Gators to unveil Ring of Honor before game

GAINESVILLE, FL -- University of Florida fans attending Saturday's against Alabama are encouraged to be inside the stadium by 3:20 p.m. for a special ceremony honoring four Gator football legends as part of UF's celebration of 100 years of football. Fans should allow themselves 30 minutes prior to the ceremony to enter the stadium and avoid congestion at the gates.

The names of Gator legends Emmitt Smith, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Jack Youngblood will be unveiled on the Florida Football Ring of Honor in a special pre-game ceremony Saturday. The names, which will be approximately 18-feet wide and five feet high, will be displayed on the North Endzone facade, just below the Sunshine Seat area of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The announcement of the Ring of Honor was made Friday night at the Gator Gala at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Nearly 1,100 members of the Gator Nation celebrated 100 years of Florida football at the event, where it was announced that $6.1 million has been raised for the UF Athletic Endowment Fund from proceeds of the gala and other projects surrounding the centennial celebration.

"We're ecstatic with the fact that the amount raised at tonight's gala is the highest amount ever raised at the University of Florida from a single special event," said Danny Ponce, co-chairman of the Gator Gala. "These funds will have a significant, positive impact on this program for a long, long time." The Athletic Endowment Fund provides scholarships for current and future Gator student-athletes.

The gala, held at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, was attended by many former Florida football players and coaches, as well as UF President Bernie Machen, whom addressed the attendees.

"All of you here tonight represent the essence and spirit of the Gator Nation," said Machen. "Your support of tonight's event will be felt for many years to come."

The evening's festivities carried a "vintage black tie" theme with decorations and memorabilia from different eras of the past 100 years. The main floor of the O'Connell Center featured wall-to-wall carpeting, a canopy and thirty 20-foot Washingtonia Palm trees.

Musical entertainment was provided by Mr. Jack Daniel's Original Silver Cornet Band, Big Band Sounds of World War II, Flash Cadillac, and the Brenda Bayne Ensemble.

The night went a long way toward a goal of Stumpy Harris, gala committee member and chair of the capital campaign for UF Athletics. "Once all scholarships are endowed, not only will it secure our future, but it will free up the funds that will allow us to maintain the nation's best facilities, attract and retain the best coaches and recruit the best and brightest student-athletes," said Harris.

Biographical Information on Florida Ring of Honor Members:

EMMITT SMITH

A unanimous first-team All-America selection, Smith finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1989 and ninth in 1987…Three-time first-team All-Southeastern Conference pick…SEC Player of the Year in 1989… SEC Freshman of the Year in 1987...Will officially be enshrined at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., during ceremonies next summer…Broke 58 school records en route to rushing for 3,928 yards and 36 touchdowns in only three seasons as a Gator…Rushed for 1,599 yards and 16 scores as a junior…First-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 1990…Enjoyed 15 seasons in the NFL with the Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals...The NFL's all-time leading rusher with 18,355 career yards, 164 touchdowns and three Super Bowl rings…Led the NFL in rushing four times (1991-93, 1995) and rushing touchdowns three times (1992, 1994, 1995)…NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1993, the MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII and made eight Pro Bowls throughout his career…Rushed 71 times for 289 ! yards, caught 11 passes for 56 yards and scored five touchdowns in three Super Bowls...His five rushing touchdowns are a career Super Bowl record, and his 175 total touchdowns rank him second to only Jerry Rice's 207 scores…Sum of his rushing yards, receiving yards (3,224) and fumble return yards (-15), gave him a total of 21,564 yards from the line of scrimmage, making him one of only four players in NFL history to eclipse the 21,000-combined yards mark.

