The question is simple. Which South Carolina football player scored the first six points in an SEC game?
The answer is not quite so simple. Steve Taneyhill and Brandon Bennett might seem like good guesses until you learn those six points came not on a touchdown but on a pair of field goals.
Marty Simpson gets a kick out of being a piece of Gamecock trivia. He also gets a chuckle out of telling people those six points he scored as a sophomore kicker were the only ones the Gamecocks scored in a 28-6 loss to Georgia on Sept. 5, 1992.
These days the 39-year-old Simpson is still getting a kick – and a chuckle -- out of life. Not only does he run an interactive multimedia company called Blue-Eyed Panda, he also does stand-up comedy and motivational speaking. When he’s not building and maintaining Web sites, he’s spreading joy as a Christian comic in clubs and churches, and at banquets and corporate events with plenty of anecdotes about his playing days.
For instance, when he talks about why his college kicking days weren’t as good as his high-school kicking ones, he offers this insight.
“I think it had to do with the mediocrity,” he said, smiling.
But there was nothing mediocre about Simpson coming out of Spring Valley High School, where he set several state records. He kicked a 57-yard field goal in 1988 and topped it with a 61-yarder the following season. He also kicked 55 consecutive extra points and made 85-of-88 in three seasons.
The biggest kick of his career was a 27-yard field goal that gave the Vikings a 3-0 overtime victory over Gaffney in the 1988 Class 4A state championship game at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The video clip can still be found at www.martysimpson.com, where you can see an excited Simpson sprinting the length of the field after the kick while being pursued by equally-jubilant teammates.
“There’s not a better memory you can have,” he said.
His days as a Viking led to him being the first South Carolinian named to the USA Today All-American first team. He also garnered All-American honors from Parade and Street & Smith’s magazines.
All of that led to him becoming the answer to another trivia question: Who was USC coach Sparky Woods’ first verbal commitment after the 1989 season?
Despite being recruited by football powers across the nation – and taking phone calls from the likes of Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden – Simpson decided to remain in his hometown.
“I always liked the idea of staying at home. I loved everything about my childhood, my schools, my neighborhood,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave.”
He also liked Woods and assistant coach Rick Whitt.
“They were a huge part of it,” he added. “They were solid people, good people.”
After redshirting in the 1990, Simpson had a stellar career as a Gamecock kicker and punter.
He has many fond memories from 1992, when the Gamecocks overcame a 0-5 start to finish 5-6. The season-ending 24-13 win against Clemson was big, but he remembers the 24-23 victory over Tennessee as a career highlight. His field goal tied the game 17-17 at the start of the fourth quarter, and his final PAT proved to be the difference.
His favorite play was a 57-yard game-clinching punt out of the end zone, one that kept the Volunteers from mounting a final drive.Simpson, who majored in theater at USC, stayed around the game as the head coach at Ben Lippen from 1995 to 2003, when he showed off his diverse skills by leading the football team and producing the school plays.
That theater background later led to him taking a crack at comedy, and his family-oriented routines have gotten him gigs across the country.
“Comedy started for me when I stopped doing lesson plans,” he said.
Living in the Blythewood area, Simpson and his wife, Ashley, have two children, Savannah, 11, and Walt, 8.
He looks back on his USC playing days with great pride. He loves retelling the stories in ways that his audiences, especially those filled with USC fans, can appreciate.