Spurrier: How The Ball Coach Taught the South to Play Football

Spurrier: How The Ball Coach Taught the South to Play Football

by Ran Henry

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“We all like to prove people wrong who say we’re no good,” says the eternally driven Steve Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback who took off his helmet, put on his coaching visor, and turned three downtrodden universities into winners. Spurrier’s Fun ’N’ Gun offense at the University of Florida flummoxed defenses and rewrote playbooks across the Southeastern Conference, transforming SEC football into a modern phenomena. Spurrier tells the story of a preacher’s son from the Tennessee hills who has been overwhelming opponents with “ball plays” for nearly six decades.

The climax of his storied career is uplifting the University of South Carolina, a school that lost more football games than it won between 1892 and 2005, and was believed for over a century to be cursed. The only Heisman Trophy winner ever to coach another Heisman Trophy Winner, Spurrier dared to enter the “graveyard of coaches” at South Carolina, confront his destiny, and turned the USC Gamecocks into an unlikely winner. Spurrier is the biography of the Ball Coach who has forever changed college football—and its impact on our culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781493015450
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 11/14/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

 Ran Henry is an author, photographer, and writing professor. A Ralph McGill Scholar at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, he earned an MFA in creative writing from Florida International University and wrote for the Florida Times-Union, the St. Petersburg Times, and Tropic, the Miami Herald Sunday magazine. He has taught writing at FIU and Virginia Commonwealth University. He currently teaches at the University of Virginia and teaches football writing for the nation’s number-one Honors College at the University of South Carolina. He first interviewed Steve Spurrier in 1986 and began writing Spurrier when the coach led the Florida Gators to their first-ever national championship in 1997. Henry divides his time between Charlottesville, Virginia; Columbia, South Carolina; and a home in the mountains of West Virginia

