When I walk into Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., it is usually filled with tens of thousands of fans decked out in their garnet-and-black best.
But last Sunday, it was quiet, except for a cluster of media members and members of the 2007 University of South Carolina Gamecock football squad.
The Old Ball Coach was there, laughing as he gathered his players by position for group pictures.
And so were the Brothers Brinkley.
Thomson's Jasper and Casper Brinkley were relaxed. They laughed their way through portrait photographs, group photographs and dozens of interviews. They talked about looking forward to the coming season, and especially the prospect of professional seasons - even if it means they aren't on the same team for the first time in many years.
By all accounts, Jap and Cap should be the shining stars in a spotlighted defense when the Gamecocks' season officially begins in a few weeks.
For Cap, the 2007 season brings a new position. He'll be joining his twin brother in the backfield. He's looking forward to his chance to prove his value to NFL scouts.
That's something Jap has already handled. He led South Carolina in tackles last year, and several experts are already projecting him as a first round draft pick. And he still has a senior season to go.
No matter what happens in the coming months, the Brinkleys - just like their 2002 Thomson Bulldog teammate Danny Verdun Wheeler - are examples of what young people can do if they put their minds and hearts to it. They are the epitome of potential. And we should do all we can to lift them up and support them.
As a quick update to the Michael Vick turmoil, I was a little heartened with the events surrounding the about-face - OK, it was more of a sidestep - of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The group had planned to "honor" Michael "Pit Bull" Vick during their gathering in Atlanta, according to SCLC President Charles Steele (via the Atlanta Journal Constitution).
But within a few days of freeing the dog, an SCLC spokesman clamped on a leash, using the old "That's what he said, but that's not what he meant" defense.
Sure, the group's president said they would recognize and honor the suspended Atlanta Falcons franchise player, but he meant they would just offer a shoulder of support through Vick's ordeal.
But what heartened me was the response of State Rep. Tyrone Brooks. Rep. Brooks is an Atlanta Democrat - about as far on the other side of the Georgia political spectrum from this rural Republican as you can get.
In this case, Rep. Brooks was dead on target. According to the AJC, he sent the SCLC a blunt message: "There are a lot of young people who need our help. Michael Vick is not one of them."
That in itself could become a mantra for our society in the coming months.