STEVE SPURRIER

The 1966 Heisman Trophy winner, Spurrier earned All-America status in 1965 and 1966 (unanimous) …Shattered every school record at the time for game, season and career in passing and total offense on his way to establishing numerous SEC marks…Completed 392 passes for 4,848 yards and 36 touchdowns in his UF career…With the deadline for the Heisman ballots looming, Spurrier booted a game-winning 40-yard field goal to defeat Auburn… Compiled a 122-27-1 record from 1990-2001, the most wins for a Gator coach in school history and a winning percentage (.817) that ranked among the top three in SEC history…The 1996 season saw the team reach the pinnacle of the college football world and capture its first-ever National Championship with a 52-20 win over rival Florida State in the Sugar Bowl… Led the Gators to six SEC titles (1991, 1993-96, 2000), second only to Paul "Bear Bryant," and was a three-time SEC Coach of the Year recipient…Only coach in SEC history, and one of only two coach! es in major college history, to lead a squad to six-straight seasons of 10 or more wins (1993-98) and is the only coach in SEC history… Achieved 100 career victories at Florida in a faster time period (10th season, eighth game) than any major college coach at a school in the 20th century…One of only five major college coaches in history and only the second in SEC annals, to lead a school to 100 wins during a decade (102-22-1 at UF from 1990-99)…Coached UF to back-to-back National Championship Game appearances (1995 and 1996) and his UF squads finished in the Top 10 of the polls nine times, including six times in the final top five… Became the first person to have both won a Heisman Trophy and to have coached a Heisman Trophy winner (Wuerffel in 1996).

DANNY WUERFFEL

Perhaps the most decorated player in Florida's football history, Wuerffel won the 1996 Heisman Trophy while quarterbacking the Gators to the consensus national championship…Led the Orange and Blue to four SEC titles and a pair of national championship games…Only Heisman Trophy recipient to receive the Draddy Scholarship Trophy, which is presented by the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame to the nation's top football scholar-athlete…First-team All-America selection in 1995 and 1996 and two-time recipient of the O'Brien National Quarterback of the Year Award in those same campaigns…Completed his Gator career completing 708 of 1,170 passes for 10,875 yards with 114 TD passes, best in SEC history and second-most in major college history…Career pass efficiency rating of 163.56 was the best in major college history and his percentage of passes which went for a TD (9.74) ranked first in collegiate history...In 1995, his efficiency rating of 178.4 set! a single-season collegiate record…During his Heisman-winning season of 1996, he completed 207 of 360 passes for 3,625 yards (an SEC record at the time) for 39 TDs (leading the nation and tops in SEC history) and his efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or better in back-to-back years…Named to the Gainesville Sun's UF Team of the Century in 1999 and was chosen the century's top Gator offensive player by that publication.

JACK YOUNGBLOOD

Regarded as best defensive end in Gator history...Named to All-SEC team for decade of the 1970's, he was a rugged competitor who went on to become an All-Pro star with the Los Angeles Rams after being a first-round draft selection in 1971... Participated in the 1971 Senior Bowl game and was chosen as the event's Most Outstanding Player…Was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992 and became the first player from Florida to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2001... After leading the team in with 66 tackles in 1969, he made All-America the following season and pulled off one of the greatest plays in Florida history... With the Gators trailing Georgia, 17-10, and the Bulldogs positioned on UF's 1-yard line, Youngblood stopped a UGA running back short of the goal line...Knocked the ball out of the player's grasp and recovered it as the Gators notched a come-from-behind 24-17 victory…The Rams' defensive captain, he was a three-time winner of the Dan Reeves ! Award given to that team's Most Valuable Player each season...Was All-Pro in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, and 1979 and All-NFC seven times...Played in seven-straight Pro Bowls following each season from 1973 to 1979…Rams played in five NFC championship games and advanced to Super Bowl XIV following the 1979 season…Suffered a fractured left fibula in a first-round playoff game that year…Was fitted with a plastic brace and he played every defensive down in both the NFC title game and Super Bowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers…Played in a Rams' record 201 consecutive games and only missed one game in 14 seasons, that one miss coming in his final year in 1984.


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