Phil Petty, former Boiling Springs and South Carolina quarterback standout dies at 43

Former Boiling Springs and University of South Carolina quarterback Phil Petty died Thursday after a brief hospital stay in Columbia. He was 43.

The cause of death has not been released.

Petty was hired in April as an assistant coach at Gray Collegiate Academy in Columbia where his former USC teammate, Adam Holmes, is the head coach.

"He had this burning desire to coach again and told me in the spring his kids were growing up fast and he really would love to get back into coaching, to have the opportunity to be closer to them during their crucial years," said former Boiling Springs basketball coach Dick Cox, who Petty played under for three years.

USC QB Phil Petty hugs Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler after a game in 1999.
USC QB Phil Petty hugs Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler after a game in 1999.

Cox said Petty would frequently post Facebook videos of himself throwing the football with his son in their backyard "and hoped to get the chance to coach his son one day."

He played for the Gamecocks from 1998-2001 and started for three seasons, including consecutive Outback Bowl victories over Ohio State his final two years. As a senior he was named the bowl's MVP after throwing for 227 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-28 win over the Buckeyes.

"Phil Petty typified what a Gamecock truly is," USC athletics director Ray Tanner said in a school release. "A native South Carolinian, he was a fighter on the football field, a tremendous person off the field and beloved by all Gamecocks. He was a great friend to many and a wonderful dad and husband. My prayers go out to his wife, Morgan, children, Sage and McCoy, and his many friends."

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Petty's first season was the last for coach Brad Scott, who was replaced by Lou Holtz. The Gamecocks went just 1-21 in Petty's first two seasons before he helped engineer one of the biggest turnarounds in college football history. After going 0-11 in 1999, USC went 8-4 the following season.

That was the largest single-season improvement in NCAA Division I history at the time.

"I have a 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 a lifetime. I would be proud to call him my son. He's lived his life in an exemplary way. He was just a positive influence wherever he went."

The Gamecocks went 9-3 in Petty's senior year when he completed 164 of 288 passing for 1,926 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Award, given to the nation's top quarterback.

The 17 victories his last two years were the most by the program in back-to-back seasons until the Gamecocks won a combined 20 games in 2010-11.

"Phil took the beating of a 21 game losing streak… got off the ground… wiped the mud off his hands and the grass out of his face mask, and led us to the two most successful seasons in school history at that time," former USC quarterback and assistant coach Erik Kimrey, who was Petty's teammate for four years, posted on Twitter. "If anyone has embodied the spirit of a Gamecock, it was him. He made everyone in the huddle believe we could win. He made us all better."

Petty ranks fourth at the school in career pass attempts (861), sixth in completions (454), seventh in passing yards (5,652) and total offense (5,797) and tied for ninth in touchdown passes (28).

Petty signed with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent before being released prior to the start of training camp.

He spent the 2003 season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks' coach at Hammond Academy in Columbia before joining the USC coaching staff as a graduate assistant for the 2004 season. From 2005-09, Petty was an East Carolina assistant under former USC assistant Skip Holtz. He coached quarterbacks for two seasons and tight ends the last three years of his tenure.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Former South Carolina quarterback Phil Petty dies at 43