Steve Spurrier is a man of many titles. The “Head Ball Coach” is the namesake of two football fields, a coaching award and a restaurant – Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille located at Celebration Pointe.
Not to mention he’s a national champion head coach, a six-time SEC champion, Heisman Trophy Winner, hall of fame player and coach and the winningest head coach at two different schools.
Now, he’s the namesake of a street in the town where his legendary college career began.
Spurrier — alongside family, friends, former players, coaches and other dignitaries — on Friday evening celebrated the renaming of SW 31st Place to Steve Spurrier Way outside of his restaurant.
“I appreciated the people here at Celebration Pointe for putting my name on the street. First time this has ever happened,” Spurrier said. “You’ve got to get approval. I found out from the county and state politicians. So, I appreciate them all doing it.“
Among the family members joining Spurrier was his wife Jerri, whom he met as a student at UF. Spurrier praised his wife, saying that he thought back then good things were going to happen because of her, and now they keep happening.
“If they had a football hall of fame for coaches’ wives, she would be on the first ballot,” Spurrier told the spectators.
Keynote speakers at Friday’s event included state Sen. Keith Perry, Florida Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella and Alachua County Commissioner Anna Prizzia.
Prizzia, who thanked Spurrier for his contributions to Florida football, also thanked him for his support for the Alachua County Sports and Events Center located at Celebration Pointe.
“We’re really, really excited to be a part of this,” DiBella told the crowd. “There is a very large facility that the county invested $30 million in so that we can spur economic development and tourism in our county. That project wouldn’t have been possible without the coach’s support.”
Spurrier spent 10 years in the NFL before retiring after the 1976 season. He entered the coaching ranks two years later as an assistant under Doug Dickey at Florida. Spurrier returned to Florida in 1990 as the head coach and brought the high-powered “Fun n’ Gun” offense with him. He remained in the position until the conclusion of the 2001 season.
Former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley was one of the keynote speakers at Friday’s ceremony and spoke of Spurrier’s hiring process while he was a senior associate athletic director.
“In that 12-year period, I was right there, watched what he did for this university, what he meant to this university,” Foley told the crowd of spectators. “He came in here, no excuses. Nothing except being committed to success.”
In 12 seasons, Spurrier posted a record of 122-27-1, making him the winningest head football coach in Florida football history. In 1996, he led the Gators to their first national championship. That season, quarterback Danny Wuerffel won the school’s second Heisman Trophy, making him the first Heisman Trophy winner to coach a Heisman Trophy winner.
“As far as I’m concerned, they can’t name enough things after Steve Spurrier,” said Buddy Martin, co-author of Spurrier’s autobiography “Head Ball Coach: My Life in Football, Doing it Differently – And Winning.”
Perry, a lifelong Gator fan who said he hasn’t missed a home game since 1979, said Spurrier’s impact goes much further than wins and losses.
“It’s really what you did with the players, what you do to the community and what you still do to the community,” Perry told Spurrier. “We are indebted to you.”
Among those in attendance were former players Wuerffel, Chris Doering and James Bates. Wuerffel and Doering even recreated the famed “Doering’s got a touchdown” play from 1993 that put Wuerffel on the map.
“It’s certainly a great and deserving honor for him,” Wuerffel said. “He has inspired and brought joy to so many Gator fans all over the world for so many years and impacted the lives of so many of his players.”
Bates, who is currently a UF professor, explained how much Spurrier meant to him and his career.
“It’s really special. He meant so much to me, and he meant so much to who I am and who I’ve become, whether it’s family, professionally, everything I’ve ever done,” Bates said. “I feel like I owe so much of it to him giving me an opportunity.”
After his midseason retirement from coaching in 2015, Spurrier joined the UF athletic department as an ambassador for the university in July 2016, and he’s remained there since.
Although the newly named Steve Spurrier Way is a huge honor, Spurrier explained that it isn’t his favorite thing named after him.
During the 2016 season-opener against Massachusetts, the university official unveiled the newly named “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.” Even with all the titles, and now a street bearing his name, having his name on the stadium where he starred as a player and coach will always be his favorite.
“My favorite thing, and always will be, is my name on The Swamp,” he said. “I went to school at Florida. I coached here for 12 years. We had a lot of success in the stadium there, and when the university put my name up there at The Swamp, that was number one. Bigger than the Heisman and everything.”