When Spurrier hit the NFL, everything changed. He spent most of the next decade backing up John Brodie on the San Francisco 49ers and then earned the ignominious honor of piloting the only 0-14 team in NFL history—the 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His time spent staring from the sidelines made him the coach he is now.
But when he came to work at Florida the first time, in 1978, Spurrier lasted only a year; then coach Charley Pell didn't like the fact that Spurrier, his quarterbacks coach, wasn't interested in 20-hour workdays and marathon film sessions. Spurrier moved on to Georgia Tech the next season, to tutor the quarterbacks for Pepper Rodgers, before getting a huge break in '80 when Red Wilson offered him the offensive coordinator's job at Duke—and promised to hand him the keys. "I told Spurrier, 'We'll do what you want, we'll leave you alone,' " Wilson says. During games Wilson would ask Spurrier what play he was calling. "Touchdown, Coach," Spurrier would reply. "And dadgumit," Wilson says, "it was a touchdown."
But scoring wasn't what pushed him, not nearly as much as the alternative. Mention how much he loves to win, and Spurrier instantly corrects, "No, I hate to lose." And all along, Spurrier remembered every slight, every insult. "See that," he says, pointing to a news clip on the wall in his office. "From 1977 I was released by three NFL teams; I wasn't kept by Charley Pell or Bill Curry [at Georgia Tech]. I was cut loose five times in 2 � years." Every time he plays Kentucky, which Curry now coaches, every time he visits Georgia Tech, he remembers. "I'll show those people they were wrong, the ones who didn't keep me as a coach," he says. "We all like to prove people wrong who say we're no good."
No one expects humility from Spurrier. In a sense he is the truest picture of college football: He's all out there. There's no mistaking Spurrier's taste for the cutthroat thrill of the game. "A Tennessee writer wrote an article up there a couple years ago," he says. " 'If Spurrier was coaching at Tennessee and we won the SEC, we'd love him...and Florida fans... Florida fans wouldn't like him very well at all.' "