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#pounditSaturday, April 13, 2024

Video shows former South Carolina QB being rescued by Coast Guard

Chris Smelley smiling

Former South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley, who also played catcher for the University of Alabama, was recused by the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday after he went missing in Gulf of Mexico for nearly 12 hours.

Smelley went out to sea in a kayak on a fishing trip off of Grayton Beach and was last seen at 8:30 a.m. He was later reported missing by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, which prompted the Coast Guard to spring into action. They were helped by the Florida Fish and Wildlife agency, as well as several local agencies.

Footage shared by the Coast Guard on X, formerly known as Twitter, showed the moment Smelley was found by his rescuers, who promptly repelled into the choppy water at 7:12 p.m.

After being recovered by the Coast Guard, Smelley was transferred into the boat of a friend who had also joined the search.

Some reports suggest Smelley was found just two miles offshore while others say he was as many as 12 miles offshore. No matter how far the distance, Smelley was just relieved to be reunited with his family.

“I was in a big, heavy kayak. And I got out there and right off the shore, the wind was just whipping and a lot stronger than it was at shore,” Smelley said, via WBRC. “I wish there was a story that a giant shark dragged me out or I was battling a sea monster — but it was really just nature — it was just the wind. My body was sitting up tall and I was basically just a big sail. I was giving it everything I could, and there was a long period of time where I was at the mercy of the wind.”

Despite the terrifying nature of the ordeal, Smelley remained calm and had prepared himself to spend a night out in the ocean.

“I wouldn’t say I was necessarily scared, but there were times where, especially as the sun started going down, and I had seen the rescue helicopters fly over me pretty close by a few times, but they didn’t see me, that I thought I was going to spend the night in the ocean,” he said. “So, I had just caught a fish and was preparing to clean it to give me some energy to try to keep paddling back in when the rescue helicopter pulled in.”

Smelley went 9-6 in 15 career starts for the Gamecocks before transferring to Alabama to play baseball. He currently serves as the head football coach at Sylacauga High School.

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