The Swamp, where only Gators get out alive.
That phrase is most commonly attributed to Steve Spurrier while he was head coach at the University of Florida, his alma mater. Something that Spurrier shied away from today saying he didn’t come up with the saying but that when a coach says something it just seems to stick better than when an assistant or a trainer says it.
Spurrier was back on campus today to receive the prestigious “Great Floridian” Award from governor Rick Scott.
Walking around the stadium it’s hard not to recognize Spurrier and all of his accomplishments. In the F Club where the day started, there is a space reserved for the former Heisman winner and National Championship winning coach. The spot is encased in glass and holds a helmet from Spurrier’s playing day, his jersey and a picture of Spurrier on the sidelines drinking Gatorade out of a container that resembled a milk carton.
“See we drank Gatorade out of milk cartons.” Spurrier said. “They didn’t even have the cans yet way back then.”
As we made our way from the F Club to the field there are even more reminders of Spurrier’s legacy. We stopped at a sign commemorating Spurrier as a Gator Great. We stopped and watch the coach look at the plaque, thinking back to all the years he spent in Gainesville.
As you make your way down to the field, there are even more things to remind you of the coach who put Florida on the map. His name atop the stadium next to Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel signifying the school’s three Heisman winners and, of course, the painted wall reading “This is…the Swamp.”
The award has only been given out 70 times since 1981, a fact that Governor Scott mentioned prior to awarding Spurrier, and the list includes former governors, civil rights activists, military heroes, Florida Supreme Court Justices and sports figures.
When asked what made Spurrier worthy of joining this prestigious group, Govenor Scott called Spurrier an inspiration.
“I think he’s an inspiration.” Scott said. Here’s an individual who worked very hard his whole life. He wanted to be a great football player; he did it and won a Heisman trophy. He wanted to be a great coach; he brought the national championship to the University of Florida. He’s done it across the country but he started right here in our great state and had a lot of success. You want to give it [Great Floridian Award] to people who have done the right thing with their lives and they’re an inspiration to others. That’s the great thing about giving it to Coach Spurrier.”
Will Muschamp and Jeremy Foley were on hand to support the ‘Ole Ball Coach today and Spurrier was sure to thank people like Foley and Coach Ray Graves who gave him the opportunities at the University of Florida and as Spurrier said “made all of this possible.”
While crediting Spurrier for putting the University of Florida on the map, Governor Scott spoke briefly about Florida’s current team and the direction they are headed.
“But he [Spurrier] put them on the map and look at how great the football team has done since then with a variety of great coaches.” Governor Scott said. “They have a great team here now. I’m looking forward to, hopefully another national championship while I’m governor, that would be nice. They have a few more years to do it more than once hopefully.”
The day wouldn’t have been complete without a little of the ‘Ole Ball Coach magic. When talking about the discussions of where they would hold the presentation today, Spurrier didn’t flinch while jabbing the “school out West.”
“It was thought at one time, maybe doing this thing in Tallahassee.” Spurrier said. “but we thought Gainesville was a much better spot.”