The untold story behind Steve Taneyhill’s iconic South Carolina-Clemson photo

Where’s the weirdest place Steve Taneyhill has seen his iconic Clemson photo?

Former South Carolina quarterback Steve Taneyhill looks back on his 1992 performance against Clemson that led to an iconic image for Gamecock fans.
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Former South Carolina quarterback Steve Taneyhill looks back on his 1992 performance against Clemson that led to an iconic image for Gamecock fans.

Steve Taneyhill knows he has a copy of it somewhere because, as the former South Carolina quarterback tells it, “There was like five old ladies from Columbia that sent my mom every picture, every article all four years I was here.”

The Nov. 22, 1992, edition of The State newspaper was a keeper for Gamecock fans because it told the story of how a brash Taneyhill and his teammates ended a four-game losing streak to Clemson with a 24-13 win in Death Valley. The game was chronicled in photos by The State’s Tim Dominick.

Dominick, on staff since 1983, still has the film sleeve from the afternoon Taneyhill threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The performance was stamped by a pretend signature of the Tiger paw and mocking bow to the Clemson faithful. The latter produced an iconic image that remains displayed in USC-themed bars, restaurants and homes. It’s even prominently featured in the chorus of a 2010 Patrick Davis song.

But here’s a secret behind that shot of Taneyhill and his outstretched arms: It almost didn’t make it to publication.

“With football games, there’s a lot of photos to go through,” Dominick said. “And somehow the Taneyhill one, that particular image, I didn’t see it at first. And our editor would go through behind us just to see if we missed anything. And she found it. She said, ‘This is different.’ ”

A face-less image can be frowned upon by photo purists, and all this one had was a player’s back and his arms. But the placement of Taneyhill’s white and garnet No. 18 jersey really popped against the sea of orange. So, after a last-minute review, it did run in the paper.

On an inside jump page.

“Toward the bottom,” Dominick said, “probably two columns at the most, maybe one.

“It wasn’t the lead picture out front, so I didn’t think any more about it. I thought it was a cool picture, but I didn’t think any more about it.”

Until he was put to work early the next week.

This was the early 1990s, when the Internet was in its infant stages and social media was far from born. One of the biggest photos in Carolina-Clemson history started small, but grew due to The State’s reprint service.

“The next day or two,” Dominick said, “Rosie Brooks, who handled our reprints, she said, ‘I’ve started to get a lot of calls for this print.’ So we’d sell 8 by 10s for like $10 or something and 10 by 14 for $15 or something like that.

“So she’d give me the request on a piece of paper and I’d start printing them off. And then as I did those, more requests would come and I’d print them.”

Dominick estimated he made close to 1,000 prints of the Taneyhill photo over a two-year period.

One copy can be found outside Group Therapy bar in Five Points. Taneyhill bought the establishment in 2016 and has added a few personal touches. There’s a smaller version of the photo behind the bar. It sits on top of a framed Sports Illustrated featuring Jadeveon Clowney and to the left of a signed Hootie and the Blowfish album.

“They probably know more about Darius (Rucker) than me,” Taneyhill said with a laugh.

Steve Taneyhill Clemson photo at bar
Former South Carolina quarterback Steve Taneyhill poses with a younger form of his self outside Taneyhill’s Group Therapy Bar in Five Points. Andrew Ramspacher The State

It’s been close to two decades since Taneyhill took his place in Gamecock lore. Today’s USC’s students maybe aren’t as quick to recognize him, but Taneyhill still very much resonates with an older generation of bar-goers.

“Last year at St. Pat’s, a guy came up and actually had that picture tattooed on his arm,” Taneyhill said. “That’s maybe the craziest place I’ve seen it. So it’s neat to connect with fans 25 years after it happened.”

Taneyhill went 2-0 at Memorial Stadium, the place his alma mater heads to Saturday night. These Gamecocks, like Taneyhill’s in ‘92, are trying to snap a four-game skid to their archrivals.

Jake Bentley’s not going to grow a mullet between now and Saturday, but the current USC QB could afford to look like Taneyhill in other ways.

Home run swings after big plays? Chirping at the opponent?

“Maybe not that far,” Taneyhill said, “but he plays with emotion. I like that. We’re going to need that. You gotta be confident going in there. That’s what we were. We walked into that stadium and thought we were gonna win.”

All these years later, one photo still sums up that mentality.

“I was just a freshman having fun,” Taneyhill said. “And let me tell you, that day was awful fun.”

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