Wuerffel brings star power, but dads are the stars

Kevin Brockway
Russell Davis and his son Russell II, 5, hang messages about what they love about each other on a HERO wall during the All Pro Dad, Father & Kids Experience at the UF Indoor Practice Facility in Gainesville Saturday April 8, 2017. The event was a chance for dads to spend time with their kids and learn tips as well as actions that could help them to be better fathers.  [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

As a father of three children, former Gator and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel understands the importance of parenthood.

“One of the most significant relationships for kids to develop is a loving, caring parent and a father is a key role to that,” Wuerffel said.

This past weekend, Wuerffel helped foster that bond as host of the All Pro Dad Father and Kids Experience in Gainesville. About 750 dads and their kids attended the three-hour afternoon event Saturday at the UF indoor football facility that featured a number of football-related activities.

“It’s a great model,” Wuerffel said. “I think it really draws a lot of folks in with enthusiasm and of course here in Gainesville, you have the Gator flair to go along with it and the Gator practice stadium, that I never got to have, because I’m so old. It’s a great day.”

For the dads and kids, many clad in Gator shorts and jerseys, it was an afternoon to remember.

“It was great,” said Howie Bell of Ocala, who brought his 6-year-old son Aidan. “I’d definitely do it again next year.”

The event was the brainchild of Mark Merrill, a Florida graduate who more than 20 years ago was looking for a way to promote fatherhood. According to national studies, children without active fathers in their lives are twice as likely to drop out of school and seven times more susceptible to teen pregnancy.

Merrill landed former NFL coach Tony Dungy as the national spokesman for All Pro Dad, and over the years, he’s had a number of quarterbacks host events in different cities, including Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, Mark Brunell and Trent Dilfer.

“What really makes it popular is there’s not a lot of opportunities for dads to get out just alone with their kids, their sons and their daughters, for a special kind of bonding time together,” Merrill said.

Wuerffel, who turns 43 next month, remains heavily involved in his nonprofit foundation, Desire Street Ministries, a faith-based organization focused on spiritual and community development. Last August, Desire Street re-opened its ministry in New Orleans that was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.

“We’ve got a medical clinic, an early childhood center and a multipurpose center and it’s going great,” Wuerffel said.

Wuerffel also got a chance to take in some football, attending UF’s spring game Friday night. But given all the catching up he did with former teammates, Wuerffel said he was unable to study UF’s quarterback competition closely. Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks started with the first team, completing 8 of 14 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown.

“Being at the game and then with all the former players and then all the different folks, I actually didn’t get a chance to see much of it, and so I had to kind of get some reports from others,” Wuerffel said. “But I saw a couple of really good throws through there. I think we’ve got some really exciting good players at the quarterback position.”

Wuerffel did say the Gators should not discount redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio from the quarterback race. Del Rio, who started six games for the Gators last season, is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and did not play Friday night.

“It’s really easy for people to move on away from having Luke’s name in the conversation but he’s a really solid player, a smart player,” Wuerffel said. “I think he was hurt a good bit last year which left some bad impressions ... But I think if he gets healthy he brings back something to the table.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or kevin.brockway@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.