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Former college football player rescued by Coast Guard after going missing in Gulf of Mexico

A frantic search ensued once Smelley’s family reported him missing. — Walton County Sheriffs Office Florida

(GRAYTON BEACH, Fla.) — Chris Smelley, a former college football quarterback, is speaking out after he was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday after being stranded at sea on a kayak for 12 hours.

“I was just kind of in survival mode,” Smelley told ABC News about his survival. “I threw my hands up and screamed,” he said.

Rescue crews spotted Smelley, 37, with one hand on a fishing poll and another waving for help as he floated in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard crews can be seen on video gearing up and propelling by rope from a helicopter down into the Gulf of Mexico to make the rescue. Smelley was ultimately rescued two miles off the shore of Grayton Beach, Florida.

Sergeant Jeremy Fisher of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said this was a lucky instance.

“It’s not often that these things turn out the way this one did,” he said. “Unfortunately, when someone goes out without a life vest and on a kayak they might come off the kayak and try to swim to shore and then they don’t have anything to keep them afloat.”

Smelley set out on his kayaking trip on Thursday morning when high winds knocked him off a safe course. Smelley’s family reported him missing, prompting a frantic search effort.

“I was still moving backwards, so the wind was just way too strong,” said Smelley.

Smelley, the former quarterback at the University of South Carolina from 2006 to 2008, recounted the swell of support he felt after the rescue.

“I feel very blessed. I felt covered in prayer and love and just thankful to God that it turned out a good outcome,” said Smelley.

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