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Danny Wuerffel, chaplain’s son, ends multi?honor college career

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel is strongly grounded in his faith, his friends say. The University of Florida quarterback led the Gators to the national championship in a 52?20 victory over Florida State Jan. 2 in the Sugar Bowl after receiving college football’s top honor Dec. 14 in New York.

It was the second consecutive year Wuerffel was nominated for the Heisman, with the honor coming at the end of his college football career. He still is undecided about entering the National Football League and seminary remains an option, according to a Nov. 26 story in The New York Times.

Wuerffel, son of a minister, has been attending First Baptist Church, High Springs, Fla., while in college, and at times, Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville. His father is a chaplain at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

In characteristic fashion after the Sugar Bowl victory, Wuerffel reflected, “Celebrating a team game and a victory in a team sport is so much better than sitting behind a podium accepting an award.”

Accepting the Heisman award, Wuerffel voiced thanks to his teammates for their hard work. “They are a part of this award,” the Florida Times?Union quoted him as saying. “I hope they are proud of them, because I’m proud of them. The statistics are a reflection of everybody around you and what they’re doing.”

In recent weeks Wuerffel has been busy accepting dozens of awards and trying to finish papers and final exams at the university. He will graduate Dec. 21 with high honors for having maintained a 3.75 grade point average.

His list of awards includes the All-Southeastern Conference team; the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award; the Draddy Scholarship Trophy, which is like an academic version of the Heisman; and the Davey O’Brien Award as the best quarterback.

One award, a 1995 Playboy All-America honor, was one Wuerffel politely declined, furthering his national witness.”

He’s a very normal guy but everyone wants a piece of him,” said Otto Spangler, Baptist campus minister at the University of Florida. “I have four or five autographs that people want him to sign.”

Wuerffel was born in Pensacola, Fla., and attended high school at Fort Walton Beach. As the son of an armed services chaplain, having a good Christian witness always has been important to him.

After each touchdown on the field, Wuerffel often folds his hands in prayer but he has sought advice about how that might be viewed by others, Spangler said. “He’s spontaneously grateful to God, that is perfectly natural.”

But Wuerffel didn’t want anyone to misinterpret his actions on the field, Spangler said, referring to Matthew 6:1. “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

“He’s a very genuine person and very concerned about what he
does,” Spangler said.

Members of Westside Baptist Church thanked Wuerffel for his Christian witness during his years on the team and on campus. “We wrote cards of encouragement and appreciation for his Christian witness on campus,” pastor Gary L. Crawford said.

In the Sugar Bowl, Wuerffel and the Gators faced their top rival, the Florida State University Seminoles, who defeated the then-No. 1-ranked Gators Nov. 30. BSU members from both schools were makingn plans to attend the game in New Orleans. Even among the BSU members, the football rivalry is intense, said Linda Osborne, Baptist campus minister at Florida State in Tallahassee.

“It’s a little intense, but it’s a fun rivalry,” she said. Although no fellowships among the two groups are planned, football games often bring BSU members from across the state together.

When FSU played Miami during a game this fall, students at FSU sent their opponents a sympathy card after the defeat. “They cut it up into puzzle pieces and sent a little at a time,” Osborne said.

Amid all the pressure of the awards, Wuerffel doesn’t focus on the competition.

“I think for most people that it’s hard, but for some reason he’s very centered,” said Jennifer Buzbee, who met Wuerffel at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting.

“It doesn’t seem to get to him,” Buzbee said. “He has an amazing quality that he was blessed with.”

“I’m playing for an audience of One,” Wuerffel was quoted as saying in Sports Spectrum, a Christian magazine. “As long as I can look up and feel I did my best, then I won’t worry about what other people think.”

The quarterback noted, “The Lord is always there in every situation. Rather than seeing problems, I’m beginning to see opportunities in the different lessons God is teaching me. … I can’t do it on my own. I need to let Jesus control my life.”
Art Toalston contributed to this story.

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  • Laura Johnston