Big hand tonight for author of historic Florida win

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Former UF quarterback Terry Dean warms up before a game in 1993. [Special to Sun]

It took a while. Terry Dean needed some time away before he could come back.

“It was about eight years,” he said. “But I’ve always been too big a Gator fan.”

So he came back to Gainesville for a game, back to the stadium he loved to play in even if it meant reopening a wound. And he will be back tonight as Florida’s 1993 team is honored.

His story is one of incredible highs and gut-punching lows. He was the heir apparent to Shane Matthews, lost his job, won it back and lost it for good a year later in a very public way.

But the Terry Dean of today is a grown man with two sons attending UF and another who is a starting high school quarterback at First Baptist Academy in Naples where Dean is an assistant coach. His daughter, Grace, is a freshman in high school and may be the best athlete of them all, he said.

They should all know about their father and the special things he did as a Gator.

It was the best of times and, well, you know the rest.

“I don’t think about it a whole lot,” he said. “But I remember it. It was a moment in my life that made me into the man I am today. It taught me to keep working hard, don’t quit and eventually good things will happen.

“I thought everything was lost and eventually a window opened and I jumped in it and finished on a super high note. It was certainly a very memorable time.”

Dean started the 1993 season as the next in line of Spurrier quarterbacks. The cover of The Gainesville Sun football section declared, “It’s Dean’s team now.”

Two games later, it wasn’t.

At Kentucky, Dean and Danny Wuerffel combined to throw seven interceptions. But Wuerffel was in at the end and threw the legendary touchdown pass to Chris Doering to win the game.

Wuerffel, a redshirt freshman, would start the next week and continued until the Georgia game. Wuerffel struggled throwing a wet ball in a deluge in Jacksonville and Dean took back over, and led the Gators into the SEC title game against Alabama at Legion Field.

Dean was the MVP of that game, as Florida won its second league trophy, 28-13, and first SEC Championship Game win.

“It’s gotten better over time,” he said. “The better Alabama gets, the more impressive that win looks.”

He started the next season when Florida was preseason No. 1 for the first time ever. But in a showdown with No. 6 Auburn, Dean was benched again, this time for good.

He and Spurrier did not see eye-to-eye on several things, including Dean’s family hiring a quarterback coach. After the game, Dean stood in his locker and was critical of how things were handled.

“I knew I was done,” he said. “It was the toughest thing I’ve ever been through at the time, but in retrospect it’s just football.

“It kind of prepared me for life, let me know that it’s full of ups and downs and yet not always publicized in the national media. It definitely gives you perspective. You go through something like that it makes you appreciate the good times.”

After banging around in the CFL, the World League (where he played for Galen Hall) and getting a cup of coffee in the San Francisco 49ers camp, Dean went back to his hometown of Naples to raise a family with Robin, who he met at Florida and married before his senior year.

He also started a business and is now a senior partner at Old Naples Wealth Management.

But for almost a decade, he didn’t want to go back.

“I’ve always been a committed Christian guy,” he said. “You can’t get over something unless you forgive everybody. Steve Spurrier made me the man I am whether it was intentional or not.

“And I am too big a fan. I follow recruiting news like a nerd living in his mom’s basement.”

So he came back and eventually sent his two boys to UF. Tyler, 20, is a junior majoring in accounting. Mason is a freshman.

I wonder if they know what a big deal their father was. And how he was cast aside at the end.

“Terry is kind of a forgotten guy,” Spurrier said. “He’s a good guy. There’s no disgrace in getting benched for a Heisman Trophy winner. But he had some tremendous games for us.”

The coach and the quarterback were reunited two years ago when the SEC brought all of the MVPs from the Championship Games to Atlanta for an anniversary. Spurrier and Dean exchanged phone numbers and spent 45 minutes talking about the old days.

“He’s the reason I’m coming back,” Dean said of Spurrier. “It’s funny, I was on a bird hunt in South America just recently and my phone rang and it was Coach Spurrier. He wanted to make sure I was coming up.”

He’s coming. Wouldn’t miss it.

And while the biggest cheers tonight will be for Wuerffel and some of the other stars of that ’93 team, save some of your lung capacity for the MVP of one of the greatest wins in Florida history.

