From a Heisman Trophy campaign as a quarterback in 1966 to coaching the Gators to the program's first national championship in 1996, the legacy of Steve Spurrier at Florida is well known -- at least to those 25 or older.
You might remember his playing days or know him as the head ball coach or the old ball coach, that tormented man who just couldn't keep his visor on his head for a whole game. But do today's players even know about all of his history at Florida? Current Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel said he's not sure he even remembers watching Spurrier's Gators as a kid.
"I don’t think so. I think I was more worried about cartoons at that time," he said. "But you see the film of him being a Gator coach and you see his visor and stuff like that. I was too young for that. I wasn’t a football fan at that time."
With Saturday's game marking the fourth time Spurrier has returned to play against the Gators in Gainesville, do people even care? Is it still a storyline? (Feel free to tell me your opinion in the comments below.)
However you feel about it, Spurrier is coming back on Saturday to the place he helped build. When Spurrier's team from South Carolina comes into The Swamp to play his former team, the Gamecocks will be playing in a stadium he named. Spurrier christened Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with its current nickname.
After losses in his first two return trips to Gainesville, Spurrier and the Gamecocks clinched the Southeastern Conference East division in The Swamp in November of 2010. South Carolina has won two straight in the series for the first time since the 1930s.
But both Spurrier and Florida coach Will Muschamp have said that the "Return of Spurrier" is much more of a story for the media and fans than the players.
"I think so," Muschamp said when asked Wednesday. "Kids nowadays, it's a lot different than when I grew up. I was glued to the T.V. set or I was sitting at Florida Field when I was growing up and watching the players and the coaches. Nowadays, they've got so much stuff going on in their lives. ... It's a little different in that there's a lot of distractions other than just watching college football. That's what me and you did growing up. Sometimes, it's amazing the football IQ now of the some of the young men we get that are advanced more from a football standpoint. It's kind of shocking."
Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said he wasn't sure whether or not players are aware of everything Spurrier accomplished at the school.
"I think they respect what he’s done here," Pease said. "He’s probably been gone for a while."
Because they coached against each other, Pease said he has followed Spurrier's career. He also knows Spurrier's son, Steve Jr., who earned a graduate degree at Florida.
"We totally respect what he’s done," Pease said. "He’s a great player and a legend here — winning a Heisman. Our players are aware of that. They understand that."
But Spurrier said he thinks his return isn't a big deal at all.
"I don’t think it’s much of a storyline now that it’s eight years we’ve gone to play each other and fourth time I’ve been down there coaching," he said. "I guess it is a little unusual to be on the other team when you come into the ball park and your name is on the wall up there, but I think everybody handles it very well. It’s our team against their team. This is a game between the players. Us coaches, we just try to direct them a little bit, but these players are pretty much going to decide who wins this thing."
However, Spurrier also admitted that Florida, as well as Duke and now South Carolina, will always mean a lot to him.
"Florida is always going to be my school. I love Florida," Spurrier said Tuesday. "My wife, my daughter and even Steve (Spurrier) Jr. got a graduate degree from there. We're Gators, but we're Gamecocks now. When my coaching days are over, I'll be more of a Gator then. I'm a Gamecock now and this is our team. ... When I get through coaching I'll be Duke, Florida and South Carolina. I'll have feelings for all three schools."
Of course, he couldn't lay it on the Gators too thick. A fan base in Columbia, S.C. wouldn't like that.
"I hope the Gators finish second in the East this year," Spurrier said. "That would be a good finish for them. Hope we finish first."
So what do you think? Is it a big deal? If so, should it make any difference to the players? Or is it just for the fans and hacks like me?
Here's any remaining quotes about Spurrier from Florida's players and coaches:
WR Frankie Hammond
Was it tough watching South Carolina and Spurrier celebrate on Florida field two years ago after clinching the SEC East…
"It was tough. They’re a great football team and we’ve got another opportunity coming up. We’ve got all of this week to prepare and we’re going to prepare and get ourselves ready for the game."
Does it make a difference that Spurrier is on the other sideline…
"With him being an alumni from here and basically all of the great accolades with the Heisman and everything and championships he’s done for this university, it’s definitely a certain type of, you feel a certain type of way. But hey, we’ve got to prepare, and we’ve got to somehow get it done, so."
LB Jon Bostic
"I know he's always
one of those guys, he likes to air it out. He can draw up a lot of
different things and give a defense headaches. We got to make sure we're
on our keys. We're playing smart.
Everybody's eyes are in the right place."
Thoughts on his stature at UF and the state?
"I know a lot of people, they like him around here. He's been here a while. He's won a championship here, too. So a lot of guys are probably excited for him to come back and want to get a win just as much as we do."
DT Omar Hunter
Do you think Spurrier's mystique still hangs over UF?
"Oh, yeah. Definitely. Coach Spurrier, he's a legend in Gainesville. Some of the older guys, like a few coaches that we have played under him, coach Spurrier. They're very excited with him coming back into town. I know a lot of guys really pumped up for that."
QB Jeff Driskel
Thoughts on Spurrier?
"He’s definitely a Gator great. I drive by his statue every day. But it’s not really anything that’s going to bother us. All of our players here didn’t play for him or weren’t here when he was around. So it’s definitely a media-type and fan buildup thing. It’s definitely bigger for the media and the fans."
Are there some players who don’t realize Spurrier was coach here?
"I don’t know. I don’t think so. It’s hard to miss the statue. It’s hard to miss a guy that named our stadium what it’s called. But like I said, I don’t think we’re too worried about it. But I think they know that he coached here."
Is this game bigger for Muschamp because it's Spurrier?
“I don’t think so. The whole team you just have to take it one game at a time and you can’t get caught up in the hype. It’s another SEC game. We’re going to have to play well to win and we’re going to have to practice well to win.”
HC Will Muschamp
"Obviously coach Spurrier winning a Heisman Trophy here and his 12 years as head coach here and his 12 y ears as head coach here probably will never be repeated. You look at six SEC titles and the 1990 season had the best record in the SEC, national championship, and really put Florida on the map as far as winning championships in football. I’ve asked him before why it didn’t happen before and he never gives me a good reason, but he just did a phenomenal job here as the head football coach. And a guy that’s very well respected and a guy that I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for."
Does your history as Gator fan mean this game and the opportunity to beat Spurrier means more to you?
“Not really. I mean, at the end the day, we're about winning championships on and off the field here at Florida. And it's another step to Atlanta. That's the way I look at it. But I knew about him winning the Heisman Trophy, not just being a Florida fan but being an SEC fan. And then the job he did as coach here was pretty amazing.”
What has been Steve Spurrier's stamp on the SEC?
"Well, you know, honestly, being an SEC guy growing up in this part of the country and being a huge fan of the Southeastern Conference, there are really two coaches that come to the forefront of your mind as far as what they've done for this league, and that's Bear Bryant and Steve Spurrier for winning, bringing championships to the University of Florida and understanding what that's about. But those would the two guys that would, you know, jump out in my mind. That's just personally my opinion. You look at what he did when he came to our league. It was more of a 'three yards and a pile of dust' league, and he came in and spread the ball out a little bit. He was credited with throwing the ball a bunch, but they were 50-50. They ran the ball extremely well when he was here. But it became a little more of a throwing league and changed things defensively. It helped advance this league from an offensive mindset, in my opinion.Again, that's my opinion. Those would be the two guys that jump out to me as coaches in this league that for a long period of time had tremendous success."