COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) — When the University of South Carolina men’s basketball team plays in the Final Four, superfan “Gamecock Jesus” will be there to cheer them on, thanks to the generosity of other fans.
Carlton Thompson got the nicknames “Gamecock Jesus” and “Baseline Jesus” because of his long hair and beard and because he’s missed very few USC basketball games, men’s or women’s, in the last 45 years. But he doesn’t just go to the games; he dresses in Gamecocks gear, waves a USC flag, cheers and moves around the arena to get fans fired up.
“Because the fans can make the difference and actually help win the game and help win the season, and that’s been my whole thing all along: get the fans involved, because that’s how I got involved as a student, as a kid–being loud, cheering, being there and realizing that this is what helps win games,” he says.
He started going to USC basketball games in 1968, the very first year of the Carolina Coliseum. He later went to USC and got his nursing degree. He now works 12-hour night shifts at the Dorn VA Medical Center, and the only two games he’s missed this year were because he had to work.
Michael Murtaugh, a USC junior, started the GoFundMe page that raised more than $5,000 to send Thompson to Phoenix for the Final Four. “Why not him? This guy’s the most deserving of anybody to go watch the Gamecocks win in Phoenix, and I just kind of started on my phone and sent it out to everybody,” he says.
He was surprised that the goal was reached in less than a day. “It’s a humbling experience for me and for this community, the fact that we all came together and just supported one guy who showed us support over the past 40 years of his life. It’s incredible.”
Thompson says he watched the game against Florida at the Salty Nut Café in Columbia’s Five Points area. When they won, he went out to and was cheering and waving his flag, which has autographs from numerous former and current players and coaches. “Then when I got back to the table they said, ‘There’s a GoFund for you and they’re going to send you to Phoenix.’ I couldn’t believe it!”
He’s not just a superfan of basketball, though. He also goes to as many volleyball, baseball, and softball games as he can. “I used to go to football games but then it got so expensive,” he says. “It just got too expensive. My wife said, ‘You can either do football or everything else.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’m doing everything else.’”
As for fellow fans collecting money to send him to the Final Four, he says, “Oh, boy, just amazing! I am just so grateful. People last night kept telling me, coming up to me saying, ‘I game money for you to go, I gave money for you to go.’ That was just great.”