Former quarterbacks revisit their days playing for Spurrier
A look at the unique relationship Steve Spurrier has with his quarterbacks:
Past: Many of Floridaís quarterbacks have gone on to great success, in football and beyond. What do they think, looking back, of the ways that Steve Spurrier prepared them for their futures?
Present: Stephen Garcia and Reid McCollum are in the very midst of understanding what itís like to play for Spurrier. How do they deal with riding that wave? Whatís on tap for the year ahead?
Future: Connor Shaw will arrive at USC in January with the hopes of being the next great Spurrier quarterback. What are his expectations of playing for Spurrier? Can he handle the heat?
COLUMBIA -- Steve Spurrier has never been one for emotional, bring-down-the-house pregame speeches. Chances are, he never will be.
But there was at least one exception.
It was before the 2002 Orange Bowl, with Florida playing Maryland in suburban Miami.
There, before a 56-23 dismantling of the Terps, Spurrier explained some of the method to his madness in coaching.
No one's ears in that room perked more than those of Spurrier's quarterbacks. That included even Noah Brindise, a Florida quarterback from 1995-97 who had come back to be a graduate assistant.
"I remember vividly that night he gave a real long talk," Brindise said. "He said the reason he's hard on us is because he wants us to be successful in life. It was profound,
something that never comes out of his mouth."
Of course, there was a reason for the timing of the speech. Spurrier was about to leave Florida for the NFL.
But that moment underscored something about his college coaching career to that point.
It highlighted that highly complex and unique relationship Spurrier has with his quarterbacks.
The production of those players, especially in the Florida years, is impossible to argue.
"I can't tell you how many concepts that we would emulate and copy at FSU," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who was previously the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Florida State.
When it comes to Spurrier and quarterbacks, it's tough love and it's high praise. He plays both good cop and bad cop. It's the bad one that fans seem to see, and the good one that his players remember looking back.
Some quarterbacks have excelled with his brand of teaching. Others have hit the eject button.
From Steve to Shane
What's Spurrier looking for in a quarterback?
To understand that, you have to understand Spurrier's past. It's not as if the East Tennessee native was a business major in college who decided he wanted to try his hand at coaching.
He was, of course, a Heisman-winning QB with the Gators well before the program was much of anything. Spurrier played and held clipboards in the NFL for a decade, sponging up as much info as he could for the professional path in front of him.
Duke's Dave Brown became the first quarterback he truly developed at the college level.
Then, after a move to his alma mater, Shane Matthews became Spurrier's first Florida quarterback. Matthews was a coach's kid from Mississippi, buried fifth on the Gators' depth chart by the time Spurrier arrived at Florida.
"I kind of came out of nowhere and he took a leap of faith by naming me the starter," Matthews said.
Matthews led the Gators to an SEC title in 1991, setting the school's passing record and finishing fifth in the Heisman balloting that year.
Matthews admits he knew very little about Spurrier when he got to Florida.
But the daily challenges from the Ball Coach didn't really faze Matthews the way it has others. Why's that? He'd already developed the proper thickness of skin, unknowingly being prepared for an encounter with the greatest quarterbacks coach he'd ever see.
"It's difficult to play for your dad," the Cleveland, Miss., native said. "It kind of came natural to me. He was hard on me, but I didn't need him throwing his visor or yelling at me because I was already mad at myself."
A later successor, Jesse Palmer, also fell into this distinction. He said his father had also prepped him for Spurrier.
The same goes for South Carolina 2010 commitment Connor Shaw, whose father coaches him at Flowery Branch High just outside Atlanta.
After being signed in 1993 by the Chicago Bears, Matthews said he remembers sitting in one of his first quarterbacks meetings.
Other players -- veterans, even -- were clueless to some basics, but he was savvy to the NFL game because of what Spurrier had taught him.
"I wouldn't have lasted 14 years in the NFL if not for him," Matthews said.
Respect by imitation
And football is still laced throughout the lives of several of Spurrier's Florida quarterbacks.
Palmer is an ESPN college football analyst. He'll work at least two of South Carolina's games this fall, including Thursday's opener at North Carolina State.
Matthews has put the brakes on a radio career to coach at Gainesville High.
"I'd say 95 percent of our passing game is all his," he said.
You've got to figure 1996 Heisman winner Wuerrfel, who heads a regional ministry called Desire Street, could be a coach if he chose to do so.
Then there's G.A. Mangus, who played for Spurrier until 1992 and then stayed on as a grad assistant until 1994. After a few stops, now Mangus is in his first year as South Carolina's quarterbacks coach.
"I got to see it all," Mangus said. "It was a great five years for a young man that wants to coach for a living. I lived a coaching clinic."
What's different from 1990 to 2009?
"He hasn't changed a whole lot," Mangus said. "The expectations are exactly the same. I've taught all the same drills that he taught me 20 years ago."
Spurrier hired Brindise as his quarterbacks coach with the Redskins, and then he went on to be UNLV's offensive coordinator for two seasons.
Emulation, it seems, becomes part of the game for many of those that play quarterback for Spurrier.
"There's something about being around coach Spurrier," Brindise said. "There's something contagious about being with him. When I was 23 or 24, I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be brash and all those things, because there's just something about him. I wanted to pattern my career after him."
Brindise, now in the business world, learned something along the way.
"Ultimately, there's only one Steve Spurrier and he's the only person that can do it the way he did it," he said. "He's done a lot in his life. You just can't decide one day to become Steve Spurrier. I don't think there will be many more like him when he's done coaching."
Expecting the impossible
So, again, what's Spurrier looking for in a quarterback?
The word the Florida guys come back to, again and again, is perfection.
"It's no wonder he won so many SEC games and SEC titles, because he is a perfectionist," Palmer said. "I think when you look back on it you can appreciate it."
It's what Spurrier expects, even though it's impossible to attain in football.
"You can throw a perfect game in baseball, but not in football," Matthews said. "You get hit, things happen. He understands that, but he wants you to be perfect anyway."
This is something Spurrier's wife, Jerri, has certainly seen play out over the years.
"He does expect perfection," she said. "And he feels like since it's worked before, he's not going to change."
Does Spurrier ever cross a line, to the point that Jerri feels the need to get involved? She said only twice. Once was with Wuerrfel.
"I said, 'He looks like he's doing all right to me. Why don't you just leave him alone?' " Jerri said. "And he remembers that. He's told me he remembers that. That turned out OK."
The other is with current Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia. Once, she saw Garcia getting down on himself particularly hard.
"As quarterbacks, they want to please him so much that it's self-defeating," she said. "They want him to feel like he's proud of them. That's human nature, I don't know why it should be any different for quarterbacks than anybody else."
Who better to ask about his quarterbacks than Spurrier?
Turns out that's kind of a loaded question. Well, he at least thinks it's one.
When asked if he thinks it's tough to be a quarterback for him, he fires something back about his track record.
Told his track record is obviously exceptional, he eventually calms down and drops the defensiveness, realizing this isn't an assault on South Carolina's quarterbacks.
"We're maybe a little harder on them, but coaches yell at players," said Spurrier, who turned 64 in April and is entering his 20th season as a college coach. "I've been yelling at them ever since I've been coaching. They usually get better. And you praise them when they do something well. Yell, praise, yell, praise.
"And you hope and wish you wouldn't have to yell at them anymore. It's called coaching."