COLUMBIA - Steve Taneyhill has heard a lot of names shouted his way - not all of them complimentary - since he began playing quarterback at South Carolina 14 years ago. But he likes the sound of his latest title - Hall of Famer.
Taneyhill, the now 32-year-old Chesterfield High coach, was among seven former athletes named in June to the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. And Taneyhill knows how far he has come from being a brash, flashy 19-year-old passer of 1992 who was remembered as much for his charisma as for his record-setting skills.
"I chuckle when I think about that," Taneyhill said Friday. "Hey, I was 19 and playing in front of 90,000, I was excited. Who wouldn't be?"
Taneyhill was a freshman on the bench in 1992 when South Carolina opened 0-5. The frustration turned into a player revolt against then-coach Sparky Woods. The staff restored order, put the long-haired, earring-wearing Taneyhill under center and watched the magic take place.
The Gamecocks finished 5-1, including victories over Mississippi State, Tennessee and Clemson. The 24-13 win at Death Valley featured Taneyhill mock-signing his autograph on the field and belting pretend home runs out of the park on the sidelines.
"I have Clemson people tell me, 'If I had known you 15 years ago, I'd have knocked you (down),'" Taneyhill says, laughing.
He expected the wins to continue. Instead, his sophomore season opened with a memorable win at Georgia - Gamecocks fans revel in Bulldog play-by-play icon Larry Munson's plea for the Bulldogs to stay down to run the clock out before South Carolina's Brandon Bennett scored the winning touchdown. But the season devolved into a 4-7 disappointment.
Under new coach Brad Scott, Taneyhill's talents blossomed immensely his final two seasons. He went from completing 51 percent of his throws in 1993 to almost 63 percent a year later. His touchdowns increased from six to 19, while interceptions fell from 14 to eight. At the end, Taneyhill led the Gamecocks to a 24-21 win over West Virginia at the Carquest Bowl, the team's first bowl win ever.
"Were we the best team ever at South Carolina? No. But we were the first to do this and that makes it pretty special," he said.
Taneyhill's final season in 1995, statistically, was immense. He had six games of at least 300 yards passing, including 473 yards in a win over Mississippi State. Taneyhill finished with several career marks that still stand, like 62 touchdowns, 753 completions and a .605 completion percentage.
"People forget we had a pretty strong offense those two years," Taneyhill said. "All my tailbacks (Bennett, Stanley Pritchett and Duce Staley) played in the NFL."
After Taneyhill's attempt at a pro career fizzled, he returned to South Carolina to finish his degree and soon got involved in coaching. He coached eight-man football teams at Cambridge Academy that produced Clemson defensive standout Gaines Adams. Taneyhill was also an assistant at West Ashley before taking the job at Chesterfield.
Taneyhill's first team went 3-8 last fall after winning only one game in 2004. "I hope to flip those numbers around," he said.
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