When it comes to SEC quarterbacks, Steve Spurrier knows a thing or two.
He won a Heisman Trophy playing the position.
He started an offensive revolution in the SEC with his Fun ‘n’ Gun at Florida.
He coached Danny Wuerffel to a Heisman-winning/national championship season.
And he produced another spate of quarterbacks who helped win conference titles, set passing records and establish school winning streaks.
“The Quarterback Whisperer,” if you will.
Over the past 50 years, Spurrier has seen the quarterback paradigm shift from third-down thrower, to wide-open flinger, back to zone read-runner. Talent comes in many sizes and shapes. And in the case of the two Super Bowl quarterbacks, of all ages.
Without question, Spurrier respects the talent of both SEC quarterbacks in Super Bowl 50, one waning and one waxing. And in one of them he also sees the new prototype.
This week, as he was about to pack up his sticks and head to Florida to play in Tuesday’s LPGA Coates Championship at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club, Spurrier was asked to evaluate them.
Cam Newton, Spurrier noted, refers to himself as Superman. “And when he takes that leap into the end zone he looks like Superman,” Spurrier said.
He raved about Newton, who also has a Heisman and a national championship ring.
“Fantastic athlete. He’s the quarterback of the future,” Spurrier said of Newton. “Every team in America would like to have somebody who is big and strong and can run like him. It really puts a lot of pressure on the defenses. So he’s the prototype quarterback now.”
Recalling the day about decade ago when Newton and his dad came to one of his football camps, Spurrier said he was immediately impressed with Cam’s size (at the time, 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds) and agility.
“And I was smart enough to say, ‘If you can’t make it at quarterback, you could be a heck of a tight end.’ ”
Obviously, Newton made the correct decision. Spurrier saw it first hand in 2010, when Newton accounted for six touchdowns as Auburn thumped South Carolina 56-17 in the SEC Championship game.
Reflecting back to the days when Wuerffel and Shane Matthews played quarterback for him at Florida, Spurrier said both were half-decent runners. “But this is a different day,” he said. “We didn’t use the style of running quarterback that the colleges and even some of the pros do now.”
On the other side, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning won’t be a terrestrial creature for sure. In fact, he’s more about the head than the arm or the legs. Like everyone else, though, Spurrier has great respect for Manning’s acumen and savvy. Always has. He tried hard to convince Manning to become a Gator. Instead, he went to Tennessee and Spurrier’s Gators team beat him all four times.
At the College Hall of Fame Dinner this year, Steve ran into Archie and Olivia Manning, Peyton’s parents, and they were recalling Spurrier’s home visit with them as Gators coach.
“I said, ‘You know, looking back now, obviously it was best for Peyton to go to Tennessee because we already had Danny Wuerffel. If both of then would have been at the same school, one of then wouldn’t have gotten a chance to play and do what he did. So sometimes in recruiting, maybe it’s not supposed to be,’ ” Spurrier said.
Time has a way of validating choices.
They were two excellent SEC quarterbacks back then and there also are two excellent SEC quarterbacks a week from today in the Super Bowl — one of them the same.
“Two excellent quarterbacks,” said a friend, “but from three excellent programs.” Obviously, he was referring to Newton splitting time between Auburn and Florida. For that matter, four programs: Newton also played junior college ball at Blinn College in Texas, where his team won the national championship.
Manning vs. Newton, Alpha and Omega, the Kid vs. The Great, 18 years apart, the biggest age gap between quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. One dances, the other shies away from calling attention to himself. One a traditional pocket passer, the other beats you with both his arm and his legs. Who will prevail in Super Bowl 50?
Like most of the rest of us, Spurrier will be watching the Super Bowl from home, but this year with a different twist. He’s still connected to South Carolina football, but in a role as an ambassador and not a coach.
What the future hold for Spurrier remains to be seen, but more likely that will definitely include football and golf in some fashion. And not necessarily in that order.
Has anybody thought about hiring The Quarterback Whisperer as a quarterback consultant?
(You can follow Buddy Martin on Twitter @buddyshow)
(Feature photo by JEROME MIRON/USA TODAY SPORTS)
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