It's not something that jumps out at visitors when they walk
into Steve Spurrier's office. You have to scan the bulletin
board with all the tacked-up papers, look for the one entitled
"30 Guidelines for a Good Ball Coach," and focus on No. 26.
That guideline reads: "Your priorities should be your God, your
family, then your team."
So the Florida Gators are third on Spurrier's priority list,
which just happens to be their current standing in the polls.
Family -- his wife, Jerri, and their four children -- gets
The No. 1 vote goes to God, which should be no surprise, seeing
as how Spurrier is the son of a Presbyterian minister. And
eminently proud of his father, the Rev. John Graham Spurrier,
and everything he stands for.
But when it comes to spreading the word of God, to using his
position to trumpet his Christian beliefs, the Gators football
coach turns ultraconservative. He pulls back, mostly because
Spurrier has never felt comfortable espousing philosophy in
public that's unrelated to his professional calling.
The coach who will draw plays just about anywhere, who
admittedly draws strength from his faith in God, draws a line on
witnessing. And he believes it shouldn't be crossed.
"My profession is coaching," said Spurrier. "I leave the
preaching to the ministers."
Bobby Bowden takes a different route. Before the Florida State
head coach took his first job in 1953 as an assistant at Howard
(now Samford) University, his alma mater, he was already
preaching as the youth pastor at Ruhama Baptist Church in
The son of a bank teller-turned-realtor, Bowden felt a duty to
be a witness for God long before he ever made a name for himself
in coaching. It was not only a part of his Southern Baptist
upbringing, but he had the gift -- the charismatic personality
-- to deliver that message effectively.
And once Bowden went to FSU in 1976 and rejuvenated a
floundering program, his platform magnified, to the point where
he's now recognized as one of coaching's leading proponents of
Unlike Spurrier, who is more low-key about his religious
beliefs, Bowden is totally at ease with a public image where
faith and football always seem to be intertwined.
When he's not coaching, Bowden is often preaching. Not just at
his Baptist church in Tallahassee, but in virtually any church
of any denomination -- Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran,
Presbyterian, Mormon -- or any Christian-based group that
invites him to talk.
To Bowden, it's not which church you go to that matters. Just
that you go.
"I speak in any church that asks me," said Bowden. "I hope I
don't say anything that offends people, but they keep inviting
me. All I know is what I believe, that God put us on this Earth
to be messengers of His word."
THE PREACHER'S KID
It would be the gospel truth to say that there's been no
greater male influence in Stephen Orr Spurrier's life than his
father. The Rev. Spurrier and his wife, Marjorie, gave their
last of three children the name Stephen, after the first
Christian to die for his religious beliefs.
But the impact that John Graham Spurrier had on the most famous
Gator in history extends far beyond instructions in the faith.
The Rev. Spurrier was also Steve's mentor on the field.
It was Dad who laid the foundation for Steve's fierce
competitive drive, reminding him over and over again that if it
didn't matter who won or lost, then why do they bother to keep