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A celebration of Spurrier upon his 75th birthday

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 21, 2020 at 1:30 PM

Steve Spurrier celebrated his 75th birthday Monday, so it seems an appropriate time to celebrate some of the legendary player and coach’s accomplishments on the football field.

Born in Miami, Spurrier grew up a minister’s son in East Tennessee. He became a great all-around athlete at Science Hill, where he excelled in football, basketball and baseball.

The Orlando Sentinel called him arguably the most influential and impactful sports figure in Florida state history. There’s little argument he’s the most impactful in Johnson City history.

He is most famous as the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner at Florida. Thirty years later, he became the first of the distinguished fraternity to coach another Heisman recipient, Danny Wuerffel. That was the same season Spurrier led his alma mater to its first national championship.

Here are some of Spurrier’s notable accomplishments.

FLORIDA’S NATIONAL TITLE

The Gators started out the 1996 preseason ranked No. 4 and looking for a fourth straight Southeastern Conference championship.

They finished No. 2 in the final AP poll for the 1995 season after losing 62-24 to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, the de facto national championship game.

Florida opened the 1996 season with blowout wins against Southwestern Louisiana and Georgia Southern, setting up a showdown with No. 2 Tennessee in Knoxville. The Gators jumped out to a 35-0 lead in the second quarter over the Peyton Manning-led Vols. Tennessee came back and scored its final touchdown with 10 seconds left, but Florida recovered the onside kick to win a 35-29 game.

The No. 1 Gators rolled through the SEC schedule, romping past LSU, Auburn and putting a 47-7 beatdown on rival Georgia. However, their national title hopes looked to be derailed with a 24-21 loss at No. 2 Florida State.

Wuerffel then threw six touchdowns in a 45-30 SEC championship game win over Alabama. Nebraska was upset in the Big 12 title game, setting up a Florida-FSU rematch in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators routed the Seminoles 52-20, outscoring them 28-3 in the second half.

1966 HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER

Spurrier was a two-time All-American at Florida, a second-teamer to Purdue’s Bob Griese on the AP team in 1965. Spurrier followed that up by leading the Gators to a 9-2 season in 1966. He threw for 2,012 yards and 16 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

After finishing ninth in the Heisman voting in 1965, Spurrier was in a tight race with Griese for the 1966 award. Many believe Spurrier clinched the award by kicking a game-winning, 40-yard field goal in a 30-27 victory over Auburn.

Spurrier threw for 259 yards that day, had a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and kicked two field goals. He also served as the team’s punter. His No. 11 jersey was retired after the 1966 season.

SCIENCE HILL STATE BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Spurrier has often called Science Hill’s back-to-back state baseball titles in 1962-63 the highlight of his athletic career.

The Hilltoppers won the 1962 state championship game 1-0 over Messick behind a two-hit shutout from pitcher Lonnie Lowe. Spurrier’s single that scored Tom Hager was the game’s only run.

A year later, Science Hill defeated Christian Brothers 7-5 for the title. Spurrier gave up only one earned run as the Hilltoppers overcame a bad fielding day with strong hitting. He had two hits and earned the win, moving his record to 7-0 on the season.

NFL QUARTERBACK WITH 49ers, BUCS

Spurrier was the third overall pick in the 1967 NFL draft and had a 10-year professional career.

He was unable to unseat John Brodie at quarterback with the 49ers but made the most of his limited opportunities, sporting a 13-12-1 record as the starter. His best season came in 1972 when he went 6-2-1 and led the 49ers to a playoff spot. Despite Spurrier leading the 49ers to a 31-10 win in their regular-season meeting, Brodie replaced him as starter for the playoff game against Dallas, a 30-28 Cowboys win.

Spurrier finished his career with the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976, going 0-12 as the starter. The team finished 0-14. He played in the 1977 preseason with Denver and then Miami before ending his career. As an NFL punter, Spurrier had a 38.3-yard average.

NFHS ATHLETICS HALL OF FAMER

A sought-after football recruit, Spurrier received a scholarship offer to play basketball at Tennessee under coach Ray Mears and was a two-time state champion in baseball. In 2016, he was inducted into the National Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame.

He was an All-America football player, led District 1 by averaging 22 points on the basketball court his senior season and compiled a 25-0 record as a pitcher.

His influence on Science Hill, where he was a member of the school’s inaugural athletics hall of fame class, continues to this day. The Hilltoppers’ starting QB wears the No. 11 jersey in Spurrier’s honor. The team plays at Kermit Tipton Stadium, named for Spurrier’s old coach, and the field itself is Steve Spurrier Field.

ALSO OF NOTE

Spurrier had a 10-year run at South Carolina, where he became the school’s all-time winningest coach with 86 victories. Included was three straight 11-win seasons from 2011-13. At Florida, he holds records for most coaching wins (122) and SEC championships (6).

Spurrier is one of only four people to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player and coach, an honor he shares with former Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee standout Bobby Dodd.

Spurrier won seven conference championships, including the 1989 Atlantic Coast Conference title at Duke, the Blue Devils’ first in 27 years and their last to date. A year later in his first season at Florida, the Gators went 6-1 but were ineligible for the SEC title. When he quit in 2015, Spurrier ranked second to Bear Bryant for most SEC victories as a coach.

His professional coaching career included two seasons with the Washington Redskins, yielding a 12-20 record. He posted a 35-21 record as coach of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits before the league dissolved in 1985.

In 2019, he coached the Orlando Apollos to a 7-1 record in the Alliance of American Football. They were later recognized as champions of the short-lived league.

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