Florida football legend Danny Wuerffel reflects on the great rivalry the Gators have with the Georgia football team, sharing a great Steve Spurrier or two in the process.
With Florida football fans getting ready for the massive game with the Georgia football team on Saturday, Gators legendary quarterback Danny Wuerffel reflects on the importance of this SEC East rivalry and what it meant to play for a college football icon like Steve Spurrier.
“There’s several reasons that culminate to this being a very unique and special game,” said Wuerffel to FanSided on behalf of The Desire Cup and Desire Street Ministries. “There are very few games where you play where the stands are split 50-50. Neutral-site games are unique and cool as well. I think the fact this game so often has the winner winning the SEC East now, it’s such a critical game for anybody’s aspirations for SEC Championships and beyond.”
“And I think there has been so much history. I remember when I was there. I didn’t know much about Florida-Georgia history, but I knew every time we played Georgia, [Steve] Spurrier had a little chip on his shoulder. That goes back to his playing days. There’s just a lot that comes together to make it a really cool football game.”
By playing under Spurrier, the first Heisman Trophy winner in Florida football history, Wuerffel not only became the second, but the first quarterback to lead the Gators to a national championship in program history back in 1996. Together, they brought the modern passing game to the SEC by way of the innovative passing attack best known as the Fun ‘n Gun.
Danny Wuerffel on playing for Steve Spurrier and running the Fun ‘n Gun
“There was something clearly unique about Steve Spurrier as an offensive coach,” said Wuerffel on playing in the Fun ‘n Gun. “I remember when he recruited me you could just look at the data. He would just show you the statistics. It was clear he was creating offensive firepower in the passing game.”
“So to go play for him, to learn how he would think about how to attack a defense, to be kind of guided by him, it was an unbelievable experience. I think the way my brain works, not have a very strong arm, but a very accurate one, could make good, quick decisions, and it was just a perfect fit. Having a chance to play for him impacted the trajectory of my entire life.”
In a league what was essentially run, run, pass, punt, Spurrier’s innovative approach to running a college offense allowed for quarterbacks with decent arms that possessed incredible accuracy like Wuerffel to flourish. Of course, running a new-fangled offense in the tradition-laden SEC had its moments, the good and the not so good with plenty of hilarity along the way.
“In this game, it was actually a unique time,” said Wuerffel on the unique circumstances surrounding the rivalry when he played in it. “We didn’t play in Jacksonville. We played in Gainesville in 1994 and 1995 in Athens. And the Athens game stands out to me for a lot of different reasons. We beat them in their place and beat them pretty soundly.”
“One of my closest friends is Chris Doering and on one series in Athens, I threw him three touchdowns. I threw a touchdown, but there was a penalty. I threw the next one, there was a penalty. So I threw him a third one. So at that point, Kirby Smart wasn’t good at making adjustments.”
And while Wuerffel threw three touchdowns passes to SEC wide receiver icon Chris Doering on that particular drive to eventually hang half a hundred on the Dawgs at Sanford Stadium, he was quick to share another moment in which it didn’t go so well for him running the Fun ‘n Gun for Spurrier.
“I remember early on, I threw an interception in my career. I kind of thought it was the receiver’s fault because he ran the route incorrectly. So I was relieved when Coach Spurrier said when I got to the sideline, ‘Danny, it’s not your fault,’ but then he added, ‘It’s my fault for putting you in the game. You’re out!’ He’s funny, a funny guy.”
There is and there only ever will be one Head Ball Coach.
Danny Wuerffel looks ahead to the 2021 game between Florida and Georgia
In the 25 years since Wuerffel last played in this rivalry game, so much of the college football landscape has changed, yet the pure and undeniable hatred between Florida and Georgia remains. Florida might have three conference losses heading into the Jacksonville game, but anyone and everyone who follows this rivalry knows that you can never rule out either team in this contest.
“Yeah, we certainly had the two losses,” said Wuerffel. “Kentucky and LSU were unexpected and definitely left a bad taste in Gator fans’ mouths. But you know, this could be an incredible win. It would be a signature win for any program to beat this Georgia team. So I think that could really change things quickly.”
“But the challenge of being a coach at a school like Georgia or Florida or Alabama or LSU now is the ceiling is the standard. You want someone who is going to win a national championship. So I think that’s why to see some of the ways these last several games have gone have been very disappointing. But I’m really optimistic and supportive. I think we’ll get going in the right direction.”
Florida does have two excellent quarterbacks in Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. Then again, the same thing can be said for Georgia with Stetson Bennett and JT Daniels. But where No. 1 Georgia has the sizable advantage heading into Saturday’s massive rivalry game is they have a dark horse Heisman Trophy contender in 6-foot-6 defensive tackle Jordan Davis.
Here is what Wuerffel had to say about these five players of note heading into the big game.
“One, I’ve been very impressed with how they’ve supported one another,” said Wuerffel on the Florida quarterback room. “That’s not always the case. It’s a great sign of maturity. They’re both incredible athletes. They each bring a different type of skillset to the game in the way that they play.”
“I do think that Emory is an outstanding young man and a very solid quarterback. I think with Anthony Richardson as many people have noted has potentially an incredibly high ceiling. I think the way that he runs and the way that he sees the field, the way that he throws the ball. I haven’t seen enough of him to know for sure, but I do think that there’s potential for him to be a very special player down the field as well.”
As far as the Georgia quarterbacks are concerned, Wuerffel offered this after watching them from afar.
“Really haven’t gotten to watch it up close, but I do love the Stetson Bennett story,” said Wuerffel on the Georgia quarterbacks. “He’s not nearly the recruit people think. He’s not going to be the guy people want, but when he gets his chance, he just produces. He’s doing well. And I think what creates a little bit of a question mark is when JT Daniels gets healthy, who do you go with? So I think that will be interesting to see how that plays out.”
“In this day and age, one can always get hurt. So you have to hope you’ve got two guys who can play. And then secondly in this day and age, a lot of people transfer. So you gotta do your best to try to keep everybody there for the best of the team as well.”
Lastly, Wuerffel did offer some interesting insight into if a player like Davis has any outside shot of winning a Heisman Trophy. Wuerffel won his in 1996, but he remembers another lineman being up for it back in his day in the iconic Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace.
“Well, I remember my senior year, Orlando Pace was a finalist,” said Wuerffel on Davis’ Heisman candidacy. “He deserved to be and got a lot of attention. I think it’s good for college football and it’s good for the award for the voters to consider when you are saying the best player in college football, it shouldn’t necessarily preclude anyone.”
“So historically though, the flashier numbers, quarterbacks and running backs in particular usually win. So it’s a long shot, but somebody that’s that productive and that dominating, they get enough press at the right time, anything can happen.”
It is shaping up for what looks to be one incredible football party down in Jacksonville on Saturday.
Danny Wuerffel spoke with FanSided on behalf of The Desire Cup “Rivalry For A Cause” and Desire Street Ministries.
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