COLUMBIA — Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson told his group before it filled three activity buses to ride down to the state capital that it had a special opportunity. Not everyone is honored by the state legislature for a perfect state championship football season, but on Wednesday the 2013 Trojans were special one last time as a team.
Nearly the entire squad made the trip down to the state capital. The players came dressed not in their Fridays finest, but their Sunday best. Ties were requisite, but the other clothing and color options were down to individual taste. There were bright pink dress shirts, three-piece suits, and everything in between. Shoe preferences included docksiders, Timberlands, wingtips, square-toes and Oxfords, while offensive lineman J.P. Titus stole the footwear show with a pair of gator skins that were gleaming in the morning sunshine.
The atmosphere was loose, and why not? All the hard work had already been done. The team passed through the statehouses security and made its way through a buzzing zoo of lobbyists, legislative pages and members of Future Farmers of America chapters from all over the state, who were also being honored by their local representatives. After the recognition of a marriage anniversary and before the third reading of a bill to make the woolly mammoth the states official fossil, the house was asked to come to order and the gavel knocked three or four times.
In filed the Trojans, one by one until the entire front of the room was filled. Forty-sixth district representative Gary Simrill introduced the team, cited the importance of football to the city of Rock Hill, and then presented Richardson, athletic director Lauren West and principal James Blake with a plaque.
Standing in front of the state legislature, overlooked by solemn portraits of war heroes and molders of the state, was far more nerve-wracking to members of the Northwestern football team than any Friday night hijinks at District Three Stadium. Senior Jamison Humburg said the experience was very intense, but they welcomed us.
Within five minutes it was over. The team filed out of the house chamber, into the marble-floored lobby and back out into the spring-like air. Official, posed photos were snapped, including one on the steps of the capital, while cell phone cameras were brandished freely, the Trojans capturing the moment for all eternity, or at least until their next new phone. Thirty minutes later and it was back to the buses.
The final stop before Rock Hill was at the Cracker Barrel near Blythewood, where a pile of hamburger steaks were waylaid. The bus ride up I-77 was quiet, the buses full of dozing teenagers.
Then they were back at Northwestern, just in time for fourth period classes. The football heroes were just students again.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T