Take a moment today to think a nice thought about Perry Orth.
South Carolina football is moving on without him, or at least without him on the field, coach Will Muschamp said Sunday night. The Gamecocks are turning over their quarterback competition completely to the two true freshmen who’ve played this year – Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain.
The Gamecocks see a lot of good in this.
It means that for the foreseeable future, South Carolina’s offense will be in the hands of a four-star quarterback who was coveted throughout the recruiting process by many of the nation’s best programs. It means hope and optimism about what the 2017 season could bring.
But it also means Perry’s Big Adventure is over.
If your first thought about Perry’s Big Adventure is he was 2-9 as South Carolina’s starting quarterback, you’re missing the best part of the story. A former walk-on thrust into a starting role he didn’t imagine he’d ever have, Orth had an amazing – if unsuccessful – run with the Gamecocks.
He had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time to get the chance of a lifetime – at the same time as he had the bad fortune to be stuck on the tip of the spear that South Carolina carried into too many SEC gun fights. Orth led outmatched Gamecocks teams into Kyle Field and Sanford Stadium and Death Valley and the other Death Valley. He never left one of those places with a victory, but he’ll take with him plenty of great stories to tell.
The last quarterback to start for Steve Spurrier, maybe the most famous quarterbacks coach in the history of the game? Perry Orth.
The Gamecock with the longest run of the 2015 football season? Perry Orth, going for 66 yards against Texas A&M.
The last person anyone thought would be South Carolina’s quarterback for 11 games? That’s Perry Orth, too.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native was a no-star recruit. The top line of his high school football resume reads “second-team all-district and all-conference.” In short, he was a really good high school football player who no one expected to see in the SEC. He spent one year at Florida State College before walking on at South Carolina in 2013.
College football usually feeds walk-ons like Orth into the boiler room firebox that keeps the locomotive moving down the track. Most of the walk-ons that give so much Sunday through Friday to South Carolina and every SEC team never see the field on Saturday. The tip of the iceberg we all see is supported by lots of players under the surface who deserve a good thought along with Orth today.
Orth got his shot, though.
You can argue all day about whether he made the most of it based on whatever your definition of the most is, but there’s no question that through the process, he earned a college degree and his teammates’ respect, and he stood and answered to the best of his ability every question put to him by the media, which is a testament to several positive personality traits when most of the questions are, “Why do you guys keep losing football games?” He rarely won, but he never blinked.
He’s the type of person who’s going to end up working alongside a bunch of Vanderbilt graduates in his life, and he’ll always have those two wins over the Commodores to lord over them.
South Carolina fans won’t remember the Perry Orth Era well, but they should at least always have good memories of Perry Orth.
Who: Tennessee (5-2, 2-2 SEC) vs. South Carolina (3-4, 1-4)
When: 7:15 p.m., Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: ESPN2 Radio: 107.5 FM
Line: Tennessee by 13