He deserves it.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

15 COMMENTS

  1. In the 1993 FSU game, I clearly remember Terry standing in the south end-zone and delivering a 3rd and long (last chance) pass to our tight end for a 1st down. That was a MAN UNDER THE GUN, BUT having the COOL moment. It turned the game around as he led a TD drive to the north end. BUT then, on 3rd and 15 from the other end, on their next possession, Warwick Dunn took the outlet pass and ran the nightmare TD run back to the south-end zone! The Ole HBC made the right QB calls as he saw the respective situations. I don’t believe it was personal at all. After witnessing the Shane Mathews interception the year before, it was very sweet being at the Legion Field win in 1993. Terry played very well in that game, BUT sure could make bad field football calls, as it appeared, against Ole HBC’s direction. Good article Pat!

  2. Terry Dean was, in fact, the first prospect to commit to Florida once Spurrier was named the new coach, as Terry flipped from Auburn. That was a big deal and a momentum shifting moment for our 1990 recruiting. Terry never seems to get mentioned among our best ever quarterbacks though he led some excellent wins, the historic victory in that SEC Championship Game, and ranks relatively high individually for his passing.

    That 1994 Auburn game remains one of the most exciting I’ve ever seen, despite our loss. Coming in ranked first nationally, the Gators kept giving back momentum with those seven picks. When Steve finally benched Terry for Danny, Terry walked alone to the far end of our sideline, literally turned his back on the team he captained. At that point there could be no way Steve could have gone back to him in a subsequent game.

    The reconciliation is really the bigger story here. Terry needed to be welcomed back home, especially by Steve. Terry Dean seems to have a wonderful life well going. I hope the old stadium rocks with cheers fir him tonight.

    Thanks much, Pat, for giving us this story. It displays, also, the bed qualities you bring as a writer. Furman Bisher would be nodding his head with an eyebrow raised and a satisfied grin. Well done.

  3. I certainly don’t know the ins and outs of journalism like Clyde does, but I know a great story when I read it and Pat, that, I think, is one of your best ever. How you capture so much in so little space — the pathos, the egos, the settings, the emotions and the decisions — is beyond me. I won’t be the same all day.

  4. Great article Pat. Not every Gator player has gone on to the glory of an Emmit Smith or Jack Youngblood. Most move on to live quiet lives of anonymity, raising families, building a career and being forgotten by most of us. Great to read that Dean did not let his up and down Gator career define who he would be in life. Some walk away bitter, but it sounds like Terry has used it to be strengthened. He has a great family, a strong Christian faith and, as Clyde very well noted, a reconciliation with Coach Spurrier and the University. This is the type of story that we should read more of, and I wish he and his family all the best. Thanks.

  5. Pat, what a nice nugget of a story to uncover. Great read. It further proves the old adage that time heals wounds. Spurrier was tough on his quarterbacks, but he knew the requirements of the position the best. I always put Terry Dean and Doug Johnson together as Spurrier quarterbacks who were in and out of his doghouse, but not for lack of effort. Terry Dean’s contribution to the tradition of Florida football should be celebrated.

  6. Gator fans have been lucky to have such consistency in reporting (Dooley and Andreu) and announcing (Mick) over the last 30 great years of Gator athletics. It allows for some real insight, memories, and perspective. Good job Pat.

  7. It has been said, “Adversity makes us 1 of 2 things, either bitter or better.”
    Glad to read Dean is better, and not bitter.
    25 years, man, I remember Pat’s recollection like it was yesterday.
    Go Gators!

  8. Terry Dean has shown what being a gator is all about. It’s not winning all the time. It’s having the confidence to get back up after a tough one.
    Coach Spurrier made a tough call that worked and it’s painful because Terry Dean really was looking like a heisman guy maybe. Again a great story.

    Let’s hope there isn’t a repeat of sorts and that Frank’s doesn’t have a rough game and have to watch a new guy get the reps etc which is an undercurrent here.. maybe not intentional but coincidences happen.

    Either way Frank’s has shown the confidence that if today is tough he will still be there performing well in the future. That is what confidence is..and that’s what a gator is…and what these other programs are not.