With a handful of reporters surrounding him, South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson deadpanned one of the best jokes of this year's SEC media days.
Asked about the lack of superstars in the conference this season, given the departure of players like Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel, Thompson didn't miss a beat.
"Yeah, they said Clowney had 1,000 people out there waiting on him [last year]. I think I had three," Thompson said. "So I'm closely behind."
Four hours later, Texas A&M punter Drew Kaser sat in the very corner that Manziel did a year prior. Manziel's appearance drew hordes of media members, and those who didn't hustle to his corner were left standing on the outskirts, barely able to catch a glimpse or hear the words coming from the Heisman Trophy winner's mouth, much less get the opportunity to ask a question.
Kaser's crowd last month was a fraction of the size, and the ability to walk up to the table, look the Ray Guy Award finalist in the eye and actually ask a question was much more feasible. Kaser's teammate, cornerback Deshazor Everett, summed it up best.
"I love the guy to death," Everett said of Manziel, "but the cameras follow him."
South Carolina and Texas A&M will meet to kick off the new college football season Thursday night (6 ET, SEC Network) and a new chapter in their respective histories, one with megastars in the rearview mirror. New faces are in their places, ready to generate their own nationwide buzz.
But such prominent personalities aren't easy to forget.
The buildup to the 2013 season for both teams reached a fever pitch. Texas A&M found itself in the spotlight for two reasons.
First was Manziel's on-field accomplishment of becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, doing so in the rugged SEC as the Aggies smashed expectations with an 11-2 debut in their new conference. But Manziel also crossed over from football star to celebrity, sitting courtside at NBA games, hanging with Drake and documenting it all on Twitter and Instagram for the world to see.
For Texas A&M, much of it was simply noise, with the exception of an NCAA investigation that resulted in a half-game suspension. The tangible effect came in the surge of requests -- media or otherwise -- that it received for Manziel.
"We had a request for him to come to a 3-year-old's birthday party," said Justin Moore, Texas A&M's associate athletic director for football, who became the de facto point man for Manziel's non-media requests last year. "You would just get crazy requests, thousands and thousands of things people sent in asking him to sign and send them back or 'Come to this event.' He was just such a popular figure, everybody wanted a piece of him and a piece of his time."
Alan Cannon, Texas A&M's associate athletic director for media relations, noted the Aggies issued 756 credentials for Texas A&M's game against Alabama last September. The only day Cannon can recall where more media showed up for an A&M game was the Aggies' 1999 game against Texas, which came after the tragic Aggie bonfire collapse.
Manziel wasn't the only attraction for the game against the Crimson Tide -- it was a rematch of the 2012 game, the Aggies' signature welcome-to-the-SEC win against a team that went on to win the BCS title -- but he was the biggest star that day.