GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The instant the two Florida Heisman winners walked onto the playing field from the Southeast corner of the end zone, The Swamp erupted.
As Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow walked across the field in back of the end zone with the Gators’ offense driving toward them on Saturday afternoon, the Orange and Blue spring game took a backseat for a few minutes.
To watch video of the unveiling of the statues, click this link.
And then, in a moment of perfect timing for the crowd, John Brantley’s long pass across the middle fell incomplete and bounced in Tebow’s direction. He picked up the loose ball and tossed it back toward the huddle as the crowd roared louder, not expecting to see Tebow throw a pass in his return to Gainesville.
“I’ll tell you one thing, there’s nothing like The Swamp,’’ Tebow told the crowd a few minutes later. “This place is awesome. Coming back to The Swamp, growing up a Gator, playing on an unbelievable team, unbelievable coaches, but honestly, maybe the best honor and best blessing – I had the best fans in the country.’’
It was that kind of storybook day for Tebow and Wuerffel as they returned to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the unveiling of bronze statues of all three Gators to win the Heisman Trophy: Tebow (2007), Wuerffel (1996) and Steve Spurrier (1966).
Spurrier couldn’t make the game due to South Carolina’s practice, but he delivered a video message that was played at halftime. After the announced crowd of 53,000 watched Spurrier talk about the honor, his daughter, Amy Moody, addressed the crowd followed by Wuerffel and Tebow.
“It’s great when it comes together and you have a great place, with great coaches, with great teammates, with great family – it’s not a statue of one person, it’s a statue that we can all celebrate and represents the Gator Nation,’’ Wuerffel said.
After the on-field ceremony was completed, Tebow and Wuerffel spoke briefly to a pair of reporters.
Wuerffel said Saturday will rank as one of his most memorable days at The Swamp but that he still needs time to process that there is now a statue on campus in his honor.
“When do you ever think growing up that you’ll have a stature somewhere where people will look at it and have great memories,’’ Wuerffel said. “It’s even more special being next to two guys that I love and admire in my coach, Steve Spurrier, and my friend, Tim Tebow.
“That even makes it more special for me. This is one of those [moments] that is kind of hard to grasp. I’m sure as the years go by it’ll become more clear what this means.’’
In representing her father, Moody was pleased at the way Tallahassee artist Sandy Proctor captured Spurrier during his playing days at UF.
“It’s kind of hard to put into words,’’ Moody said. “It’s not often in life people dedicate a statue to you. It means a great deal. I can’t tell you what it means to be here representing my family.’’
Meanwhile, Tebow took dozens of pictures with fans and former teammates as he stood on the sideline watching the game before and after the ceremony. He and Wuerffel later went outside and took more photos by the statues.
The statues of Wuerffel and Spurrier represent them passing the ball. Tebow’s is of him running.
“That’s fine,’’ he said, laughing. “You have to change it up. We can’t all be throwing.’’
All three former UF quarterbacks had a lot of say in the final version and provided input throughout the process.
“The support has been great,’’ Tebow said. “The best thing is being able to come back here and see my teammates and enjoy time with them.’’