Spurrier: I feel better now than I did when I was 45
COLUMBIA -- By now, on the doorstep of his 65th birthday, Steve Spurrier presumed his Sunday mornings would look dramatically different.
He figured he'd be strolling a Florida beach with his wife, Jerri. Maybe sneaking in 18 holes.
But, no, that isn't the case. At least not this particular Sunday morning. Spurrier is in the University of South Carolina's football weight room at Williams-Brice Stadium -- a garage for the strong who are working to get stronger.
Spurrier always figured he'd retire early. Probably by the time he was 60. Definitely by the time he was 65.
Instead, he's still in the game. Why? Because he feels like it.
"I don't like the idea of retiring that much," said Spurrier, who turns 65 years old today. "Walk on the beach? Play golf? I don't play golf well enough to play every day."
Additionally, Spurrier is a pretty stubborn individual. So there's some pride that factors into the equation.
Five-plus years into the gig, Spurrier -- despite the best five-season run in the program's history (35-28) -- is still trying to get South Carolina to a football plateau it's never seen.
Part of that challenge is remaining young, despite the annual addition to his age.
Upon arrival at the weight room, Spurrier shoves a piece of paper in your hand. Something is typed at the top: "Your ability to function and the way you live your life is affected by your health and fitness, not your age."
It was something printed in a "Health" magazine article Spurrier once stumbled upon. It makes him smile. It's the prescription for his lifestyle.
"If you look old and feel old," Spurrier said, recalling an adage, "then you are old."
That's certainly not Spurrier, who's working to get his body to keep up with his razor-sharp mind.
This is the same man who objected, almost vehemently, when the country started calling him the "Ol' Ball Coach." He amended his own nickname, tailoring it to become the "Head Ball Coach."
No, he didn't want anything even close to the word "old" associated with his name.
"When I was in my 40s, I never thought I'd coach into my 60s," Spurrier said. "But now, shoot, I feel better than I did when I was 45."
Fitness is a fickle idea for a man who spent his youth (and young adult life) as one of the most naturally gifted athletes of his generation.
Spurrier, as most know by now, was an all-state performer in baseball and basketball, in addition to football.
That level of athletic achievement clearly didn't change when Spurrier, the two-time All-American and 1969 Heisman Trophy winner, played quarterback at Florida.
Spurrier then spent 10 years bouncing around the NFL. As his playing time gradually diminished, it was at that point when Spurrier began to wrestle with the idea of how to stay in shape.
Up until then, Spurrier's curls came mostly in the form of 12-ounce cans. His concept of cardio was 18 holes of golf.
Spurrier was busy having fun, living the life of an NFL quarterback.
Nearing 30, Spurrier incorporated running into his routine. He ran a little bit here and there, and it was enough to keep him fit.
That stayed true for years and years, until Spurrier's body decided his running career was kaput.
Nearly a decade ago, after a third surgery on Spurrier's chronically bad right knee, doctors told him that running on it would only increase pain and swelling.
That's when Spurrier really had to adapt, devising a fitness plan that incorporated cardio and light weight work. It's still the one he uses today.
Spurrier begins with a fitness ball, doing 500 modified situps and 500 modified pushups, using the ball to help cushion the joints.
After that, he heads over and grabs a pair of 15-pound dumbbells. He does 50 overhead presses and 50 curls.
He then replaces the 15-pounders with 30-pound dumbbells for 100 shoulder raises and 100 triceps overhead extensions.
Then it's on to the cardio portion, with 20 minutes on the treadmill and 10 minutes on the stationery bike. (Sometimes Spurrier enjoys riding outside, as well.)
The speed is set to 4 1/2 miles an hour, with a slight incline. It's essentially as fast as you can walk without jogging.
As for the bike, its resistance is bumped up to 15, so there's a lot of push against your legs. As Spurrier correctly surmises, this is more of a burn than you'd expect for a 10-minute ride.
The cardio part of the workout is also the conversational part. This is when Spurrier casually brings up many of the topics he's discussed during the Gamecocks' spring drills.
One of them, of course, is quarterback Stephen Garcia. Spurrier knows Garcia is physically gifted enough to lead the Gamecocks, but he desperately wants to see a mental graduation.
He says he sometimes looks out from his office window to see Garcia and some receivers throwing on the Williams-Brice playing surface below. Garcia, he says, is often wearing sandals out there.
To Spurrier, it's just a little symbol of a quarterback who doesn't grasp the gravity of the title he holds.
Spurrier spent most of the spring turning up the heat beneath Garcia.
"I think we got his attention," he says. "We'll see what he does this summer."
Chat time over, Spurrier finds a couple of mats and goes into a short aerobics session.
He does 50 leg raises, kicking them into the air (which is tougher after the bike ride). He does 50 scissor kicks.
Then it's a minute of the plank position, in which you prop yourself on your elbows and toes. (It's so much more difficult than it sounds, after just a few seconds.)
And that's it.
The thing about a Spurrier workout, like most anything else the Ball Coach does, is that he does it fast. He's still physically and technically pretty sound in what he's doing, but he's doing it at a hyper speed.
When it's over, Spurrier checks his watch, excited the workout took just a shade more than an hour to complete.
"It would take most people two hours to do all that," he says, smiling. "They'd take all these breaks, get some water, talk. We just did it in half the time."
As you're walking from the weight room, sweat dripping down your face, Spurrier begins to again talk football. It's always near the front of his mind.
"I'm tired of going 7-5," Spurrier says. "We think we can still win big around here."
And Spurrier, now 65, still feels good enough to give it a go.