Wuerffel speaking at Eglin Air Force Base in February 2009
|No. 7, 17|
May 27, 1974 |
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
|Height:||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Weight:||212 lb (96 kg)|
|High school:||Fort Walton Beach (FL)|
|NFL Draft:||1997 / Round: 4 / Pick: 99|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Daniel Carl Wuerffel (born May 27, 1974) is a former college and professional American football quarterback who won the 1996 Heisman Trophy and the 1996 national football championship while playing college football for the University of Florida. Wuerffel was a prolific passer in coach Steve Spurrier's offense. He led the nation in touchdown passes in 1995 and 1996, and set numerous school and conference records. Wuerffel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
After graduating from Florida, Wuerffel was drafted by the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL). He spent six years in the league with four teams, finding limited success as a backup and an occasional starter. He also played a season in NFL Europe, where he led the Rhein Fire to a league championship and was named MVP of World Bowl 2000.
Wuerffel last played professional football in 2002, officially retiring in 2004. He returned to New Orleans to work with Desire Street Ministries, a nonprofit organization that seeks to help impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development. Wuerffel had first become involved with the organization while playing for the Saints in the late 1990s, and as the organization attempted to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he became its executive director. Under Wuerffel, Desire Street Ministries moved its headquarters to Atlanta and expanded its programs to other inner cities in the American south.
Wuerffel was born in Pensacola, Florida, in 1974, the son of a Lutheran minister who was a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force. While he was growing up, his family and he lived in South Carolina, Spain, Nebraska, and Colorado before he attended Fort Walton Beach High School in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Wuerffel was a standout high school football and basketball player for the Fort Walton Beach Vikings. In football, he led the Vikings to an undefeated season as a senior quarterback, while winning the Florida Class 4A state football championship in 1991 and earning the number two national ranking in USA Today. Wuerffel was widely considered the top high school football recruit in the state of Florida, and USA Today's high school player of the year in Florida during his senior year. He graduated from high school as his class valedictorian.
Wuerffel accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played quarterback for head coach Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators football team from 1993 to 1996. One of the most decorated players in Florida's football history, he was a key member of the Gators teams that won four consecutive Southeastern Conference titles between 1993 and 1996. Wuerffel graduated from the university with a bachelor's degree in public relations, and was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great" in 2006. On September 30, 2006, Wuerffel was inducted into the Gator Football Ring of Honor alongside his former coach Spurrier and two other former Gator players, Jack Youngblood and Emmitt Smith. Wuerffel was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
The 1993 season was the first in which the Gators were ranked in the AP top 10 every week. In the second week, quarterbacks Wuerffel and Terry Dean throw a total of seven interceptions against Kentucky. With eight seconds left, Wuerffel threw a pass down the middle to walk-on receiver Chris Doering for the game-winning touchdown; Gator play-by-play announcer Mick Hubert shouted, "Doering's got a touchdown!" The next week, Florida recovered and defeated Heath Shuler-led and fifth-ranked Tennessee 41–34 in a "shootout".
Wuerffel had split playing time with fellow quarterback Terry Dean for much of the 1993 and 1994 seasons. With Dean graduated, Wuerffel was the clear starter coming into the 1995 season, and he made the most of his opportunity. The Gators went through the regular season undefeated, and Wuerffel set several Southeastern Conference (SEC) and NCAA records for passing, including the SEC season record for touchdown passes and the NCAA record for passing efficiency . Highlights included a September win over rival Tennessee in which Florida rallied from a 30-14 deficit to win 62-37 behind Wuerffel's SEC record 6 touchdown passes. Sports Illustrated had sent a team of reporters to cover the top-10 matchup and had planned to put Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning on the cover. However, after the Gators' win, they decided to put Wuerffel on the cover instead, bringing him his first major national attention.
He led the Gators to the Bowl Alliance national championship game following the 1995 season, but ultimately lost 62–24 to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl. Wuerffel won the 1996 Heisman Trophy, as the outstanding college football player in America, while quarterbacking the Gators into their second consecutive Bowl Alliance national championship game with help from teammates Fred Taylor at running back; Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard, and Jacquez Green at wide receiver; and Jeff Mitchell on the offensive line. Wuerffel and the Gators won the 1996 national championship in decisive fashion by defeating the Florida State Seminoles 52–20 in the Sugar Bowl.
Wuerffel was a first-team All-American in 1995, and a consensus first-team All-American in 1996. He received the Sammy Baugh Trophy in 1995, the Davey O'Brien Award in 1995 and 1996, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 1996, and was named the Quarterback of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus in 1996. Wuerffel declined to be included on Playboy magazine's All-America team as well as its Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, saying, "That's not the type of person I am or would like to portray myself as." His Gators teammates picked him as the squad's most valuable player in 1995 and 1996; his coaches chose him as one of the Gators' team captains. He was later named to The Gainesville Sun's Florida Gators Team of the Century in 1999, was chosen by the Sun as the number one player in the first 100 years of Gators football, and was listed as a member of the Florida Gators 100th Anniversary Team in 2006.
He is one of only two Heisman Trophy winners to also receive the Draddy Trophy, which is presented annually by the National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame to the nation's top football scholar-athlete. Wuerffel was also a first-team Academic All-American in 1995 and 1996.
He finished his Gator career by completing 708 of 1,170 passes for 10,875 yards with 114 touchdown passes, the best in SEC history and second-most in major college history. His career pass efficiency rating of 163.56 was the best in major college history and his percentage of passes which went for a touchdown (9.74) ranked first in collegiate history. In 1995, his efficiency rating of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record. During his Heisman-winning season of 1996, he completed 207 of 360 passes for 3,625 yards (an SEC record at the time) for 39 touchdowns (leading the nation) and his efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first quarterback to ever post a rating of 170 or better in back-to-back years.
|1995||210||325||3,266 2||64.6%||35 1||10||178.4 1|
|1996||207||360||3,625 2||57.5%||39 1||13||170.6 2|
Notes: 1 indicates NCAA leader, 2 indicates SEC leader
The New Orleans Saints selected Wuerffel in the fourth round of the 1997 NFL Draft, and he played for the Saints for three seasons from 1997 to 1999. Wuerffel spent the offseason before the 2000 NFL season with the Rhein Fire in NFL Europa, where he led the team to a league championship and was named MVP of World Bowl 2000. He spent single seasons as a backup with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in 2000 and 2001. Wuerffel was drafted by the Houston Texans in the 2002 NFL Expansion Draft, only to be traded to the Washington Redskins a week later, reuniting him with college coach Steve Spurrier. Wuerffel started several games that season, alternating with fellow Florida Gator alumnus Shane Matthews, but was released by the team before the 2003 season, much to the chagrin of Spurrier.
After not being signed by another team in 2003, Wuerffel decided to retire from professional football in February 2004.
Wuerffel began work at Desire Street Ministries, a nonprofit, faith-based organization focusing on spiritual and community development in areas of New Orleans.
The All Sports Association of Fort Walton Beach created the Wuerffel Trophy in his honor in 2005. Florida sculptor W. Stanley Proctor created the design which commemorates Danny Wuerffel, "as he prays after a touchdown. It is awarded annually by the All Sports Association of Fort Walton Beach, Florida to the athlete who best exemplifies Wuerffel's character on the field of play and in the classroom.
In 2014, Emerald Bay Country Club in Destin, Florida, hosted the 1st Annual Danny Wuerffel Golf Classic, known as the "Danny Cup". A small stretch of road between the Mid-Bay Bridge and Highway 98 in Destin, still his parents' home, has been dedicated as "Danny Wuerffel Way" by the Florida state legislature.
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