November, 13 2023
A single play cannot win a Heisman Trophy, but it can come to be associated with the winner for posterity. Such a play involved Steve Spurrier on October 29, 1966, when he went Beyond the Call by doing something no one expected…except for himself.
The Florida quarterback guided the Gators to a 6-0 record as they squared off with Auburn in a homecoming game in Gainesville (FL). Late in the fourth quarter the Tigers and Gators were tied at 27 points, when Spurrier had a moment for the ages. The quarterback got the Gators into Auburn territory with a completion to Paul Ewaldsen but quickly faced a third and long. Spurrier calmly zipped a 20-yard pass to Tom Christian, getting the Gators into prime field goal territory at the Tiger 20.
Things went sideways for Spurrier after that. He was called for intentional grounding trying to avoid a sack. The penalty pushed the Gators back to the 39-yard line. Worse than the lost yardage was the automatic loss of down. Now out of field goal range and facing a third-and-19, Spurrier got what he could. A fifteen-yard completion moved the ball to the 24, forcing the Gators to settle for a 40-yard field goal attempt by a kicker who was on a cold streak, missing all his field goal attempts since the season opener. The kicker? Steve Spurrier.
In addition to quarterback, Spurrier was also the Gators’ punter and placekicker, and it was up to his right foot instead of his right arm to save Florida’s season. Spurrier quickly zipped on his square-toed kicking shoe and got into position at the 40. Holder Larry Rentz took the snap, placed the ball and Spurrier swung through.
Almost immediately Rentz jumped up and bearhugged Spurrier as the ball cleared the goalposts 40 yards away. Auburn could not match the score in the final frantic seconds and Florida walked off the field with a 30-27 victory. Spurrier walked off the field and into immortality with what to this day is simply referred to as “The Kick.”
Imminently quotable, Spurrier hinted at his future perception as a cocky coach who consistently backed up his boasts. He was asked in the post-game locker room when he knew the kick was good. “As soon as I hit it,” Spurrier said plainly.
St. Petersburg Times columnist Tom Kelly was stunned that a kicker on such a cold streak could produce with the game on the line “Nobody in the place thought Steve Spurrier would kick that game-winning field goal except Steve Spurrier,” Kelly wrote. The hero of the game agreed with that assessment. “I was pretty confident I’d make it,” he said. “I was due to make one. I hadn’t made one since the first game.”
Leading up to the kick Spurrier had a stellar passing game against Auburn, setting a SEC record with 27 completions in the game for 259 yards and a touchdown. It was his signature performance of the year. Florida head coach Ray Graves argued that Spurrier should now be the front runner for the Heisman. “I can’t award Steve the Heisman Trophy, but if I could, I’d give him two of them.” Graves said. “He is absolutely the greatest clutch athlete I’ve ever seen.”
Spurrier beat out Purdue’s Bob Griese for the Heisman and guided the Gators to their first ever Orange Bowl appearance and victory. He parlayed his success on the field into a college coaching career, earning the nickname “Head Ball Coach” while guiding his alma mater to unprecedented heights including the 1996 National Championship. Spurrier coached Danny Wuerffel to a Heisman that season, but Wuerffel never had a moment quite like “The Kick.” That was all Spurrier, a player who went Beyond the Call by doing something no one thought he could do…except for Steve Spurrier.
Click HERE to watch episode