Following my graduation from Brown University in 1994, I was convinced that I wanted nothing to do with football or coaching, in particular the coaching part. I had just concluded my college football career and was a bit butt-hurt about losing so often, sitting the bench when I wanted to compete and thinking that politics played too much of a role as to who played, traveled and ultimately succeeded.
Yeah, being young and dumb was real but I digress.
When a cushy engineering gig fell through in the spring of 1994, I was left scrambling for a job and decided until I figured it out, I could teach and coach at a private secondary school. Do that for a couple of years, go back to school, find a multi-million dollar job and make mad cash for the next three decades. Okay, that certainly didn't happen but I did find myself in Jacksonville, Florida at Episcopal High School as the school's head junior high football coach and math teacher. I didn't expect to be stung by the coaching bug, yet there I was after day two of my coaching career wanting nothing more than to coach on a daily basis.
So, here I was in Florida at a time when Bobby Bowden had just won a national championship in 1993. The Miami Hurricanes had just won a fourth national championship in 1991. But, the Florida Gators were the program that had my attention, to be honest.
I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to coach with his bravado. I wanted to put up 50 points with regularity. I wanted Fun. I wanted Gun I wanted a Shane Matthews to lead my offense. I wanted to run his offense...with seventh and eighth graders. I had found my coaching muse. I wore the sweater vest. I couldn't wear the visor but I tried.
It was Steve Spurrier.
I coached with a few buddies that once worked for Spurrier that told Spurrier stories all day and I couldn't get enough.
I tried to explain Spurrier to my wife and I couldn’t really do it, then I remembered a simple spring scrimmage from 20 years ago.
After two years of traveling to games in Gainesville, I went down with a friend of mine for a scrimmage in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in the spring of 1996. Spurrier had hired a new defensive coordinator that I loved and I was curious to see him at work. Bob Stoops wasn't a well known commodity in the area, but I had followed his work at Kansas State and was thrilled that Spurrier finally had his leading man on defense. So, we walked in the Stadium, with our Burrito Brothers grub, and it just so happened that the Gators defense was dominating the action. A couple of picks. A hard tackle. Threes and out for about 20 minutes.
All the while, Spurrier stood off to the side, ripping his visor off at times, while he rubbed his head and tucked his hands under his arms. It was clear he had finally seen enough. He looked over at his soon-to-be Heisman Trophy quarterback Danny Wuerffel and called him over. Spurrier spoke to Wuerffel for about ten seconds and then let the destruction commence.
Wuerffel completed about five or six passes in a row, the last one for a touchdown. Spurrier walked by Stoops without saying anything and whistled Wuerffel back over to take a knee next to him.
Spurrier was the most competitive coach I had seen and losing drove him so over the edge, even in a spring scrimmage to a hot-shot, young coaching star. He and Stoops became close and their relationship as head ball coach and defensive coordinator led to Florida’s first national championship that following fall.
At a noon press conference on Tuesday, he decided it was time to hang ‘em up. He didn't belabor the point. He didn't get emotional. He didn't stay beyond his welcome. He certainly did it his way and went out his way.
Some find fault in him "quitting" early but the flip side is that he knew he couldn't give that team what it needed and he knew someone else could. I'm conflicted on the timing but not the man himself. The memories hit in waves.
In the 1994 SEC Championship on the game’s penultimate drive, he had a QB fake an injury to set up a long completion, called for a double pass a few plays later and empowered his QB to audible to a slant route for the game winning TD from the two yard line.
He nearly ruined the SEC's grand championship plan in 1992.
He beat Peyton Manning four straight years.
He once beat Auburn with a QB nicknamed "Fat Dog".
He knocked Florida State out of the national championship game/beat them in the national championship for three straight years.
He put his rain gear on late in the win over Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl to avoid getting wet after the Gatorade dousing.
I'll never forget his 1999 team beating Tennessee.
I never saw a team more dominant than his 1996 team in a win over LSU. I left at halftime.
He was a stickler for the rules and never broke them.
And, he certainly never missed a tee time.
Now that it's over, there are no words to say other than...