Gator Dads should be given credit, too
Seems like for a long time the popular thing for an athlete to do when mugging for the camera during a sporting event was always to flash some kind of peace or gang sign and say, “Hi Mom!”
I always wondered why more of them didn’t belt out “Hi Dad!” on occasion. After all, while moms certainly deserve every bit of the credit they get, there is also the inspiration and discipline from the male figure in the family that counts a little.
Once in a while Ol’ Dad gets credit. I liked the way Will Muschamp paid props to the wisdom of his father on the day he was baptized as Florida football coach at a press conference, repeating that axiom his father taught him about “10 percent is your problems in life and the other 90 per cent is how you to react to them.”
* * *
On this Father’s Day weekend, I got to thinking about the roles of dads and how Florida Gator coaches and football players were impacted. And, for that matter, all of us.
Florida football has been blessed with generations of McGriffs and Jacksons and Gaffneys and Brantleys, among others.
I know today is special for all dads and their families, but especially for the Brantleys. John Jr., the grandfather of the current UF quarterback John IV and father of Trinity Catholic coach John III and former Gator/Bucs linebacker Scot, has suffered another bout with throat cancer and is resting comfortably in an Ocala Hospice.
I talked to his son John III over the weekend. “Dad really has a great attitude,” he said. “Just getting comfortable before we all decide where he is going to check in for further treatment.”
JB III then texted me a photo of his dad reading the newspaper, looking spritely as always.
John IV, the quarterback, visited his granddad over the weekend and will soon be heading off to Louisiana to work as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy.
The Brantleys don’t know how long they have together as a family, so this football season is special to them in more ways than most families.
* * *
Many fathers have hung around the UF program, but none in a higher profile than Bob Tebow. He and son Tim seemed lock-stepped in their faith and approach to their responsibility as Christians to help others.
Much has been made over the spiritual connections of certain Gator coaches and players as “sons of a preacher man.”
Ray Graves’ dad was a Presbyterian preacher; Ray is reportedly spending his final days in a Tampa facility. He and Opal never had sons.
Steve Spurrier’s father Graham was a Presbyterian minister. Steve now coaches with his son, Steve Jr.
Danny Wuerffel’s father Jon was an Air Force chaplain.
Pretty good track record.
I always wondered if Billy Graham had a grandson who was a football player.
* * *
“God smiled on the Gators today,” Spurrier liked to say after some of his biggest wins.
Today, the Ol’ Ball Coach and a whole bunch of Gators are praying that God will smile on Danny, who is suffering from a rare neurological disorder, Guillain-Barre, which causes the body’s immune system to attack the nervous system in response to an infectious illness. Apparently he has battled past the life-threatening aspect of the disease.
According to his wife Jessica, Wuerffel is “not completely paralyzed,” but has been advised by his doctors to stay immobile during his recovery.” She said it’s unclear how long that recovery will take, but others said apparently the disease is no longer life-threatening.
Danny Wuerffel, who always struck the “prayer pose” as opposed to the “Heisman pose” and has prayed thousands of hours for others, needs prayers for himself.
Even though he already has those of his “well-connected” chaplain father, Jon Wuerffel, and Desire Street Ministries folks.
* * *
Ron Zook’s dad, a truck driver and salesman for 30 years, got to see his son coach one game at Florida in September of 2002. He was in the stands that night at Florida Field when the Gators won and as Ron ran off the field he signaled thumbs up.
Pete Zook, 75, died of liver and lung cancer at his home in Lake Worth a few weeks later.
A month before Ron had said: “My father made me the man I am. He taught me how important it is to work as hard as you could possibly work and do the best job you could possibly do.”
Ron, forever the stoic, said very little about the death of his dad --- at least nothing publicly. He just went back to work, like he was taught to do.
* * *
The father of former Gator coach Urban Meyer not only had a huge impact on his son’s life, but remained close during his seven years at UF. After suffering a bout with illness, Bud has rallied and seems to be enjoying life again in Ohio.
“He’ll be 80 this year,” Urban said this week.
Bud was not only around the program, but often sat in on pregame strategy along with Urban’s mentor, Earle Bruce.
“If you cut them both open, they’d look the same inside,” Urban once said of Bruce and his father.
Both “dads” were often tough on Urban. Once he was made to walk home from a baseball game after striking out, making the last out with men on base as his team lost.
I hear Urban’s young son Nate has also been known to “take a lap” around the house for certain acts of disobedience, but reportedly never for missteps as a baseball player.
People wondered if Urban was really going to “spend more time with my family” as promised when he resigned.
When I texted back and forth with him Saturday, he was at Nate’s baseball game --- just so you know.
* * *
My father, himself the son of a preacher, was never a sports fan until his later years when he adopted the Miami Dolphins. He has been dead for 24 years. Last week he received a gift that brought our family a wonderful blessing.
The Ocala Florida Relations Association unearthed records showing that he had never been given proper credit for co-founding the state organization, which is oldest of its kind in the nation.
To honor that, on Friday President Laura Byrnes named their top individual award after Wilton F. “Marty” Martin, the first Publicity Director for Silver Springs back in the 1930s.
Both my younger brother Bill and I were invited to the Ocala Hilton to speak about our dad.
They ambushed me, then asking that I come up to receive the very first Wilton F. “Marty” Martin Communicator of the Year.
Now I know how Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow felt when they won the Heisman.
* * *
Happy Father’s Day all you dads out there in The Gator Nation. I hope your weekend turns out as well as mine started. And prayers for John Brantley Jr., Bud Meyer, Danny Wuerffel --- and all others who need it.
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