It’s a big day today because the greatest Gator of them all is celebrating his 75th birthday. I thought about getting him a birthday present, but, seriously, what do you get the man who has everything?
Instead, this is my present. Here are 75 reasons Gator fans (and most of the media boys and girls) love Steve Spurrier:
2. Florida’s first Heisman Trophy winner.
3. Only person to win a Heisman and coach a Heisman winner.
4. Started the Heisman tradition of giving the trophy to the school.
5. The visor, now a fashion statement adopted by a slew of coaches including Dan Mullen.
6. Making his team put him up on their shoulders after winning a championship.
7. Fighting for Ben Hanks to get into school.
8. Making fans chant,”We’re No. 1!” at the national championship celebration.
9. Marrying Jerri Starr.
10. Having children you want to hang out with.
11. Finding Shane Matthews way down on the depth chart.
12. Turning Noah Brindise into a quarterback.
13. Being in the office when Rex Grossman came to visit.
14. Danny Wuerffel. Enough said.
15. Bringing James Bates to our community.
16. Those Bryan hot dog commercials. “Bryan is the only dog you’ll find in The Swamp … except the occasional bulldog.”
17. Changing UF jerseys from orange to blue.
18. Getting rid of artificial turf.
19. Unretiring his and Scot Brantley’s jersey numbers.
20. His relentless support for women’s athletics.
21. Drive-bys on sportswriters.
22. Hanging out in the back room at Napolatano’s and one time leaving the SEC trophy there.
23. Keeping local players home.
24. Getting speech therapy for Jesse Palmer.
25. The way he embraced Gator football history.
26. Turning walk-ons into All-Americans.
27. Coming up with a nickname for guys who dress but don’t play — “the hang-around guys.”
28. Being in the first SEC Championship Game.
29. Winning the second.
30. And the third and fourth and fifth and sixth and 10th.
31. The swagger everyone in Gainesville adopted.
32. His first news conference.
33. Every news conference after that one.
34. Especially the time he got choked up about his former players.
35. Naming The Swamp.
36. Where only Gators get out alive.
37. Winning Florida’s first major bowl game as a player.
38. Going from player to player to fire them up before a game until he got to one whose name he didn’t know and just said, “My man!”
39. Free Shoes U.
40. How he stood up for Wuerffel after the FSU game.
41. And for Earnest Graham and Grossman after the FSU game.
42. How he changed Florida football by beating Alabama in 1990.
43. And five more times while at Florida.
44. Introducing us to the philosophies of Sun Tzu, Attila The Hun and John Wooden.
45. Standing up to Larry Guest.
46. Those booster speeches.
47. Bringing us Bobby Stoops.
48. Head Ball Coach.
49. Or just HBC.
50. Going 4-0 against Peyton Manning.
51. Those phone calls to explain to the media that we were wrong.
52. Making all of us putt everything out.
53. You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.
54. The best post-game quote ever after beating Georgia — “Why is it that during recruiting season they sign all the great players, but when it comes time to play the game, we have all the great players? I don’t understand that. What happens to them?”
55. Or this one, “God smiled on the Gators.”
56. Visor throws that ended up with grass stains.
57. Those sweet coaching shirts everyone had to go purchase.
58. Half-a-hundred at Georgia.
59. How he won’t let anyone forget the 1990 team.
60. The laminated play sheet.
61. The tosses of the play sheets.
62. Owning Georgia.
63. Owning LSU.
64. Making SEC Media Days hilarious.
65. Explaining to the officials very loudly and with great expressions why they were wrong.
66. Post-practice interviews that were worthy of columns.
67. Calling Georgia’s coach Ray Goof.
68. The field goal against Auburn.
69. The Yella-wood commercials.
70. His ability to remember every detail about everything.
71. Taking team pictures after every championship win.
72. The way he never cow-towed to recruits and if they were wavering would say, “Well, we’ll just win without you.”
73. That everyone who ever played for him has a great story.
74. Answering a stream of Robbie Andreu game-week Thursday questions with, “Just watch the game, Robbie.”
75. That he came home.
Happy birthday, coach.
(I didn’t even mention that your 50th birthday party was my first date with my wife Karen. It’s the only reason she would go out with me. I think.)
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.