GAINESVILLE, Fla. — SEC Country caught up with former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel on Tuesday for a Q&A covering his thoughts on the current Gators team, some reflections from his career and, of course, a few Steve Spurrier stories.
Wuerffel, who 20 years ago led the Gators to their first national championship and claimed the 1996 Heisman Trophy, is organizing his sixth annual Desire Cup golf tournament that ties in with the Florida-Georgia rivalry weekend later this month.
The “Rivalry for a Cause” event brings former Florida and Georgia players together in a Ryder Cup-style format at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on Oct. 28.
There are still spots for fans to join in and the proceeds raised go to benefit Wuerffel’s Desire Street Ministries, which works to help impoverished urban neighborhoods.
For more information on the event and how to get involved, visit www.desirestreet.org/desirecup.
In discussing the tournament, Wuerffel was also willing to reflect on his career, his ever-colorful Head Ball Coach and more. Without further ado, here is what the Florida legend had to say:
Q: How closely do you follow the Gators now?
Wuerffel: “Pretty much I stay connected with the Gators and follow what’s going on. I’m not nearly as dialed in to other teams as people think I am. People ask me my opinion on lots of stuff and I’m usually less informed than them, but I’m pretty up to speed on the Gators.”
Q: What are your impressions of Jim McElwain so far in his tenure as Florida’s coach?
Wuerffel: “I think he’s brought a really good vibe and energy. I think you combine great motivation and passion along with, I think he’s got a really good CEO mindset in terms of running the whole program. I’m really, really pleased with what he’s done so far and if we can stay healthy and improve on offense I think we’ll have really good program.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Florida’s quarterbacks this fall?
Wuerffel: “Luke Del Rio has been very impressive, for his determination, his grit and his mind for the game. I think it was a bummer for the progress of the team and him when he got hurt. I’m really grateful it seems that it was not as bad as it initially looked. Austin (Appleby) seems to be a really fine quarterback and has some maturity underneath him. He threw some really great deep balls at Tennessee early. He really didn’t get a chance to do much the rest of the game. He caught a lot of heat, but it was just the way the game unfolded. He didn’t play particularly great against Vanderbilt, but I think he’s got a lot of potential. Between those two I think we’re in great shape, but like others I’m looking forward to Del Rio getting back.”
Q: Why do you think Florida has struggled to find a quarterback since Tim Tebow?
Wuerffel: “Man, there’s so many things. You’ve had some injuries, which have really been unfortunate at key moments. I think you’ve had a lot of transition in the offensive system, and it’s just hard to get into a rhythm. A lot of complexities in why they’ve struggled, but I do think if Luke Del Rio can stay healthy he’ll do a lot of good things.”
Q: Where do you keep your Heisman Trophy?
Wuerffel: “Quick history story is fortunately for many years we left it at my parents’ house. Because when we lived in New Orleans, everything in our home got ruined by (Hurricane) Katrina. I was driving out of town with my (family) and got a call from Coach Spurrier. He was making sure we were all right and he wanted to make sure I didn’t leave my trophy behind. So he was coaching me up even back then. So it’s back home and it’s in a place where my wife and kids, whatever we’re proud of, can be put up. It’s like a family trophy space.”
Q: Aside from the national championship and SEC championships, what regular-season game do you think back on most?
Wuerffel: “Man, there’s a lot of games that stand out. One real signifiant moment was the actual first game I played much in. That was against Kentucky my freshman year. Despite our team throwing 7 interceptions and me throwing 3, I still got to be in at the end and threw the game-winning touchdown to one of my best friends Chris Doering and that was a key moment for me. It’s kind of like bookends, my first and my last were really special games. Sometimes I wake up and wonder if my life was an amazing dream or some movie.”
Q: What was your favorite place to play on the road?
Wuerffel: “That’s a great question. None of them were super exciting just because they were so difficult. I do definitely remember my senior year going to Tennessee and they had the span of their stadium, it was the most ever to watch a game. And playing against Peyton (Manning), and Lee Corso predicted whoever won the game would win the Heisman and the national championship. It was just a really intense environment. Fortunately, we jumped up (35-0) and that really helps.”
Q: Before the national championship game against Florida State, having lost to FSU already that season, what did Spurrier say to the team?
Wuerffel: “The biggest thing that happened, a lot of people don’t recall, but Coach Spurrier was not a fan of the shotgun offense back then. He felt like it disrupted the timing and other things so we never ran the shotgun much at all. That first game at Florida State they just beat the crap out of us so much so we made that adjustment and (the shotgun made a difference). That was a huge coaching adjustment that I remember.
“I also remember when we were here in Atlanta in a hotel downtown for the SEC championship game we were riding up the elevator after a meeting. The door opened and there were a bunch of our teammates screaming and running through the hallway and Coach Spurrier got so upset because they weren’t (taking it serious). They said, ‘Coach, we just found out Texas beat Nebraska!’ And Coach Spurrier started jumping up a little because that opened a spot for us.”
Q: With Coach Spurrier back at Florida as an ambassador now, a lot of Spurrier stories are being retold this fall. What is your go-to story?
Wuerffel: “I remember early on I threw an interception and I thought maybe the receiver had run the wrong route so I didn’t know if Spurrier was going to be mad at me or the receiver. He said, ‘Oh Danny, it’s not your fault; it’s my fault for putting you in there.’ That’s a memorable line that some of the players will share. He tries to deny that he said that.”