"You learn to focus and concentrate when a million things go by at once," Wuerffel says. "You don't have time to make decisions on a dirt bike. You are forced to react, and you have to react right—like in a football game. I think that's why I play better with adrenaline, when things are going fast, and I have to react quickly."
Indeed, since his first game as a Gator in 1993, Wuerffel has shown that the level of his game—the snap and precision of his passes—rises at roughly the same rate as his adrenaline. On Sept. 11, 1993, Florida was trailing Kentucky 20-17 when Wuerffel, who had thrown three interceptions after coming off the bench earlier in the game, asked Spurrier to let him play the Gators' final series. Wuerffel promptly moved the team 58 yards in six plays, completing 4 of 6 passes, including a 28-yard touchdown toss to Doering with three seconds left that gave Florida a 24-20 victory. Two games later Wuerffel rallied Florida to a 38-24 win over Mississippi State, and then he did it again against South Carolina, pulling out a 37-26 victory after being down 17-0. The next year, in a game against Alabama, Wuerffel erased a 23-17 fourth-quarter deficit with a two-yard pass to Doering that pushed Florida ahead 24-23 and gave the Gators their second straight SEC title.
"When things aren't going well, when things are going to hell, everyone looks to Dan," says Bart Edmiston, the Gators' senior place-kicker. "He's the calm in the middle of the hurricane."
Never did the hurricane blow harder than it did last year when Florida faced Manning and Tennessee in Gainesville. Wuerffel threw an end-zone interception in the first quarter to blow a scoring drive, and with 3:27 left in the second quarter and the Gators down 23-14, he violated one of Spurrier's cardinal commandments by leaving the pocket when a blitz was on. Sure enough, Wuerffel got creamed, the ball popped out of his hands, and Tennessee's Raymond Austin scooped it up and dashed 46 yards for the score, giving the Vols a 30-14 lead. Spurrier threw a fit as Wuerffel approached him. "You have to step into the pocket against the blitz and get rid of the ball!" the coach yelled. "You're smarter than that. Why are you running around where they can knock it out of your hands? I coached you better than that!"
The quarterback's unruffled response was vintage Wuerffel: "Don't worry about it, Coach. We'll come back. Stay calm. We can do this."
Wuerffel is rarely the prettiest quarterback on the field; when he sets up in the pocket and cocks his arm, he tucks the ball in his neck and often fails to rotate his shoulder forward when he throws. This unorthodox motion gives him the appearance of a shot-putter thrusting the ball with a snap of the elbow, but Wuerffel can be ruthlessly efficient when his blood is up, as it was after the fumble in last year's Tennessee game. Over the next 31 minutes of play, as the Gators' defense held Tennessee scoreless until its final possession, Wuerffel passed for six touchdowns and ran for a seventh, directing Florida to a 62-37 victory.
By then Wuerffel had become an enormously popular figure in Florida, and Spurrier was starting to take heat for his public scoldings of the player. But the outbursts did not appear to trouble Wuerffel.
"I don't get emotionally aroused or upset at him," the quarterback says of his coach. "He has said many times, 'We're not mad at you personally. We're upset with the situation.' You love the person and criticize the performance. Virtually every time that happens, I agree with him. I understand what happened. I'm upset with myself. I take pride in being disciplined and faithful and in doing the best I can. When he yells on the sidelines, there's no need for me to get riled up. I've got to go out and play again. So I'll take the constructive criticism, learn from it and move on.
"I've always said I'd rather play for a coach who demands perfection than one who accepts mediocrity. Coach Spurrier will push you, and he will rejoice with you when you're done. I'm grateful that God blessed me with a demeanor that is calm."
In fact, says backup quarterback Brian Schottenheimer, Wuerffel has "had a calming effect on the coach. I've seen that a lot." Spurrier himself concedes that Wuerffel has taught him patience.