Then there is Doering's style: Cantering about the field, a self-described "skinny white guy," he is nobody's idea of a modern wide receiver. But his passion is unmistakable. "The enthusiasm he has—at times he'll start throwing pillows against the wall, throwing empty Gatorade cans around because he gets so psyched," Wuerffel says. "It means so much to him—the competition and just being at Florida. It elevates his game."
In the fall of '93 everything changed for Doering. The Friday before the first game of the season, Spurrier walked into the team's meeting room and announced that Doering would be getting his scholarship. His teammates clapped and whooped for him; Doering ran upstairs and signed before the coaches could change their minds. Two weeks later in his first start, against Kentucky in Lexington. Doering proved himself worthy by pulling down six passes for 95 yards and scoring the winning touchdown with three seconds left.
The next week, in the bus before the Tennessee game in Gainesville, Doering felt it all come together for the first time: the scholarship, the touchdown, the fulfillment of his childhood mission. He stared out the window at all the people cheering, and his heart clenched. He didn't dare let his teammates see his face then, either.
On Nov. 27, two days after the win over Florida State, Doering was walking alone in the tunnel under the stadium when he turned and caught a glimpse of the field. He walked out into the sun and the empty, echoing stadium.
"I couldn't believe it," he says now. "Your whole life you look forward to playing here, and you play here so many times, and all of sudden it's gone."
December is the best month in Gainesville. Exams are coming to a close. College recruiters stop by P.K. Yonge to check out talent, and better yet, the showdown with Nebraska looms. Coach Clifford was chatting with a recruiter from Furman recently, talking about Florida and Chris Doering. "The funny thing is," Clifford told the recruiter, "when Chris finally got his scholarship, I gave him the file of rejection letters I'd saved for him." The Furman man shook his head in what-a-world sympathy, and Clifford laughed at him. "I had one in there from Furman," he said.
Doering is on a roll now; he has been named second team All-America, and his huge senior season (70 receptions and 17 touchdowns) has, he hears, raised his stock in the NFL. He knows that this never would have happened had he not worked so hard, had Florida not rejected him in the first place. But it's strange: He doesn't quite know what to do with himself, and there aren't many people who have known his quandary. What do you do once you've gotten everything you ever wanted?
"My whole life was structured around playing football at Florida, and I accomplished that, and I'm happy," Doering says. "But now that it's over, it leaves me feeling kind of empty. Obviously, I want to play pro football, but not like I wanted to play for the Gators. A lot of kids say they want to grow up to play in the NFL and make a lot of money. But if I could, I would stay around here and play Florida football forever."