At the end of that meeting the coaches lined up at the front of the room and formed a receiving line. The players filed past, shaking each coach's hand in a gesture of solidarity. "Words are just words," senior linebacker James Bates said later. "A handshake is a promise."
That promise was kept with the style that has distinguished the Spurrier era, as the Gators ran away from Florida State in the final 30 minutes, making one of the strongest programs in the country look like Kentucky. "Makes you wonder how we beat them the last time," Bowden said. The frustrated Seminoles made so many obvious late hits that Bowden was compelled to apologize after the game. But Spurrier was unmoved, and for those who suspected that his pregame criticism was an insincere ploy meant to influence the game officials, he said of the Seminoles long after the game, "They tackle the quarterback after he throws it. Most teams just knock a fellow down, but they tackle him. That's how they played out there. That's how they always play."
In the end Florida players danced on the Superdome rug for 45 minutes, drinking in the title with the many fans who stayed and rushed to the tops of the high walls that encircle the field. Wuerffel found his father, Lieut. Col. Jon Wuerffel, an Air Force chaplain, amid the chaos on the field, threw his sore right arm across his dad's back and walked him in wide, delirious circles of celebration. "I'm just looking for somebody to give a hug," Wuerffel shouted above the roar.
The army of Gators fans spilled from the Dome onto Poydras Street and marched toward the French Quarter and a nightlong party on Bourbon Street. It was back in the last week of July, at a booster club function in Jacksonville, that Spurrier had promised, "On January 3, Gators will be dancing and high-fiving on Bourbon Street." He also promised to join them, and eventually he did.
But first there was a small moment with his family, a portrait of satisfaction away from the madness. Spurrier leaned against a counter in his suite; Jerri was nearby, as were daughters Lisa, 29, and Amy, 27 (with their husbands), and sons, Steve Jr., 25, and Scotty, 9. "We were a team of destiny," Spurrier said. "God smiled on us."
Scotty walked to his father and wrapped both arms wearily around Steve's left thigh while nuzzling against his hip. Spurrier reached down and massaged his son's head. "All right, Scotty, we got us one, didn't we?" he said. "Those old Seminoles ain't got us for a while, anyway." Spurrier clicked his teeth and nodded briskly. "Yup, they couldn't beat us," he said.
Scotty hugged the leg just a little tighter. "I love you, Dad," he said softly.
And don't they all, Gators everywhere.