David Whitley: If Manning Fever grips Gainesville, remember the last outbreak

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
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If you somehow missed last week’s big news, please take a seat before reading this.

Arch Manning, a high school quarterback from New Orleans, has reportedly added Florida to his list of potential destinations.

Now, take a deep breath and try not to be consumed by Manning Fever.

It first gripped Gainesville almost 30 years ago when Arch’s uncle was being recruited. You might recognize the name Peyton and Arch’s other uncle, Eli. Grandfather Archie also was a pretty good QB.

With that bloodline, it’s easy to see why Arch is considered the next QB god. He’d supposedly narrowed his choices to Alabama and Texas. But 247Sports reported Georgia and Ole Miss are still in running, as are LSU and the Gators.

If young Manning had added the U. of Kiev to his list, Vladimir Putin might have immediately invaded Ukraine so Russia could claim him. Putin could still declare war on Mississippi if Deion Sanders talks Arch into signing with Jackson State.

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Wherever he goes, a lot of fans are going to be devastated. To cushion the potential blow, Gator fans should remember 1994.

There was no internet to fuel round-the-clock speculation, but fans still lived and died with every recruiting rumor. It came down to Florida and Tennessee. Steve Spurrier was disappointed but not crushed with the ultimate decision.

“The guy we had here was pretty danged good,” he said.

That would have been a redshirt sophomore named Danny Wuerffel.

As promising as he was, it’s hard to imagine Peyton Manning would have ridden the bench for three years. And Spurrier is sure of one thing.

“Knowing Danny Wuerffel, I doubt he ever would have transferred,” he said.

Wuerffel turned into more than a Heisman-winning, national-championship QB. His humility and humanitarianism make him a living legend.

That fairy tale might well have never come true if Florida had won 1994’s biggest recruiting prize. If nothing else, UF fans couldn’t have pointed out that Manning never beat the Gators, not that they’d ever do such a thing.

The moral of the story: Manning Fever might be spreading to Florida. Just remember, even if Arch doesn’t work out, these things still have a way of working themselves out….

Stud of the Week: The UF men’s swimming team, which won its 10th straight SEC championship. Let’s see Nick Saban do that.

Dud of the Week: Phil Mickelson’s reputation. In a new book, Mickelson said he’d leave the PGA Tour to play in the proposed mega-money Saudi Golf League despite it being bankrolled by “scary mother f------,” who have “a horrible record on human rights.”

Mickelson then left for Beijing, where he was sworn in as the president of the International Olympic Committee….

Peyton II: Another reason he made the right college choice. Had he gone to UF, we never would have heard Spurrier say, “I know why Peyton came back for his senior season. He wanted to be a three-time Citrus Bowl MVP.”…

Two NCAA committees last week recommended the removal of standardized tests from college entrance requirements. No more having to worry about those pesky SAT or ACT scores!

Instead of academic tests, prospective student-athletes will now be judged strictly on their 40-yard-dash times and whether they can spell NIL…

Mickelson is second on the PGA Tour career earnings list with $94.9 million in prize money. Jack Nicklaus is No. 317 with $5.7 million. Despite appearance offers as high as $30 million, I still don’t think Nicklaus would join the Saudi Golf Tour….

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Monday stripped Medina Spirit of last year’s Kentucky Derby victory. The Ocala-bred horse tested positive for a banned steroid after the race and is the second winner in 146 years to be stripped of a Derby win for using a banned substance.

(Trivia question: Name the other one). 

Churchill Down suspended trainer Bob Baffert for two years after the test results came back. He then took a job as head trainer for Russia’s Olympic team…

Speaking of Beijing, USA Today ran a list of bonuses that countries paid athletes if they won gold medals. Kazakhstan led with $250,000 per gold, followed by Italy at $205,683.

U.S. athletes got $37,500. Chinese athletes got an extra ration of rice and free putting lessons from Phil Mickelson….

Recruiting Update: LSU students were shocked last week when a raccoon fell through the roof of a dining hall during dinner. Billy Napier immediately texted Arch Manning to point out Florida’s new football facility has been designed with raccoon-resistant ceiling tiles….

Trivia Answer: Barry Bonds in 2003....

Congratulations to rookie Austin Cindric for winning Sunday's Daytona 500. In 64 years, no winner of the Great American Race has been disqualified for taking steroids....

Peyton III: To be fair, Tennessee’s swimming team did beat Florida once while he was there en route to the 1996 SEC title….

Correction: Dancer's Image in 1968 was the only other Kentucky Derby winner to be stripped of a win. Bonds never actually entered the race, but he should have been disqualified on general principle...

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. We’ll try again next week, unless I get an unexpected offer from the Saudi Sportswriting Tour.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

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