Steve Spurrier Looks at 70

Posted at 1:25 pm on 06/25/2015 by Buddy Martin

By Buddy Martin April 18, 2015

Here’s a little birthday gift for you Spurrier fans: The guy you think is arrogant, feisty, controversial and difficult is, in private, quite humble, gracious and appreciative of those who helped him get where he is now.

Steve Spurrier is pretty much like he was at 60 and a lot like he was at 50. Older, wiser and just as motivated to win.

We almost lost him last year. When South Carolina was beaten by Tennessee, the Gamecocks’ fourth defeat in five weeks, the confident, cocky one began to have doubts and considered retiring.

Then he heard a Taylor Swift song, “Shake It Off,” and it inspired him to do just that. He announced that revelation to his staff and players. The Gamecocks won three of their last four, beating Miami in Shreveport and winding up with a 7-6 record, a winning season for the 10th time in Spurrier’s 10 years.

After what he called “a pretty good year, but not a great year” last season, The Head Ball Coach now comes out swinging on his 70th birthday which falls on Monday.

In fact, he chastised the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum for having a guest on who called it a “terrible year” for Spurrier. “Down here we don’t call that a terrible year,” said Spurrier. “A few years ago they went 0-11. That’s a TERRIBLE year!”

Happy Birthday to South Carolina’s Head Ball Coach, a national treasure to coaching and college football.

And never mind the jokes about him being born on the same day as Hitler, Napoleon and rapper Killer Mike.

I loved that he allowed somebody to film him shirtless, working out, headband strapped on, sweating, grinding and staying true to his six-times-a-week workout routine.

“It’s not about age,” Spurrier insists. “It’s about your health.”

And your record.

He is proudest of the fact that he is the only guy in America who coached at least a decade at two schools and became the winningest coach at both places.

FYI, Spurrier’s 25-year college record is 226-85-2 for .725 percent. The secret to his success? “Keep on playing and something good will happen,” is his favorite halftime speech.

Here’s a little birthday gift for you Spurrier fans: The guy you think is arrogant, feisty, controversial and difficult is, in private, quite humble, gracious and appreciative of those who helped him get where he is now.

In fact, Spurrier was more like The Accidental Head Ball Coach who showed up at Florida Field in 1978 after getting traded, cut and rejected by four different NFL teams, not really knowing for sure what he would do with his life. After seeing Doug Dickey’s team play in the stadium he would later name “The Swamp,” Spurrier wondered if he could be a coach.

A Tampa lawyer friend interceded by calling Dickey, Steve was hired and became an assistant with on-the-job training at Florida first, Georgia Tech second and, finally, at Duke, where he earned his wings as a play caller and play-calling prodigy.

So often in conversation, Spurrier goes back to his roots at Duke where as quarterback coach he was allowed to flex his cerebral muscle and test drive the early model of the Fun ‘N Gun which he would deploy in Gainesville to help win Florida’s first national championship.

“Duke gave me a chance when nobody else would,” he said. And from there he was launched to stardom, becoming The Head Ball Coach of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits. And after the USFL folded, he went back to Durham as the Blue Devils' Head Ball Coach. But it was during his time under a man named Red Wilson that he formulated his offense and learned guidelines for being a coach.

“One of my favorite quotes was given to me by Red, who did not write it but often quoted it,” said Spurrier. “Red also handed me a sheet of guidelines for football coaches, as well as a list of Winners and Losers. One of my favorites was:

“A Winner says ‘There ought to be a better way to do it.’

“A Loser says, ‘That’s the way it’s always been done here.’”

Although Paul Anka wrote the song for Frank Sinatra, “I Did It My Way” it could also be Spurrier’s.

He won six SEC titles at Florida and completely changed offenses in the league. He wore a visor, not a cap, and now about a third of all coaches wear them. He fired off some juicy quotes, didn’t rely on CoachSpeak and maybe has provided more entertainment value than any coach in college football.

So how else did you expect him to approach his 70th birthday?

Why, working out with 41-year-old Josh Kendall of The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., which is what he did Tuesday. And smoked him.

Kendall wrote in the State:

“At least they changed the music. That’s about the only thing that went right for me. Not that they changed it for me. Just a lucky break, and the only one I would get for the next hour.

“The music in South Carolina’s weight room changes every time Steve Spurrier walks in to work out – from whatever it is college kids listen to, to a station playing country music. When Spurrier and I walked in Tuesday morning, the play list was heavy with Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, etc. The music of my youth, in other words.

“Backing up a moment… Spurrier will turn 70 on Monday …

“I consider myself in average shape for a 41-year-old man but only because the competition is not stout in a country where 70 percent of adults over the age of 20 are overweight and 35 percent are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I kept pace with Spurrier for a while but eventually he outlasted me in a series of low-weight, high-repetition lifts.

“It makes me feel only slightly better that Spurrier figures he’s in better shape now than he was when he won the Heisman Trophy in 1966,” said Kendall.

I’d say that sends a very powerful message to those who might be entertaining the idea that Spurrier is going to fade away anytime soon.

How long will The Head Ball Coach actually coach? Spurrier says he’ll go another “four or five years” and if he sticks to that he’ll still come in under two of the grand ol’ men of coaching. And without being fired – something that has always been a badge of honor for Spurrier. Although he did walk away from the richest contract in football history when he left the Redskins with three years left on a $25 million contract.

Bobby Bowden coached until just a few weeks before his 80th birthday, when president T.K. Wetherell had to fire him. Joe Paterno was canned at age 84 by Penn State.

For years Spurrier has carried with him some principles of success which his wife Jerri found a long time ago in Success Magazine written by Dr. Charles Garfield, who studied human behavior for 16 years and talks about characteristics and traits of peak performers – highly successful people.

“The most interesting thing he said was,” said Spurrier, “is almost anyone can acquire these traits.”

So he wrote them down, tried to acquire them and teach his assistant coaches the same.

1. Attitude.
2. No excuses.
3. Be responsible for your actions.
4. Effort.
5. Courage.
6. Determination.
7. Preparation.
8. Creative risks.
9. New ideas.
10. Bouncing back from adversity. Persistence.  Never, ever give up.

If you’ve followed Steve Spurrier since he started coaching in 1978, you know he has stayed true to those principles. I especially like 8, 9 and 10. And I expect them to surface this season when Steve starts his 11th at South Carolina, a distant second to Paul “Bear” Bryant in SEC wins. But never to be counted out.

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