Living Legends: Where are they now?
What’s it like to have something alter the course of your life and not even realize it at the moment?
That’s what happened to what one of the greatest SEC legends of all time.
Danny Wuerffel had an unprecedented career at Florida under Steve Spurrier. He won the 1996 Heisman Trophy, two SEC Player of the Year honors and an unmatched four consecutive SEC championships. He holds the Florida records for passing yards and touchdowns.
After he left the Gators, however, life has continued to teach him lessons.
“There are so many things about life you learn and pick up and one that comes to mind is – I can just hear him right now [saying] ‘You’ve got to be flexible,'” Wuerffel said in an interview with USA TODAY last year. “You’ve got to be flexible, it might work now, might not work then … life throws a lot of punches and a lot of curve balls and we can’t get too attached to our plan or our agenda or expectations. Life can be really tough. You think you can control it, but we can’t. And just being flexible is a great lesson I learned from Coach Spurrier.”
One such curve ball for Wuerffel came after college. One of the most heralded college football players ever, Wuerffel was drafted in the fourth round by the New Orleans Saints in 1997. He never made it big in the league, however. He retired in 2004, having played for four teams and spent one season in Europe.
“It’s difficult to say goodbye to a dream, Wuerffel said in an interview with CBN.com. “At the same time, I’m thankful that I’m not leaving because I have to.”
He later joined a New Orleans faith-based charity called Desire Street Ministries. It works to improve some of the toughest inner city neighborhoods in America.
Just one year after joining Desire Street, though, both Wuerffel’s New Orleans home and the ministry’s headquarters were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He and his wife Jessica relocated to Niceville, Fla. where they opened a boarding school. Many of the families they worked with in New Orleans found their way to the school in Niceville. After the storm, Desire Street moved its headquarters to Atlanta, Ga. It partners with local ministries in New Orleans, Lakeland, Fla., Montgomery, Ala., and Dallas, Texas.
Last summer, Wuerffel was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted in a ceremony in New York City in December. He’s not new to awards and accolades. He is glad, however, that this one came later in life.
“I think one of the things about this that really, really is special to me that stands out now is that being at such a different point in my life, the ability to reflect, to experience it and to just really think about what this means has made this really unique,” Wuerffel said. “And I’m thankful that it didn’t happen 10 years ago or five years ago. That really makes this special.”
One of the reasons it was so special, and another of the aforementioned curve balls, is that Wuerffel has battled a nervous system disorder the past couple of years.
“What it takes for something like this to really become a reality is so, so far beyond anyone person or player,” he said. “And I’m thankful for the God-given ability, and I worked hard and I’m real proud of the things I did. But it’s very sobering thinking about the countless people – Coach Spurrier and my high school coach, all the teammates, trainers, strength staff, administration and the fans. Just to have the football program takes so many supporters … having gone through Hurricane Katrina and then my battle with Guillen-Barre, the way the Gator Nation has reached out and been encouraging in all the different ways, it’s been overwhelming many times in my life. I’m very thankful that I’m a Gator.”
Spurrier has become known throughout his career to yank quarterbacks at any moment. Wuerffel fell victim to that, but when he was put back in, never looked back.