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HomeGeneralAuthorities Find Missing Ex-South Carolina QB Alive in the Florida Gulf After...

Authorities Find Missing Ex-South Carolina QB Alive in the Florida Gulf After Fishing Trip Goes Awry

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Chris Smelley
Source: Reddit

Florida law enforcement confirmed that Former University of South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley, who was reported missing on Thursday, was found by the U.S. Coast Guard approximately 12 hours after he left to go fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release seeking assistance in locating the 37-year-old former SEC player, who departed for a fishing trip in a kayak off Grayton Beach around 8:30 a.m.

“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. “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.

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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.”

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When Smelley did not return within a few hours, his wife started to worry and called local law enforcement. That’s when the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Coast Guard, and wildlife officials began an urgent search for him.

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Multiple local agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Agency were enlisted to aid in the search. After nearly 12 hours since his last sighting, authorities verified that Smelley had been located unharmed.

The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans deployed an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, spotting Smelley approximately two miles offshore from Grayton Beach.

The Coast Guard shared video footage depicting the moment rescuers discovered his solitary kayak. Officials stated that he was then transferred to a friend’s vessel, which had been scouring the vicinity in search of him.

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Smelley said at one point, he was preparing to come to terms with reality, thinking he would be spending the night in the ocean. He even was prepared to eat raw fish for energy.

“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 doesn’t plan on giving up kayaking anytime soon, but he said he has learned to be better prepared.

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Smelley had a notable career with the South Carolina Gamecocks from 2006 to 2008, during which he served as the team’s starting quarterback with a record of 9-6. In his final season, he completed 169 passes for 1,922 yards and 14 touchdowns over 12 games.

Subsequently, he transferred to Alabama in 2009 to compete for the Crimson Tide baseball team. Presently, Smelley assumes the role of head football coach at Sylacauga High School.

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