For a small group of Carolina
By Justin Fenner
football fans, the best way to
Photos by Amanda Croy
support the Gamecocks is to get covered in garnet paint.
In the weeks leading up to the Gamecock’s football game against Florida-Atlantic, Michael Nail had a lot on his mind. The junior marketing and finance major was gearing up for the Greater Columbia Marine Foundation’s Mud Run, a hellish four-mile obstacle course based on historically important battles and places in war history. Tacked onto a full course schedule and an active extracurricular repertoire, Nail was under more than a little pressure. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, but the busier I am, the more it seems like I’m more focused,” Nail said just a few days before the game. But for him, and for a small contingent of other Carolina football fans, that game was shaping up to be a good place to relieve a little stress. Because for guys like Nail, there’s no more exhilarating way to take in a football game than to be covered in layers of garnet and black paint, vocally – and visually – cheering on the Gamecocks. “I think me and the guys that do it are just so amped up and excited about Carolina football that we want to do something that will show how excited we are,” Nail says. Nail and his friends have been painting up, as they call it, since their freshman year. In fact, for
almost every home game of his collegiate career, Nail has cheered on the Gamecocks stripped to the waist and slathered in paint. His friend Josh Burton, a junior corporate finance and global supply chain management major, has been alongside Nail for all of those games.
It all started at Shandon Baptist Church, Burton explains. “There was a group of guys spelling out ‘Gamecocks’ with our church that we went to, and there was a bunch of freshman guys that wanted to do it, so we actually went behind them and spelled out ‘Carolina.’ And then eventually we took over when they didn’t want to do it anymore.” Over the years, the paint has become such an integral part of their football experience that they actu-
ally enjoy the games less when they don’t paint up. “There was a game we didn’t paint for last year – we didn’t paint up for Wofford,” Burton says. “And I just felt like … I just felt like everybody else.” “We just weren’t into it as much,” Nail says. “It just wasn’t the same. Once we did it, it was kind of like there was no going back.” To keep the momentum of their school spirit going, Nail’s group of painters dedicates a healthy portion of each tailgate to getting ready for the game. They’ve used so much paint in the time they’ve been doing this that they have a special mix on file with the Rose Talbert store in Cayce. “They call it the Gamecock Painter’s Garnet,” Nail says. “Because it comes out a different shade when you put it on your body, so they got it to the perfect tone for us.” The boys always spell out something. “Gamecocks” if there are nine guys willing to paint up, or “Carolina Gamecocks” if they have enough people to fill two rows. The paint is rolled on quickly and with little apparent regard for how evenly it gets spread. Friends, roommates, girlfriends, guys waitAbove: Josh Burton, AJ Newton, Drew Duckett, Josh Newton and Andrew Hare at Williams-Brice stadium. Facing page: Andrew Hare cheering .d
1 Barin Powell and Wil Waninger cheering 2 Michael Nail, Josh Burton, and AJ Newton in the stands 3 Kyle Ritter helps Trey Gordner with his paint outside the stadium 4 Burton watches a friend paint on his ‘C’ 5 Waninger paints on Nail’s white armband before the game 6 Waninger, Nail, Burton, AJ Newton, Drew Duckett and Josh Newton start a cheer 7 Ross Roessler cheers in the endzone 8 Burton shows his spurs between plays 9 Nail and Waninger talk before going into the game. For more photos from the game, visit gandbmagazine.com
ing for their first coat of paint to dry “or just anybody that’s around the tailgate,” as Nail says, helps out with the process. Getting painted is transformative and often cathartic. But mostly, it’s just chilly. “It’s like jumping into a cool pond,” says Reed Bjorkman, who painted up with a group of friends for the LSU game last season. Bjorkman, a junior business major, said that he and his friends painted up specifically to root for Stephen Garcia, the then-new star quarterback. “We were shirtless the whole game, and it was probably the coldest home game we had,” Bjorkman said. “We were shivering for most of the game, essentially, because it was a night game.” Nail’s group suffers whatever weather comes their way. “I mean, it’s Gamecock football,” says Wil Waninger, a senior biomedical engineering major who’s been painting with Nail since last year. “It’s, like, the best thing in the world. I get crunk to Carolina football.” And for that reason, “we’ll suck it up for a couple hours,” Nail says. Though the number of people who paint up is small, it is growing. Ross Roessler, a freshman computer engineering major, painted up for the first time at the Florida-Atlantic game. His group ended up with more people than they could accommodate. “Probably eight other people on game day were like, ‘Can we paint up with you?’ And I went, ‘We kind of have enough guys, sorry,’” Roessler says. “I probably have 20 people who would want to do it next time.” It’s a phenomenon that Nail and his friends welcome – up to a point. “I do like to see other people paint up, as long as they’re not in our
spot,” Nail says, referring to his friends’ perch in Williams-Brice Stadium. “We’ve had that spot for the last three years.” Roessler’s and Nail’s groups had an amicable run-in in front of the entrance to the stadium a few hours before the game. “They were real friendly,” Roessler says. “They told us not to take their spot, but they showed us a good spot for us to stand in.” “They said they had been doing it for a while, and they had some really nice paint jobs,” Roessler says. “We’re really going to have to work on ours.” But without the advantage of several thousands of years’ worth of cultural importance behind their practice, Nail, Roessler and people like them have to find support elsewhere. And when they’re in the stadium, they often do. “I think the people around us get excited,” Burton says. “I know at the start of the fourth quarter when they play “2001,” we’re rocking and everything, and going back and forth and really getting into it. Everybody else around us gets into it, too.” “We start a lot of cheers and stuff, just getting everybody hyped and pumped up,” said AJ Newton, a senior business major who’s been painting since his freshman year. “I feel like there’s a chance that the players and coaches will look up at us and think, ‘We really have support here,’” Nail says. “It’s just a lot of fun, too.” Making that meaningful connection to the team and showing that kind of support is something that Waninger will miss after he graduates. “Pretty much it means memories, which is the most important part of my college career: to create memories.”