I remember walking across the Plaza of America’s on the Florida campus and looking up into the eastern sky and seeing the Space Shuttle Challenger explode. I was working as a front end manager at Publix Supermarkets on September 11, 2001 when news came out that hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers in New York City. I remember going home for an early lunch and being horrified at what I was watching on the news.
Don’t take offense to this, but another one of those moments I will never forget is when I found out Steve Spurrier resigned as the head coach at Florida.
It was likely a little different situation for me than most as I was also a part-time employee with the football staff at the time. My job at Publix was my bread winner if you will, I was trying to work my way through management after finally getting my degree.
That early January day in 2002, I was working the front end of the store when news came down that Spurrier was resigning and moving on. I am not going to lie… this big man shed a tear or two.
Those that were into it back then remember talk of the resignation happening before it actually did. The local newspaper actually ran a resignation story years earlier only to be debunked. But man, when it finally happened, I bet I wasn’t the only one reading this that shed those tears.
In his time at Florida, Spurrier meant so much. As a player, he won ball games miraculously. As the starting quarterback he was called on to kick the game winning field goal against Auburn in his Heisman Trophy winning season (1966).
As a coach he revolutionized SEC football turning it from a ground-and-pound or chuck-and-duck league to a conference that better learn how to defend the pass or you were going to lose by 50.
He darn near picked Gainesville off the canvas when the student murders of 1990 were upon us. That was the year Spurrier was hired, but also the year that Danny Rolling went on a killing spree in Gainesville horrifying everyone within its boundaries and sending many students home because of the terror.
With all of that going on, Spurrier started with a bang and with the Big Eight’s Oklahoma State in Gainesville to play for the head coach’s debut, he put a 50-7 knot on the Cowboys’ heads.
Spurrier put an end to the term “wait till next year”, a common phrase for Gator fans who waited forever to win an SEC Title and didn’t one that the league honored until he guided them to six of them in his term as coach at Florida.
The Fun-n-Gin was such a glorious time of Gator football. A new era and swagger came to Gator Nation. The stadium was renamed The Swamp. Another Heisman Trophy winner played under the man. Several passing records were set that we thought would never be broken.
The man came home to his Alma Mater to coach and as a Gator you just hoped and thought it wouldn’t end until he was too old to do it anymore.
But that day came and it was one of the hardest days to take as a Gator ever.
That is why his third round as a Gator just needed to happen. Steve Spurrier is coming home. The guy that left to coach a SEC East opponent and still was never disliked by Gators is back where he belongs and the best fit for what he is going to be doing.
As an ambassador, he will be asked to raise money for the Gators. It is an area that hasn’t lived up to its end of the bargain in recent years and one that Spurrier can likely turn into a real positive. He will also be on hand when current head coach Jim McElwain or offensive coordinator may want to pick his offensive brain one way or another.
Is there any doubt that he won’t succeed in this job like he has in his previous two at Florida? I have none.
On September 3, 2016 the Gators will officially celebrate the re-naming of Florid Field to include Steve Spurrier’s name on it. As a member of the media, I will be wearing my visor that day. I can imagine 90,000 others will be doing the same.