Terry Dean hopes he won't get benched in the competition for a Rhodes scholarship. Dean, Florida's oft-sidelined quarterback, intends to apply for one of the coveted scholarships to Oxford next year, a decision he made during one of his main stints on the bench this season, when it seemed he had no hope of regaining his starting position, much less leading the Gators to their first victory in the Sugar Bowl.
Dean's season had been filled with disappointment, but his performance in New Orleans, where he completed 22 of 37 passes for 255 yards and one touchdown in the 41-7 win over previously undefeated West Virginia, has him actually looking forward to next season, when he will be a fifth-year senior. Still, his primary goal in the coming year will be to win a Rhodes. Dean, who ranked second in his high school graduating class of 330 in Naples, Fla., has a 3.92 grade point average in marketing and is about to add a second major, in economics. "I'm planning on things other than football," says Dean, who has learned that football glory and disgrace are equally fleeting. "One thing that this season taught me is that football success can come and go quick, quicker than you ever thought."
Dean lasted only six quarters as a starter this fall before Florida coach Steve Spurrier jerked him in favor of freshman Danny Wuerffel. Dean had two drawbacks: his loose play, such as the four interceptions he threw in Florida's second game of the year, against Kentucky; and his loose mouth. Before the season opener against Arkansas State, Dean said, "We should kill these guys, we really should." The comment was one of several ill-considered remarks Dean made that drew Spurrier's ire. Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner for Florida, is not only a rabid competitor but also a perfectionist. He didn't bother to hide his impatience with Dean, who also tended to free-lance too much for the coach's taste. So Spurrier turned to the more precise, more obedient Wuerffel.
For two years Dean had backed up former Gator quarterback Shane Matthews, waiting for his turn to start, and now it looked as if he might never play another down. He was sidelined for five straight games and considered quitting to devote full attention to his pursuit of an M.B.A. degree. Although Spurrier kept assuring him that his time would come again, Dean was so upset at riding the pine that he often couldn't bear to watch the action on the field, and his relationship with the coach grew openly chilly. In practice he took out his frustration by throwing every ball as hard as he could and counting up the passes he forced the receivers to drop.
Dean finally got a chance for redemption, against Georgia on Oct. 30, when, behind an ineffective Wuerffel, Florida trailed 20-13 in the second quarter. Dean went in and led the Gators to 10 points on his first two series. They won 33-26. From then on Spurrier alternated between the two quarterbacks, but Dean still wasn't happy. "It's been so awkward, I really don't want to talk about it," he told reporters last week in reference to the entire season. It wasn't until Wuerffel suffered ligament damage in his left knee during the Gators' loss to Florida State in the regular-season finale that Dean regained his role as a full-time starter.
His postseason performance was Lazarus-like. He completed 20 of 37 passes for 256 yards and two TDs in the 28-13 SEC championship win over Alabama on Dec. 4 and was named the game's MVP. In the Sugar Bowl his 22 completions were to eight different receivers. Afterward an enthused Dean said, "This puts everything behind me. I'm just concentrating on the future now. I don't even remember two weeks ago."