Coach Steve Spurrier on the Gators, LSU, Dos Equis & coaching the Orlando Apollos
Coach Steve Spurrier is a football legend in every way possible. As a player, he was a Heisman Trophy-winning college football quarterback at the University of Florida and played for a decade in the NFL; he spent most of his professional career with the San Francisco 49ers. As a college football coach, he has a won a national championship, six SEC championships, and has been named SEC Coach Of The Year five times; he also notably coached the NFL's Washington Redskins for a few seasons. Spurrier is in several Halls Of Fame, is an in-demand football analyst for radio and TV programs, and continues to consult for his alma mater, the University Of Florida.
Spurrier was notably part of a popular Dos Equis Beer campaign last summer alongside Coach Les Miles. The two rivals continue to (lovingly) take shots at one another, playing off the rivalry between the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers. That rivalry continues this weekend with a game between the Gators and Tigers this Saturday at 3:30 PM EST, and Spurrier and Miles notably have a Dos Equis-related bet in place.
Not one to rest on his laurels as one of the greatest college football coaches of all-time, Coach Steve Spurrier will be returning to the professional circuit in 2019 as coach of the Alliance Of American Football's Orlando Apollos. Spurrier was the first coach to be announced by the AAF, and the Apollos already have a roster (including quarterbacks B.J. Daniels and Stephen Morris) and home (Spectrum Stadium) made public.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Coach Steve Spurrier by phone, and highlights from our chat at more. Spurrier can be followed on Twitter via @SteveSpurrierUF, while the Apollos themselves have a home on Twitter, @AAFApollos.
The Swamp and Death Valley are two of the most feared stadium environments in college football. What makes that Florida versus LSU matchup so much fun to be around?
Coach Steve Spurrier: Well it seems like the rivalry has grown a bit over the last two, three years. Two years ago we had a hurricane, so we had to cancel the game with LSU, so we were looking to find that open date where both could come. But for some reason, LSU was playing Alabama the next week and they didn't want to come to The Swamp. Jeremy Foley, our AD, said "we'll go to LSU and then you guys will come here for the next two years." They said "okay we'll do that."
But let me tell you what's funny about that arguing and fighting we do two years ago. The Gators won the game at LSU, and LSU came in The Swamp last year and won the game. Sometimes maybe the home field is not always the best as we know in sports. But that's what kind of got it going, and it seems like some of the people like to jaw at each other about who's the best defensive backs.
LSU, their school is "DBU," and some of these Gators think that we're "DBU." Friendly little jabbing here and there, but it should be a heck of a game. It'll be two teams that are very evenly matched, it could be a three-point game, I think either way, maybe.
You and Les Miles have been getting some attention for a little bet that you made. What’s going on there?
Coach Steve Spurrier: Les and I became spokesmen for Dos Equis Beer last summer. We did an advertisement for them so I've got a bet with him if the Gators he's got to wear a Florida Gator visor around for a day or so. If LSU wins, I've got to eat some grass, and maybe I'll wash it down with a Dos Equis Beer or something like that. (laughs) So anyway, we've already made a taping of who wins and who loses, it'll be shown after the game, I believe.
So there’s a new coach at Florida this year and there seems to be a lot of excitement around having Dan Mullen back in orange and blue. What’s your take on the future of Gators football?
Coach Steve Spurrier: Well certainly we all believe we can get back in that, what they call, relevancy in college football. The national radio and TV guys have been talking about the Gators may be more than they have been in several years, although we haven't been terrible. Jim McElwain and his guys actually won the Eastern Division two out of three years. We got clobbered by Alabama in the SEC game both of those years, but anyway, we want to be in top 10. We want to be fighting for SEC championships and so forth.
I really believe Coach Dan Mullen and his staff can recruit at a level that will get us up there, even with Georgia and Alabama. Those schools recruit well year in and year out. I think we've got excellent coaches here. The staff Dan Mullen has brought in seem to know what they're doing. Todd Grantham is having a sensational year as a defensive coordinator. We lead the national in takeaways right now, and we're highly ranked in defensive categories. We hope the future is bright, we think it is, time will tell, but we've still got some work to do.
You were the first coach announced for the AAF, as you'll be working with the Orlando Apollos. How much do you know about the upcoming season? Do you know any of your roster?
Coach Steve Spurrier: Not too much. We've signed a bunch of players. I think every franchise of the Alliance Of American Football has signed around 70 to 75 players. Training camp actually starts in January 2019. We'll have a complete month to assemble our team, put it together, then start playing. I believe that February 9th is the first game. We're a little bit of a way's off. The players that comprise the teams just didn't make it to the NFL for whatever reason, and there's plenty of excellent college players out there wanting to play. We think we're going to put a good product there on the field.
When they told me I could get the Orlando team, I said: "count me in." This is a four to five-month working gig that is not year-round. You don't recruit for six, seven months like the college guys do nowadays, so it's just, get your team, go play, try to beat the other guys, and enjoy the journey along the way. I'm really looking forward to it.
Had you also been recruited by the XFL?
Coach Steve Spurrier: I don't know that much about the other league. The Alliance Of American Football, AAF, I heard about this in February, March, something like that. Charlie Ebersol is the founder and J.K. McKay got in touch with those guys and so forth. I was announced as Orlando's coach this past summer, early June or something like that.
All eight teams have their coaches, their general managers, their presidents, we have an office in Orlando, we're selling tickets. We're fired up about playing some football in February, March, April.
People know you for your on-field career, your coaching and your broadcasting. What do you like to do in your off-time? Is there something you want more people to know about you?
Coach Steve Spurrier: I don't do much broadcasting, I leave that to guys that talk better than me. But I do some radio just to talk some ball with people of that nature. I don't know, I've been married 52 years, four children and 14 grandchildren. People don't know I've got that many, so our family's spread out pretty good. Other than that, I've been very fortunate and blessed. I'm currently the ambassador and consultant to my alma mater, the University Of Florida. I actually work for the Gators also.
Finally, Coach, any last words for the kids?
Coach Steve Spurrier: The kids? My kids? They're all doing well. One of my grandkids is a quarterback up at South Warren High School in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They're undefeated and having an excellent year. Another grandson is the miler, two-miler, on the track team, a cross-country team. I've been very blessed, very fortunate that the grandkids are doing well.