Steve Taneyhill considers himself a better coach than player, and he was a darn good player.
An all-state performer in both football and basketball at Altoona Area High School and later a standout quarterback at the University of South Carolina, Taneyhill was elected to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
After failing in a bid for a professional playing career, Taneyhill turned to coaching and is making his mark as a high school football coach in South Carolina.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Altoona native Steve Taneyhill coaches his South Carolina high school football team at Mansion Park Friday.
His 12-year coaching record shows over 100 victories and five state championships - two while leading an eight-man team at Cambridge Academy in Greenwood and three at Class A Chesterfield (S.C.) High.
Taneyhill is back in Altoona this weekend and he brought along his new team, Union County, to participate in a 7-on-7 high school football tournament at Mansion Park.
Although it wasn't an actual game, Taneyhill, nonetheless, was happy to bring his team to his old stomping grounds.
"This is neat for me," Taneyhill said Friday. "My dad [Art] and mom [Sue] are pretty excited as well. They even got my sister [Debbie] to come up [from Virginia].
"I haven't been out here [Mansion Park] in a long, long time," Taneyhill said. "I've been home a few times but I haven't been out there, so this is fun.
"Plus, it's Coach [John] Franco," he said. "That's my guy. He was my coach, so it feels good. And, it's an opportunity for my kids to play against different competition than we'll see in South Carolina."
Taneyhill said most of the 28 traveling players from Union County haven't been away from their home state. The team visited Penn State Friday.
"That was part of the whole package," he said. "I wanted the kids to see something different. They've been to games at Clemson and South Carolina but I know some of the new coaches at Penn State and they set up a tour. It was great."
Taneyhill, who set numerous Southeast Conference records while quarterbacking the South Carolina Gamecocks, said he never gave coaching much thought until Brad Scott, his college coach, urged him to consider it.
"Coach Scott always told me I'd be a good coach," Taneyhill said. "I never thought I'd coach but, when I didn't play anymore, and didn't make it in the NFL, Cambridge Academy asked me to think about their job.
"Once I got into it ... it's just like playing," he said. "It's competition, but you have more responsibility. Playing is easy. Being a coach is harder than being a player. I've talked to a lot of former players, who are now coaching, and they say the same thing.
"You get the butterflies Friday, just like you're playing. I really enjoy it. I don't see myself doing anything but coaching. I guess that runs in the blood a little bit," he added, laughing.
Art Taneyhill was a successful coach at Altoona Area High School for many years and guided the school's girls program to four state titles. Debbie Taneyhill led the George Mason University women's program for several years.
After leading Cambridge Academy to a pair of eight-man state titles, Taneyhill took a job as offensive coordinator at a Class 4A school in South Carolina before going to Chesterfield.
"I hated it," he said of the assistant's job. "It was the worst time, but it was also the best time because I got to see how someone else ran a program. In the long run, it made me a better coach."
At Chesterfield, Taneyhill's teams played for four state titles and won three in a row - 2007-2009.
"We had a chance to win [states] last season, but didn't get it done," he said. "Then, this job [Union County] came open and I took another chance."
Union County, located about 40 miles north of Columbia, is a Class AAA school [1,200 students] and Taneyhill also serves as assistant athletic director and is in charge of the school's athletic weight program.
"This school was one of the top five programs in the state in the '90s," he said. "They won the state championship in 2002 but have been down ever since. They have a great fan base and it's a town built around the football program and I'd like to get it back where it was."
Taneyhill said he's taken a few things from his dad and other past coaches.
"My dad was a yeller, and I'm a yeller," he said. "My sister and me are both products of having grown up in that house.
"I've had a lot of different coaches - three offensive coordinators at South Carolina - and you just take a little piece from all of them. I think I coach more like a player than a coach because I'm into the game," he said. "I jump around and celebrate and have fun."
Although he now speaks with a Southern drawl, Taneyhill hasn't forgotten his roots.
"I take pride in where I'm from," he said. "I don't get here much but I'm a product of Altoona, and I'm glad to be back, even if it's just for a few days."
John Franco, who has returned to coach Altoona after 18 years at Tyrone, said Taneyhill was one of his "greatest players ever."
"He had a stellar college career, too. We're all proud of his achievements," Franco said, "and I'm particularly proud of his coaching career. He's a coaching icon in South Carolina and that's a major source of pride for us."
Seven schools - Altoona, Union County, Bishop Guilfoyle, Hollidaysburg, Tyrone, Clearfield and Richland - are participating in the 7-on-7 round robin event at Mansion Park. It continues today from 10 a.m. to noon and, following a break, will conclude in the afternoon.