Advertisement
  1. Archive

WUERFFEL & DUNN // No chance of this nice guy finishing last

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, on a ceremonious night at the Downtown Athletic Club, Wuerffel accepted the award given to college football's best player _ a statue 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 _ Jon and Lola Wuerffel, whom he went to as soon as his name was called for a family hug _ 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 that kids dream about."

Wuerffel won the award exactly 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 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.

"I came to Florida knowing that I would be learning from the best offensive coach in the country," senior quarterback Brian Schottenheimer said, "but I didn't know I would get to learn from the best offensive player in college football history."

Wuerffel holds 45 records: three with the NCAA, 12 with the Southeastern Conference and 32 at the University of Florida. But his legacy likely will not be numerical.

"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."

Wuerffel's most famous pose is not a mimmick of the Heisman Trophy, but a gentle gesture: the clasping of his hands in praise after each touchdown pass.

"It's my humble way of saying thanks," Wuerffel said.

Soft-spoken and even-keeled, Wuerffel was as unflappable on the field as off. He did not wallow in interceptions any more than he celebrated touchdowns.

"He's pretty much always on an even keel," senior offensive lineman Donnie Young said. "When he throws a touchdown pass _ you've seen him on TV _ he just puts his hands together. That's about as high as he gets.

"If we get in a tight situation he'll say we've got to take the ball down and score, but he's not yelling and screaming. With Danny, shoot, you'd think you're on vacation."

And that is by design.

"I try to be very consistent in my life both on and off the football field," Wuerffel said. "I try not to get too up or down. If things are going well, you can't lose sight of what still needs to be done.

"If things aren't going well, you have to keep pushing, keep trying and keep thinking they'll eventually work out. In life, it's how well you bounce back from things that really determines the kind of person you are."

The first quarterback to play a major role in four SEC titles, Wuerffel was most impressive when the stakes were highest. In 18 games against ranked teams, he threw for 5,377 yards and 53 touchdowns and a 58 percent completion percentage.

Funny throwing motion, and all.

"People often look past those intangible things that a person has," sophomore running back Terry Jackson said. "But I think the intangible things are sometimes the most important. We always seem to come out on top with Danny."

When the country went in search of its best player, Wuerffel came out on top.

"Some day, when it's all over," Wuerffel said, "I'll look back on what I've accomplished and I'm sure it will be special."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement