Carolina game extra special for S.C. natives

ATHENS - Marcus Howard doesn't hide the fact that he's a South Carolina native – not that he could if he tried.

For the last three years, he's had a prominent display of state pride tattooed on his bulging left bicep. "Carolina Boy" are the words enclosed in an outline of the state at such a size that only a muscle as large as Howard's could properly display it.

"It's real special," Howard said of playing his home state team. "I'm cool with (South Carolina players). They show us love when we go down there and we show them love when they come up here."

All that love between players that Howard spoke of doesn't extend to the playing field, however, as losing to the Gamecocks would cause a lot of problems back home – at least according to teammate C. J. Byrd.

"It's not really the bragging rights, but just not having to go home and hear about it is the biggest part," said Byrd, the North Augusta, S.C. native who lives a short 71 miles from Columbia.

Howard agreed that a loss to South Carolina would be tough to take because of the retribution back home, but also said that the bigger picture of the SEC competition would keep the players focused.

"I do know that when I go back home I may hear crap. I've got a first cousin that goes to school there and some friends from high school up there," Howard said.

"So it's a big game for me, but it's a bigger game for the team because it's an SEC (game).

Howard and Byrd are not alone as South Carolina natives playing for the Dawgs. Defensive back Prince Miller and former safety Antavious Coates, now a student coach, hail from the Palmetto state as well, as Georgia has had increasing success in recent years pulling top recruits out of South Carolina, including a verbal commitment from the class of 2008's A.J. Green.

The "Carolina Boy" will honor one of his South Carolina brethren on Saturday, as Howard will wear #17 in honor of Coates, adding even more importance to the game against their home state school.


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