South Carolina football: USC quarterback Phil Petty . dies

Quarterback Phil Petty during the 2001 game against Clemson at Williams Press Stadium in Columbia.

Quarterback Phil Petty during the 2001 game against Clemson at Williams Press Stadium in Columbia.

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Former South Carolina quarterback Phil Petty died Thursday. He was 43 years old.

Petty was a regular quarterback for three years under head coach Lou Holtz in South Carolina and led the Gamecocks to consecutive Outback Bowl victories against Ohio State in 2001 and 2002. He was the nation’s top quarterback, during his first season.

Petty was the 2002 Outback Bowl MVP after throwing for 227 yards and two stars in a 31-28 win over the Buckeyes.

“Phil Petty personified the reality of Gamecock,” South Carolina State Athletic Director Ray Tanner said in a statement Thursday. “A native of South Carolina, he was a fighter on the football field, a great guy off the field and loved by all the Gamecocks. He was a wonderful friend to many and a wonderful father and husband. My prayers are with his wife, Morgan, his children, Sage and McCoy, and his many friends.”

Petty died after a short illness. The cause of death was not immediately known. Funeral arrangements were not known until Thursday afternoon.

Phil Betty from South Carolina

Petty signed with the Gamecocks under coach Brad Scott. He starred at Boiling Springs High School in Upstate and was the offensive MVP of the 1996 Shrine Bowl.

He retired to USC in 1997, then supported Anthony Wright at quarterback in 1998 before taking over as a starter in the 1999, 2000 and 2001 seasons. Lou Holtz became head coach for South Carolina prior to the 1999 season.

“So, sad, sad about this,” Scott told The State. “It was special. I thought he had all those intangibles and loved the game. He always taught her and was very competitive. He had great timing, great pocket presence, all the things that midfielders would have. I thought he would be a special player and it turns out that he is.”

Petty was a major part of the program’s transformation from the 1998 (1-10) and 1999 (0-11) seasons, as South Carolina finished 8-4 and 9-3 in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

“I have great memories of him.” Holtz told ABC Columbia’s Mike Gillespie. “He was a great player but he was also a better teammate. Players come and go. Teammates last for life.”

Over his last two seasons at USC, Petty completed 306 of 547 passes for 4,079 yards and 17 touchdowns while leading South Carolina. Throwing for 2,110 yards in 2000, helping the Gamecocks finish 8-4, which completed the largest single-season turn in Division IA history after a 0-11 campaign in 1999.

Everyone’s heart is broken’,” said Jeff Barnes, former USC offensive lineman. “He was the number one guy on the team and loyal to the fraternity we built. He was a good-hearted, hard-working guy who loves the game of football and loves his teammates. Just his strength and determination to lead us from the bottom of the barrel, to turn us from winning no games in his freshman year to two outdoors.”

Barnes said one of his favorite memories of Petty was his game-winning touchdown pass to Brian Scott for a 14-9 win over Georgia in the 2001 season.

Barnes, who is now athletic director and offensive line coach at Hammond, said Petty has always looked after men of color, taking them to dinner once a week during the season.

Petty’s 5,656 career yards ranks seventh in the South Carolina record books. His 17 starts at the QB Championship is the seventh most ever.

Coach Shane Beamer said on Twitter: “So sorry to hear of the passing of great player Phil Petty @GamecockFB. Thoughts and prayers for his family.”

After USC, Petty signed as a free agent with the Tennessee Titans but was released. He worked at Hammond School in Columbia in 2003 and was a graduate assistant with Gamecocks in 2004. He also worked for a few years as an assistant coach with the East Carolina soccer team.

Betty took a job in June for the Gray Collegiate football team. Betty and Gray Collegiate, Artistic Director of Adam Holmes, were classmates at the University of Southern California, and were also at each other’s weddings.

“He was my brother and the captain of our team,” Holmes said. “He led to the transformation we had and was a wonderful friend, father, and husband.”

This story was originally published July 21, 2022 at 10:38 am.

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Lou Bezjak is the high school athletic preparation coordinator for the Columbia State and Hilton Head Island package. He previously worked for Florence Morning News and has covered high school sports in South Carolina since 2002. Low is the South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year twice by the National Sports Media Association.
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