Article Provided by The Gamecock Newspaper
By: Alex Riley
Assistant Sports Editor
Issue date: 8/31/05 Section: Sports
Flamboyant. Outspoken. Cocky. Troublemaker.
All these words have been used to describe former Gamecock quarterback Steve Taneyhill's style while at USC. But Tom Price might have summed it up best with the phrase USC fans still remember him by - that crazy Yankee quarterback.
Taneyhill arrived in Columbia after finishing his career in Altoona, Pa., as one of the most sought-after quarterbacks coming out of high school in 1992. Offers rolled in from throughout the country, but USC landed the 6-foot-3-inch freshman, and things in Gamecock Nation have never been the same.
"I had opportunities to go to Florida State, to Alabama, to Miami," Taneyhill said. "But on my visit, every player I seemed to introduced to was a younger guy. Obviously, the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job had a lot to do with choosing South Carolina."
The 18-year-old seemed to stand out in a crowd, dawning an almost mullet-like ponytail and earrings. Before arriving in the state, Taneyhill told fans and media members that he would be starting as a freshman at quarterback before the season was finished. Some fans were shocked at his style, but the real surprise was his style of play.
After receiving no playing time in Carolina's first four contests - all defeats - USC coach Sparky Woods began playing musical chairs with upperclassman quarterbacks Wright Mitchell and Blake Williamson, but nothing seemed to jumpstart the Gamecock offense. With a 38-0 deficit at the half against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Woods was prepared to try anything, and did just that, inserting Taneyhill into a game-time situation for the first time.
One hundred thirty-five yards on 10 completions and a touchdown later, Taneyhill was about to be the unquestioned new man under center.
The rest of season was nothing short of the Steve Taneyhill show, as the rookie quarterback showed no signs of his youth, guiding USC to a 21-6 upset of No. 15 Mississippi State, a comeback win against Vanderbilt and, perhaps one of USC's most stunning wins since joining the SEC, a 24-23 conquest against No. 16 Tennessee.
But it was the last game of the 1992 season that would forever give Taneyhill a lasting image in Gamecock history. With a bowl bid out of reach, USC traveled to Death Valley to face the Tigers in a battle for bragging rights. Under the steady hand of an unwavering freshman, Carolina derailed Clemson 24-13 behind two touchdown strikes from Taneyhill.
The moment that might have defined the quarterback's career came after one of his touchdown passes. Taneyhill proceeded to autograph the tiger paw at midfield, standing in the center and raising his arms to the Tiger fans.
The 1993 season failed to yield much after an upset victory late in the game against Georgia, as USC finished 4-7 and thus finished Woods' career as Gamecock coach. New Athletics Director Mike McGee brought in former Florida State assistant Brad Scott for the 1994 season.
The long-haired Yankee was told to lose the locks, setting the tone that Scott was running the team, and it paid off. Scott's arrival heralded a new flavor for offense, as Scott put the offense on the arm of his star quarterback Taneyhill, who would guide the program to a place it had never been.
The Gamecocks would open the season with a 4-1 start before losing to East Carolina in a record-setting day for the junior signal caller. Taneyhill rolled up 451 yards on 39 completions, but the defense failed to shut the Pirates down in a 52-46 loss. The next four games produced only one win, giving USC a 5-5 record heading into the season-ending battle with Clemson.
This time around, it was Carolina's day to dominate, as Taneyhill and the USC offense rolled up a 33-7 beating of the Tigers in a game that would send USC to its ninth bowl game, a Jan. 2 matchup with West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl.
Taneyhill accomplished something no other quarterback had, bringing USC out of the darkness and into a season that finished with a win. A national TV audience on CBS watched as the Gamecocks' losing streak ended with a 24-21 win against the Mountaineers and earning Taneyhill MVP honors.
"To go and play a West Virginia team that had been sort of like us, they had lost a bunch of games at the beginning and went on a roll to get their sixth win," Taneyhill said. "It was just great to be in Miami for a week.
"Coach Scott said it to us at the beginning of the week, 'If you win this game, this is something that you guys who are on this '94 team, they can never take this from you. You are the team that won the first bowl game.'
"To a lot of other schools that's nothing, but at that time it was big for South Carolina."
In his final season as USC quarterback, Taneyhill led the Gamecocks to another 6-5 season. This time it wasn't enough to get the Gamecocks into the postseason, as the SEC boosted teams with better records and stronger showings.
"We did have some success. I mean, I started 40 games at Carolina in a row," Taneyhill said. "We beat some top-20 teams when I was a freshman. I just wish we could have won more games. Of the 40 games I started, I think we went 20-19-1. I mean, that's a winning record, but I just wish we'd won more games."
Despite the finish to his career, Taneyhill ruled the roost, and the records prove it. In four years, he compiled 8,782 yards through the air, second only to Todd Ellis. His most impressive numbers come from his 62 career touchdown passes at 37 interceptions, including his senior campaign, which featured a mind-blowing 29-9 touchdown/interception ratio.
Taneyhill tried his hand at professional football, but found out very quickly that the big leagues lacked the camaraderie he had grown accustomed to in college. A short stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars, followed by a trip to Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy, ended Taneyhill's days as a player.
But you won't find Taneyhill far from the sidelines, though he's not under the helmet anymore. Instead, the USC graduate is now coach at Chesterfield High School in the Upstate.
"I never thought I'd be a coach," Taneyhill said. "I grew up a coach's son, not a football coach's son. I just never thought I'd have the patience. As I got into it, it's the closest thing you can be to being a player. That competition every week is still there, that drive is still there and you still want to win."