fans, Hilinski and kids, throwing up “Spurs Up” hand signs. He’s not even enrolled, and he’s already a well-known figure.
After that came the game, the first night game of the season, and a tense affair throughout. The Gamecocks pulled out the 27-24 win, rallying from down 11.
Hilinski watched the game in the recruit section, spending time with four-star lineman Joseph Anderson, offensive line target Jakai Moore and 2020 quarterback commit Luke Doty. He noted Gamecocks coaches Dan Werner and Will Muschamp made sure he was well taken care of.
The fourth quarter had South Carolina’s crowd at full pitch, and for a player who has been to a lot of Pac-12 venues, he was impressed.
“I’ve never heard a stadium that loud, and I’ve been to a bunch,” Hilinski said. “I was just imagining how it would be if I was quarterback back there. I’d be screaming the snap count.
“It surpassed expectations for sure.”
Hilinksi is one of the jewels of USC’s class, a top-50 recruit nationally. He committed in the spring to much fanfare and has been back a few times, notably to help recruit other prospects. He was set to visit in September, but had to miss it because his late brother was being honored at Washington State.
He picked a pretty good game to get to. He’d left California after a game on a red eye flight and arrived Saturday morning. His high school team is in the playoffs, so he’ll have a game this week, but he was tempted to try to play on back-to-back nights.
“The atmosphere around Williams-Brice, just makes us want to suit up and play that night,” Hilinski said.