Perry Orth, who just a few weeks ago was a quarterback at South Carolina, now wants to be a private quarterbacks coach, and earlier this week he took on a daunting project to prove his chops in the business.
At the risk of sounding immodest, I must say I’m often the all-time quarterback when I play Nerf football with my elementary school kids and their friends in the neighborhood, but beyond that I’m the prototypical never-wore-a-helmet sportswriter with no formal training in the sport or at its most important position.
“If (a kid) has basic abilities, he will be able to make a high school football team ... if he’s willing to put the work in,” Orth believes.
The end game for a 43-year-old is less clear. At this moment, on the Bluff Road fields that used to serve as the Gamecocks’ practice fields on a warm and windy Wednesday morning, I’m just interested to see if I can throw a consistent spiral 20 yards down the field.
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Orth has higher hopes for me.
“I would hope that Joe Schmo would be able to throw it 30 to 35 yards,” he says.
Alas, it was a hope in vain. Throwing a regulation size football 35 yards in any useable form is harder than it looks from the couch.
“You just kind of wound up and chucked it,” Orth says after my second attempt flutters awkwardly to the ground 30 yards away. “The deep ball is 100 percent timing. It’s not, ‘Wait until he gets 40 yards and let me rear back and launch it.’ ”
There are a lot of things that Joe Schmo’s mind and body tell him about playing the position that just aren’t so, which is why Orth believes the proper training for young players is so vital and why he co-founded QB1 Athletics, which will hold its kickoff weekend Saturday and Sunday at Hammond High School. Private one-on-one and group lessons are still available for the weekend and next weekend (Jan. 28 and 29) and can be booked via email (email@example.com) or by phone (904-735-7505 or 724-814-0018).
Orth arrived at South Carolina as a walk-on in 2013. Over the next four years, he went from roster afterthought to starter, opening 11 games for the Gamecocks before giving way midway through the 2016 season to freshman Jake Bentley. There were some rough patches during his football career, but there’s a storybook element as well, chiefly in the coaching he has received.
Orth played high school football at Ponte Vedra for Mike Loyd, a one-time professional quarterback. Then he arrived at South Carolina for the end of the Steve Spurrier era and the start of Kurt Roper’s career as the Gamecocks offensive coordinator. He considers himself now a caretaker of those coaches’ quarterbacking knowledge.
“I just felt like I didn’t want to waste what I have learned,” Orth said. “I learned so much and played under the best offensive mind that our conference and maybe even our game has ever seen to be honest (no offense to Roper or Loyd, but he’s talking about Spurrier). I felt like I couldn’t let that go to waste.”
Orth will incorporate some of what he’s learned from all his coaches in his tutoring, but it’s clear the reverence in which he holds Spurrier, who is in the College Football Hall of Fame as both a quarterback and a coach. Orth’s eyes light up when he remembers watching from the sideline as Spurrier and then-quarterback Dylan Thompson carved up Auburn’s defense during a 2014 game in which the Gamecocks threw for 416 yards against the No. 5 team in the country.
“When he was locked in and had a tendency a defense was doing, to watch him exploit a defense was the best,” Orth said.
There was another thing Orth learned from Spurrier’s tenure at South Carolina, which is that he didn’t want to pursue collegiate coaching. That occurred to him after he watched eight of the team’s nine assistant coaches lose their jobs following Spurrier’s resignation in 2015.
“Watching all our coaches leave, like literally I saw all of our coaches with the box with their stuff in it leaving their office, just to think they have families ... ,” Orth said. “I know there is a lot of money in it, but that’s not something I wanted to do.”
So he started QB1Athletics with friend and fellow USC graduate David Cowgill Jr. Orth will serve as the group’s head coach and Cowgill its chief financial officer. Together, they put the business together quickly with the help of family and friends.
“On Dec. 6, I just remember putting it down on my phone, like, ‘This is the day it started,’ ” Orth said.
QB1Athletics will train players ages 8 through high school for now, Orth said, and it will be his part-time job for now. Orth begins his day job on Monday at Fluor in Greenville, where he also will offer quarterback tutoring.
One of his primary goals is to keep young players from turning into the incoherent mess of poor fundamentals and bad habits he saw on display Wednesday.
“You don’t want to bring the ball so far back,” he tells to me for the 10th or 11th time in a 45-minute session.
So we do drills to lock in the proper throwing motion – arm in an L, short step with the front foot and rotating hips and core.
“Your throwing motion is here,” he says, motioning from his chest to his thighs. “It’s all hip torque and core movement. You arm is just the tip. You are just putting the cherry on top with your arm motion and your flick. From (chest) down is what is doing all the work. It’s getting your hips turned and your feet aligned to the target.”
He relays to me “Coach Spurrier’s famous form throw.”
“Feet shoulder width apart, ball back, nice balanced position, knees bent, butt out a little bit, step, short step, two-inch step, you don’t want to be doing this (striding far), we’re not baseball players, two-inch step and then throw right to your target,” he says.
It sounds simple. The execution is more complex. My mind won’t keep my arm from taking the ball back and essentially winding up, especially attempting to throw at the end of a series of footwork drills, which illustrates the type of bad habit Orth doesn’t want kids to develop.
Orth has drills. Oh, he has drills. They are the foundation of the position whether you’re a middle-schooler or a professional, he said.
“The drills are the same whether you are at the Jacksonville Jaguars or one of the high schools here in Columbia,” he said. “These are the drills that I did from the time I got here til I graduated. This is what took me from the sixth-string on the team to starting.”
Now he wants to pass it on.
What: QB1 Athletics
Who: Former South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth has co-founded a private quarterback coaching business.
When and Where: Orth and the group will hold its Kickoff Weekend on Saturday and Sunday at Hammond High School in Columbia.
How: Lessons are still available this weekend and can be booked via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (904-735-7505 or 724-814-0018).
What Else: Former South Carolina place-kicker Elliott Fry is also offering private kicking lessons. Fry can be contacted via his Twitter account (@Elliott_Fry22)