Wearing a garnet shirt like half his peers, Steve Taneyhill blended in Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“I didn’t recognize you without your hair,” an official told him before kickoff of South Carolina’s alumni football game.
From 1992-95, Taneyhill — famous mullet trailing behind him — threw for 8,555 yards (second in USC history) and 61 touchdowns (first) as the Gamecocks won 20 games, took the 1995 Carquest Bowl and twice beat Clemson. The latter of those accomplishments is perhaps what Carolina fans will forever remember about Taneyhill’s career. His ‘92 performance in Death Valley was stamped with a pretend signature of the Tiger paw and mocking bow to the Clemson faithful that led to an iconic photo.
Well over two decades later, Taneyhill’s competitive spirit raged on as he made his alumni game debut. The quarterback turned Five Points bar owner had to be prodded to play, but Taneyhill was back on his old stomping grounds, slinging for the garnet team — and helping a cause.
“Ryan Brewer called me,” Taneyhill said of the former USC running back. “He said, ‘Hey, man, it doesn’t look like we’re gonna have a bunch of guys. Can you play?’ I told him, ‘No. I ain’t playing.’
“And then the next morning I got up and said, ‘Hey, man, I’m gonna do something good with Special Olympics.’ I said, ‘I’m gonna play.’ And then I got in touch with Special Olympics. Every touchdown pass, I’m gonna donate $200 to Special Olympics and then Group Therapy, which I own, will match it.”
Asked before the game how many TDs he planned to throw for, Taneyhill said he’d be satisfied with two or three. He settled for one.
“He was a little rusty,” said former Gamecock Syvelle Newton, who shared QB reps for the garnet team with Taneyhill. “But Taneyhill’s one of my favorite quarterbacks of all-time to play here at Carolina. He’s always been supportive of me. He coached my little brother at Chesterfield High School, when they won the state championship.
“It was a great opportunity to see him.”
Taneyhill, who’s coached around the state at Chesterfield, Cambridge Academy, West Ashley and Union County, has long been connected to Special Olympics.
“When I was coaching all those years,” Taneyhill said, “we always did something with them. And then we’ve done a couple functions at Group Therapy. ... I always go to Special Olympics. What I tell them and what they tell me is, it’s athletes giving back to athletes.”
Taneyhill’s charitable score came on a later possession, perhaps after he found some rhythm. One of his first passes was intercepted. Brewer, who playing on the black team, celebrated the pick with a mock home run swing, an old Taneyhill move.
“When he was warming up,” Brewer said, “he was already giving excuses and holding his arm. So he was setting himself up for failure. When he threw the pick, I could tell the shame he felt. I did the home run swing on him. He threw his hat down.
“But it was great to see him out here. I’m happy he came.”