Florida has a rich athletic history and a tradition of excellence across all sports and in the classroom. It would be easy to get swept up in a seemingly never-ending dialogue about their competitive accomplishments, but for the sake of time, I’m only going to focus on football. More specifically, this edition of Florida’s Mt. Rushmore series will look at the Gators quarterbacks.
With so many stellar athletes to grace the Gators gridiron, I thought it would be best to do a series within the series, so to speak. We will be continuing with a segment on each position group and the greatest to ever do it, over the course of the 2019 season. So without further ado, let’s begin!
1. Steve Spurrier
Stephen Orr Spurrier is the only player on this list that could likely find himself on two different Mt. Rushmores. Long before becoming UF’s all-time winningest coach, Spurrier was winning games for the Gators as a quarterback. In thirty games, Spurrier amassed 4,848 yards and 36 touchdowns on his way to becoming the Gators first Heisman Trophy winner. His legacy is one that will withstand the test of time, as he is honored with having Steve Spurrier Field named after him and has a statue commemorating his time as a player, in front of the stadium.
2. Danny Wuerffel
Mr. Wuerffel saw a spectacular career in the orange and blue. Under the tutelage of the Ol’ Ball Coach, Wuerffel thrived in the fun ‘n’ gun offense. During his time in Gainesville, Wuerffel started in 46 games and totaled 10,875 yards with 114 passing touchdowns. With Danny at the helm, Florida had one of the most prolific offenses of the 90’s and played in two consecutive national championship games, winning one. Wuerffel came in third in the Heisman voting in 1995 before winning the coveted honor the very next year. With that season, Weurffel became the first national champion quarterback in Florida history and their second Heisman Trophy winner.
3. Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow is a guy you might have heard of once or twice regardless of which team you follow. While at the University of Florida, he became arguably the greatest collegiate quarterback of all-time. As a true freshman, Tebow was an integral part of the Gators spread attack, especially in short yardage situations. His powerful running style was nearly impossible for opposing defenses to contend with and he helped Florida win their second national championship while serving as Chris Leak’s backup. In his first year as the starting quarterback, Tebow put up unprecedented numbers and became the youngest player (at the time) to ever win the Heisman Trophy. During the span of Timmy’s career, he accumulated 9,285 yards passing, 88 passing touchdowns (to just 16 interceptions) while also rushing for 2,947 yards and another 57 scores. Although he only won the Heisman once, he finished in the top five of the voting every year that he was a starter. His intangibles elevated everyone on the team and he burnished his legend when he made good on the now famous “Tebow’s Promise,” leading Florida to their third national championship.
4. Chris Leak
I know, this one may seem off to some of you and I very nearly chose Rex Grossman for this final spot, but hear me out. Chris Leak won a national championship and he is the all-time leading passer at Florida. Think about that. With all of the incredible quarterbacks that have played at Florida, Leak has more passing yards than any of them! He had a rocky start with Gator Nation but he put in the work to get better and better, and like Tebow (albeit not in such a dramatic fashion), he made good on his own promise to deliver a national championship. Leak laid down a masterful performance against the heavily favored Ohio State Buckeyes to win Florida’s second championship in blowout fashion. Over the course of his career, Leak carved up defenses to the tune of 11,213 yards and 88 touchdowns. All of this is made even more impressive when you factor in that he did this while playing for two different head coaches (three if you count the single game stint of Charlie Strong between Zook’s departure and Meyer’s arrival) and three different offensive coordinators.
As I close this opening segment of Florida’s Mt. Rushmore of football, I would like to acknowledge each of the stellar quarterbacks that have made it great to be a Florida Gator over the years. While I think that this is a pretty good list, I am sure that many of you will have a few differing ideas about who belongs on it. Please, leave a comment and join the discussion!
Who is on your Mt. Rushmore? Let us know on the official ChompTalk.com Facebook page and on our Twitter accounts, @ChompTalk and @MikeyPfeffer!