Table of Contents

Prologue: Gainesville, Florida ix

Part 1 A Game of Catch

Chapter 1 The Home Team 2

Chapter 2 Out of the Blue 13

Chapter 3 Walk to the Park 21

Chapter 4 Stevie's Ball 34

Chapter 5 Backyard Rules 53

Chapter 6 Keeping Score 73

Chapter 7 The Mission 89

Chapter 8 Preordained 101

Part 2 Greener Fields

Chapter 9 Florida Starr 125

Chapter 10 Sitting Out Sunday 146

Chapter 11 Air Ball 163

Chapter 12 Delivery 175

Chapter 13 In His Father's House 187

Part 3 March to Atlanta

Chapter 14 South of Leesburg 196

Chapter 15 Proving Ground 210

Chapter 16 At the Gates of the Swamp 223

Chapter 17 The Fifth Child 238

Chapter 18 Home Field 254

Chapter 19 To the Top 267

Chapter 20 Death Valley 281

Chapter 21 What Spurrier Would Do 313

Epilogue: The Ladies Clinic 321

Acknowledgments 326

About the Author 330

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Spurrier: How The Ball Coach Taught the South to Play Football 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
Rating:   3 of 5 stars (okay)  Review: College football fans have seen his grimace underneath his visor many times. Steve Spurrier has made an art out of taking football programs that have had very little success and making them winners.  He did this at Duke, Florida and now South Carolina.  The legendary status of the “ball coach” grew in Florida when he took the Fun ‘n’ Gun offense to a new level, brining a national championship to the university. This book by Ran Henry chronicles how a son of a preacher from Tennessee became the ball coach that is either loved or hated by college football fans, depending on their loyalties. There is a lot of detailed research and stories about Spurrier’s childhood and high school playing days, when “Orr” (his middle name, which is used frequently throughout the book) became a schoolboy legend for his prowess in not only football but baseball and basketball as well.   We follow through to his college playing days, capped off by a Heisman Trophy award, then to his so-so professional career. These are not covered in the detail that his youth years are – indeed, the book was at 49% when the first chapter of his college days starts.  That doesn’t leave a lot of space to cover the rest of Spurrier’s football career, both as a player and coach. While the book covers every stop of the ball coach’s career, it didn’t seem to give the proper amount of coverage for each one, especially his time in the United States Football League with the Tampa Bay Bandits and his time at Duke University, where he got the students and alumni excited about a sport other than basketball.  Even when the book starts out with a terrific passage about Florida versus Tennessee, it fizzles from there if the reader wants to find out more about how the legend grew for Spurrier in Florida as again this chapter of his career seems to be given short shrift.  However, like a furious fourth quarter comeback, the author does a wonderful job covering Spurrier’s resurrection of the South Carolina Gamecocks.  The reader will learn everything about the coach during his time at South Carolina.  Everything from politics (he believed the Confederate flag should not fly at the capital) to the relationships with his quarterbacks.   The depth of these stories and how they result in the first football championship of any kind for the Gamecocks makes for great reading.  After spending so much time on Spurrier’s youth, I was worried that this book would not cover the topics about which I wanted to read about regarding the first man to coach a Heisman Trophy winner after winning it as a player.  This was true for the most part, but just the stories from Columbia, South Carolina alone make this a book worth reading.    I wish to thank NetGalley for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.   Pace of the book:   This was a choppy read – it never seemed to get into a nice flow or groove where I was turning the pages quickly.  I also found it difficult to keep up with all the different names thrown out at the same time.   Do I recommend?   Yes, but only if the reader wants to learn more about the young Steve Spurrier – the time when he was shaped into the man he would become by his father. If you are looking for more information about his playing and coaching career, this one didn’t cover as much of that time as expected, with the exception of his last three years at South Carolina. 
Jeff_Brannon More than 1 year ago
Has there ever been a more compelling and unique story about about any figure in sports, coach or player, than Steve Spurrier? It would be hard to convince me otherwise after reading this beautifully written collection of the stories that made the Ball Coach who he is today. This isn't your typical sports book, and for the good, let me assure you. This isn't just a collection of stats or review of game film, this is a masterfully narrated depiction of a man whose day as an athlete began at a quaint little neighborhood park that would later be named after Spurrier. Spurrier, like many of us, is a product of his upbringing. His father, a loving, dedicated father and husband, and rabid sports fan, Reverend Spurrier, taught Steve the ins and outs of sports, and influenced his ethics as a coach and player that shaped Steve into the unique, lovable, and darn right competitive player (and later coach) that he would become and still is. Steve was pushed to always improve his game on the field and court. Even when Steve won a game as a player or coach, Reverend Spurrier always could find something worthy of making better for next time. That mantra of "It could've been better" is one that Spurrier still uses today at the University of South Carolina. Spurrier could be up 35, take out the starters for the backups, go on to win the game, and still have something to tell the press after the game that "could've been better". That's what makes him one of the most respected and feared coaches in College Football; he's competitive, and will do just about anything it takes to win, as you will find when you read Ran Henry's in-depth look at a life that is certainly worthy of a book of this quality. There would be no point for any other author/sportswriter to attempt to write a book on Steve Spurrier; the definitive story of the man with the visor is right here in Ran Henry's new captivating and exciting biography. Even if you aren't a fan of Coach Spurrier (probably because your team is on the bad side of his sideline genius) or the SEC, you still need to read this book. This isn't about the SEC, this is about a man whose desire to coach and win and better his players and assistant coaches is far greater than anything, and that the Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, will not stop until he outsmarts the opponent. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of the Ball Coach, of course you have to read this book, but the same goes for all those who think of him as the Evil Genius. I know you’ve never figured him out. That’s part of the Ball Coach’s plan. But Ran Henry has, and don’t you want to understand what makes Spurrier tick?  But even if you have only a mild curiosity about the man, you will enjoy the read. Masterfully written with a compelling story to tell, Spurrier reads like a novel, as literary as it is insightful. This is not your usual sports junkie book. It’s more about the man behind the legend than the stuff of the legend—although there’s more than enough stuff to satisfy. But what hooked me is the saga of how the boy became the man under the tutelage of a loving father who taught his son to hate losing but to win the right way. Universal themes merge with intimate details in this story of how the slowest boy on the playground quarterbacked the entire SEC into the dominating powerhouse it is today.