GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Danny Wuerffel was a teammate of Errict Rhett’s for two seasons in the early 1990s, so the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was not at all surprised with how Rhett immersed himself into the role as the first “Celebrity Mr. Two Bits.”
UF’s former All-Southeastern Conference tailback and school’s all-time rushing leader set a high bar for the chosen ones who follow.
“It was both inspiring and intimidating,” Wuerffel said this week from his home in Atlanta. “I never had the enthusiasm or athleticism of Errict Rhett. I don’t even know if I should try to match it. So I guess I’m going to have to do it my own way or drink two or three Red Bulls before I go out there.”
With the honor of being asked to be play the Mr. Two Bits role comes the freedom of individuality. Rhett’s was on display for all to see in the 2013 season opener against Toledo.
Now it’s Wuerffel’s turn.
The 1996 Heisman winner and soon-to-be College Hall of Fame inductee, will get his chance to blow the whistle and lead the famous Gators cheer Saturday when the 18th-ranked Gators (1-1) take on Tennessee (2-1) at Florida Field. The choice seems appropriate enough, considering Wuerffel from 1993-96 went four seasons without ever losing to the Volunteers.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this kind of a pressure in the ‘Swamp,’ ” he said.
Not that in bothered him before. In three starts against UT (including the first of his career), Wuerffel hit 59.6 percent of his throws for 767 yards, 13 touchdowns, three interceptions and one very famous Sports Illustrated cover.
Now he gets the Vols again, albeit under different circumstances.
“Should be a lot of fun,” Wuerffel said.
Wuerffel led the Gators to the national championship his senior year and toyed for the next six years in the NFL, mostly as a backup for four different teams, before retiring following the 2002 season alongside his former coach, Steve Spurrier, in Washington.
Now married with three children, his post-football life has been devoted to his Desire Ministries which targets impoverished urban neighborhoods with the goal of transforming them into thriving, healthy communities. Desire Street now has branches in five states (Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and Florida).
As for his much-publicized bout with Guillain-Barre’ syndrome, a rare disorder that inflicts the nervous system, the UF icon said it is now “in the rear-view mirror.”
When Wuerffel, now 39, runs to midfield Saturday, he’ll do so as a Hall-of-Famer. He was voted into the Hall in May. The 2013 class will be honored at a ceremony in New York in December and the official enshrinement in Atlanta next summer.
His latest accolade will be acknowledged with Wuerffel taking a curtain call during the first timeout of the first quarter.
“It’s obviously an incredible honor,” Wuerffel said. “Had this been five or 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been in the same place of my life to appreciate it as much. Now, quite a few years since my college career, to be able to look back and reflect on the relationships and the teammates and coaches at the University of Florida, I think it sinks in deeper into my heart. There’s such a higher level of appreciation and gratitude that comes with it.”
Some perks, as well.
A Two-Bits cheer is calling.