Steve Spurrier has been a man that has lived life on his own terms and he further added to that notion last week when he decided to walk away from college football. For the past 11 years, Spurrier has been the head football coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, but now he feels that it is time to give someone else a chance to be in charge in Columbia. Spurrier took the South Carolina football program to new heights on his watch there, but that is only a small portion of his impact to college football.
From 1963-1966, Spurrier played quarterback for the University of Florida Gators and in 1966, he became the first player in school history to win the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top football player. In 1967, Spurrier was the third overall pick of the National Football League Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Spurrier spent the majority of his 10-year NFL career as a backup quarterback, but afterwards he would find his true calling in coaching.
In 1978, Spurrier’s alma mater came calling as he became the quarterbacks coach at Florida. But after one year at Florida, Spurrier would leave for the same position with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. And after spending the following three years as the offensive coordinator for the Duke University Blue Devils, Spurrier would get his first crack at being a head coach when he was the man in charge of the Tampa Bay Bandits in the United States Football League. In three years in the USFL, Spurrier would compile a record of 35-19 and he showed that he was more than ready to be the man in charge.
After the United States Football League folded in 1986, Spurrier would return to the collegiate ranks in 1987 when he became the head football coach at Duke. And by 1989, Spurrier had Duke ranked in the Associated Press’ Top 25 for the first time since 1971. But in 1990, Spurrier received an offer that he could not refuse when he returned to Florida to be the head football coach and thus the legend was born.
When Spurrier came to Gainesville, Florida was a mediocre football program that was coming off of four consecutive years without finishing in the top 25. But by Spurrier’s first season at Florida, they finished the season ranked 13th in the nation with a record of 9-2. Spurrier brought his “fun and gun” offense to Florida which had the quarterback playing mainly out of the shotgun and slinging the football all over the football field. And in each year that Spurrier was at Florida, the team finished no lower than 13th in the top 25.
During Spurrier’s time at Florida, the Gators were one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference; mainly the SEC East. The Gators would win the SEC East in each of its first five years of existence while participating in the SEC Title Game seven times and winning the conference crown five times. Spurrier’s domination of the SEC over this era mainly came at the expense of the Tennessee Volunteers, Georgia Bulldogs, and Alabama Crimson Tide.
After Spurrier lost his first contest against Tennessee, the Gators would win seven of their next eight against the Volunteers. The winner of this game typically won the SEC East which led Spurrier to claim that “you can’t spell Citrus without UT”. This was a play by Spurrier on the fact that the loser of the game between Florida and Tennessee typically finished second in the SEC East which resulted in a trip to the Citrus Bowl. Prior to Spurrier taking over at Florida, the Gators were 5-15 in their last 20 meetings with Georgia. But Spurrier would change things rather quickly as Florida only lost to Georgia once on his watch. And in the first five editions of the SEC Championship Game, Florida would clash with Alabama four times. After ‘Bama won the first edition of the title game which was played at historic Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, the Gators would own the series once it moved to the Georgia Dome.
In 2002, Spurrier shocked the football world when he resigned at Florida in favor of the National Football League where he became the head coach of the Washington Redskins. In Spurrier’s first game with the Redskins, they piled up more than 500 yards, but that was a brief mirage. In two seasons with the Redskins, Spurrier compiled a record of 12-20 as the NFL was too big for him. In the NFL, Spurrier relied too much on his system as he brought in some of his former quarterbacks at Florida that included Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. Spurrier also missed on his first round selection in 2002 when he chose quarterback Patrick Ramsey who in seven NFL seasons, was only able to compile a record of 10-14.
But it didn’t take Spurrier that long to get the itch to coach once again when he became the head football coach at South Carolina in 2005. Spurrier was able to add to what Lou Holtz had done before him at Columbia as he led the Gamecocks to three consecutive 11-win seasons along with three consecutive top 10 finishes which were both firsts for the school. And just like Spurrier did at Florida and with the Redskins, he walked away from South Carolina in a shocking way, without much fanfare which is surprising for a man that has meant so much to football.
Spurrier has always been a reporter’s dream while he’s been known to rile up fan bases from rival schools. During Spurrier’s time at Florida, he was known to get under the skin of the Florida State Seminoles, along Tennessee and Georgia.
But after having more downs the ups against Florida State, Spurrier was finally able to get the best on the Seminoles in the 1997 Sugar Bowl when the Gators defeated their in-state rivals from the north to claim the school’s first national title. And just like he did at Florida, Spurrier took South Carolina to new levels which included winning the SEC East in 2010 for the first and only time in school history.
Spurrier has sent his fair share of players onto the National Football League that includes former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor who is the franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards as he played for Spurrier at Florida. Wide receiver Ike Hilliard would also play for Spurrier at Florida and he went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now Hilliard himself has gotten into coaching as he is the wide receivers coach for the Redskins. And at South Carolina, Spurrier’s name brought recruits to the school with included Houston Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney who was the first player to play for the Gamecocks to become the first overall pick of the NFL Draft since George Rogers in 1981.
Spurrier is not officially retiring, but when you’re 70-years of age like he is, he appears ready to work on his golf game while he has all of the smarts and charisma to become a color analyst on a network. Football runs through the veins of Spurrier and he’s given more to the game than he has received.
Source: Sports-reference.com. Pro-football-reference.com