There were those who said Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel didn't deserve the Heisman Trophy, that he merely was the stiff-armed product of a pass-happy system.
Well, Saturday night at the Downtown Athletic Club, Wuerffel accepted the award given to college football's best player _ a trophy frozen in a stiff-arm _ and, of all things, tried to hand it off.
To his teammates.
To his coaches.
To his family.
To his savior.
"I first and foremost just want to give all the glory and praise to God," Wuerffel said in his acceptance speech. "He is the rock upon which I stand. And I accept this award on behalf of my teammates. If you guys are watching, I hope you guys have a sense of accomplishment because this is as much you as me."
Wuerffel also recognized his parents _ John and Lola Wuerffel, whom he went to for a family hug as soon as his name was announced _ and the Florida coaching staff.
"It seems like everything is going in slow motion," Wuerffel said. "It's hard to comprehend. It's an incredible feeling. It's hard to let it all settle in, but this is the award you heard about when you were little and kids dream about."
Wuerffel won 1,363 to 1,174 over Iowa State junior running back Troy Davis, the first player in NCAA history to have consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons. Wuerffel received the most first-place votes _ 300 _ but was left off 315 of the 920 ballots.
Of the six voting regions, Wuerffel won the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and South; finished second in the Southwest and Midwest; and third in the Far West. Davis won the Southwest and the Midwest.
Arizona State senior quarterback Jake Plummer finished third (685 points); Ohio State offensive lineman Orlando Pace, the first at his position to contend for the Heisman, fourth (599); and Florida State running back Warrick Dunn fifth (341).
"Everybody knew Danny was going to win this," said Pace, surprised Wuerffel was left off so many ballots. "If you didn't, you were a fool."
Wuerffel won the award 30 years after Florida coach Steve Spurrier, architect of the Fun 'n' Gun system in which Wuerffel has flourished, and the first Heisman winner to coach a Heisman winner.
"Danny has certainly had a remarkable four years at Florida," said Spurrier, a senior quarterback for the Gators when he won in 1966. "It's been unbelievable."
Wuerffel finished his statistical career _ NCAA records do not include bowl games _ as the most efficient passer in Division I-A history with a 163.6 rating. He is fifth on the all-time passing yardage list (10,875) and second in touchdown passes (114).
This season, he threw for 3,625 yards and a nation-best 39 touchdowns.
Wuerffel holds three NCAA records, 12 Southeastern Conference records and 32 University of Florida records. The first quarterback to play a major role in four SEC titles, he has been most impressive in Florida's biggest games.
Wuerffel has played 18 games against ranked teams, throwing for 5,377 yards and 53 touchdowns and a 58 percent completion percentage. Against five ranked teams this season, Wuerffel threw for 1,541 yards, 19 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 166.34 efficiency rating.
He has one big game left: Third-ranked Florida (11-1) plays No.
1 Florida State (11-0) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan.
2, a game that potentially could decide the national championship.
"Danny's very deserving of the award," senior offensive lineman Donnie Young said. "He's the best athlete in the nation, and I'm here blocking for him. I'm honored that he won."
Wuerffel spent the week touring awards shows.
In New York on Tuesday, he collected the Draddy Scholarship Tropy and $25,000 in post-graduate money. In Orlando on Thursday he added the Davey O'Brien Award for the nation's top quarterback, the Maxwell Award for the top player, and the Honda Scholar Athlete Award. In Louisville on Friday he picked up the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for the nation's top senior quarterback.
At each, the theme was the same: Wuerffel giving praise and thanks to others _ sincerely.
"There are givers and takers in this world, and Danny is a giver," said UF offensive line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens, Wuerffel's coach at Fort Walton Beach High.
"I don't think Danny could have an enemy. What Danny is as a person is what makes him a player. He is as quality a character and individual as I've ever been associated with as a coach. There is nothing phony about him."
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Danny Wuerffel, Florida 300 158 147 1,363
Troy Davis, Iowa State 209 206 135 1,174
Jake Plummer, ASU 116 113 111 685
Orlando Pace, Ohio St. 87 101 136 599
Warrick Dunn, FSU 40 76 69 341
B. Hanspard, Tex Tech 15 68 70 251
D. Autry, N'western 9 19 20 85
Peyton Manning, Tenn. 4 23 23 81
Marcus Harris, Wyo. 7 7 18 53
Beau Morgan, Air Force 3 3 11 26
In the history of major college football, Danny Wuerffel ranks:
First in career pass efficiency _ 163.6.
First in touchdown-to-interception ratio _ 2.71.
Second in career TD passes _ 114.
Third in yards per completion _ 15.36.
Fifth in passing yardage _ 10,875.
Year Att. Cp. Yds. Pct. INT TD
1996 360 207 3,625 57.5 13 39
Career 1170 708 10,875 60.5 42 114