Former South Carolina Quarterback Found Alive on Kayak in Florida Gulf After Fishing Trip Mishap


The U.S. Coast Guard located the former University of South Carolina football player Chris Smelley on Friday, nearly 12 hours after being seen leaving for fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release seeking help to locate the 37-year-old former SEC football player. He was last seen fishing in a Kayak in the Gulf of Mexico near Grayton Beach at about 8:30 am.

The search was joined by several local agencies as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife.

Authorities confirmed that Smelley was located safe and sound nearly 12 hours after his last sighting.

Smelley was located by an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard Airstation New Orleans, about two miles off of Grayton Beach.

The Coast Guard shared footage on X of the moment that rescuers found his kayak. Officials said that he was transferred to the vessel of a friend who had been searching in the area for him.

Smelley spent three seasons as a South Carolina Gamecocks player, from 2006 to 2008. As the team’s quarterback, he was 9-6. In his final year, he finished 169 passes in 12 games for 1,922 yards and 14 touchdowns.

In 2009, he transferred to Alabama to play baseball for the Crimson Tide.

Smelley is now the head football coach of Sylacauga High School.