GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Steve Spurrier last coached the Gators 12 years ago, the same number of seasons he spent as Florida’s head coach from 1990-2001.
Still, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner and current South Carolina coach’s shadow will always loom over The Swamp. Spurrier led the Gators to their first national championship in 1996 while re-energizing a football program and fan base with his Fun ‘N’ Gun offense and famous quips.
Spurrier’s place in Florida history — the state, not the school — added another distinction Thursday when Gov. Rick Scott designated Spurrier a “Great Floridian” during a ceremony at the F Club inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The “Great Floridian” honor is given in recognition of the outstanding achievements of men and women who have made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida.
Former UF quarterback Tim Tebow last month joined the exclusive club, which prior to this year included only 66 honorees since the honor was established in 1981.
Spurrier fits right in. He was born in Miami Beach and grew up in Tennessee. When it was time for college, Spurrier moved back to the Sunshine State and became the first Gator to win the Heisman.
He remained the program’s only Heisman winner for 30 years until quarterback Danny Wuerffel won the award during the Gators’ national championship season in 1996 under Spurrier’s tutelage.
While Spurrier now coaches at an SEC East rival, he maintains close ties to the UF community and, along with Tebow and Wuerffel, has a bronze statue outside The Swamp in his honor.
Adding to Spurrier’s legacy at UF, Spurrier coined the nickname of the Gators’ home when he returned to his alma mater as head coach.
As for the process of being named a “Great Floridian,” the Secretary of State selects no fewer than two “Great Floridians” from nominees made by a committee representing the Governor (1), each member of the Florida Cabinet (3), the President of the Senate (1), the Speaker of the House (1), and the Florida Secretary of State (1).