Darius Rucker is a country superstar, but his South Carolina roots run deep. No matter how many years pass, college days bring back treasured memories, especially if those schooldays spark a time when a little local club band from Columbia, SC, Hootie & the Blowfish, just happened to catch fire, and blaze to the top of the charts two decades or so ago. Well, age and history doesn't diminish fan loyalty for Darius Rucker, any more than the years have faded the one-of-a-kind artist’s love for music. He shows Gamecock pride from the stage, and didn’t hide his tears when his team made it to their first-ever NCAA basketball Final Four on March 26.

The flow of emotion

The deep-voiced Rucker had predicted days ago that his South Carolina favorites would indeed advance to the Final Four in the 2017 March Madness elimination tournament. This feat had never been accomplished before in school history, and like their three previous games leading up to this momentous contest against the Florida Gators, they were down at the half, but held on to hold their seven-point lead to seal the win. Of course, bitter tears were shed on the Florida side of the court, and roars of jubilation from the black-and-white clad teammates from South Carolina. One of the first shots off the main court at Madison Square Garden was of Darius Rucker, tears streaming down his face, and nothing but loyalty and pride in every blink of his eyes.

A few loving pokes came the country star’s way from well-meaning watchers, but most were equally overjoyed to see someone of his celebrity stature take time not just to be courtside for cameras, but to genuinely support his team with everything and every emotion he had. “I didn't think I could like Darius Rucker any more than I already did, but now I do” wrote Deborah Courtney on Twitter.

Genuine fans, like superstars with genuine hearts, are rare. Sports Illustrated even took notice.

More than name only

Darius Rucker knows about coming from behind, too. The 51-year-old found a way to reinvent himself and reinvigorate his career in country music, doing it the hard way. The singer-songwriter went door-to-door through Nashville and through the country circuit of radio stations in the mid 2000s to make sure that the country music world knew that his heart, his talent, and this transition were quite real.

In 2009 Rucker was the first African-American artist to take the CMA Award for Best New Artist. Since that breakthrough, there have been a string of hit country songs and albums, like “Wagon Wheel,” “Alright” and “Come Back Song.” He was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2012, and just attended the unveiling of his own wax statue in Nashville.

Rucker has a namesake, perhaps, in the SEC Player of the Year, Sindarius Thornwell, named by most as the best player currently on the tournament court, and naturally, a South Carolina Gamecock. Thornwell powered his team on to the Final Four, and is sure to see the familiar face, and maybe more tears, from alum, Darius Rucker.

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