Spurrier, Manning about to be inducted into Hall of Fame

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Dec 2, 2017 at 5:21 PM

Linked over a memorable four-year stretch for both men, the Tennessee Volunteers’ most famous player and the Florida Gators coach who made his life miserable at times will be inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame next Tuesday in a New York ceremony.

Peyton Manning and Steve Spurrier are the featured names in the Class of 2017. The class also includes former San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk, a teammate of Manning’s with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, former Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinhart and former Michigan State wide receiver Kirk Gibson — better known as a baseball player and his iconic home run in the 1988 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Spurrier, the former Science Hill High School star, becomes just the fourth person inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player and coach. Two of the three previous have UT ties. There is former Vols player and coach Bowden Wyatt and Bobby Dodd, a Dobyns-Bennett High School legend, who starred at Tennessee as a player and later went on to greater fame as the coach at Georgia Tech.

Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner as Florida quarterback, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1986. After a 10-year NFL career, Spurrier began his coaching career as a Florida assistant in 1978.

His first stint as head coach came with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits in 1983. His first college coaching job was at Duke. where he led the Blue Devils to the 1989 ACC championship. After moving to his alma mater, Spurrier led the Gators to six SEC championships and the 1996 national championship. That same year, he became the first Heisman Trophy winner to coach another Heisman winner in Danny Wuerfell.

Spurrier left for two seasons as coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins before taking over as coach at South Carolina in 2005. He led the Gamecocks to the SEC East championship in 2010 and finished his career with an overall record of 228-89-2 as a college coach and 47-41 as a professional coach.

In typical Spurrier fashion, he picked out an accomplishment not often thought about as a proudest achievement on the National Football Foundation’s website.

“One of the records I guess that I’m really fond of is that our teams were 53-0 against teams not from a power conference,” he said. “So I think that just shows that our guys were ready to play; we didn’t come into games half-cocked. We understood we had to go play the game if we expected to win.”

He won all four times against Manning’s Vols, including three times when Manning was the starter. In fact, half of Manning’s losses as a Tennessee starter came against the Gators.

Manning is the 23rd Tennessee Volunteer player or coach to be honored and joins his coach, Phillip Fulmer, who was the last Vol to be inducted in 2012. Manning’s father, Archie, the former Ole Miss quarterback and current NFF chairman, was inducted as part of the 1989 class. They are the only father-son duo to be selected for the Hall of Fame. 

One of the greatest quarterbacks in pro football history, Peyton Manning was a five-time MVP and a two-time Super Bowl champion. He retired as NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (71,940), passing touchdowns (539), game-winning drives (56) and was the first quarterback earn 200 career wins.

As for his college career, he remains the Vols’ all-time leader in passing yards (11,201), passing touchdowns (89), 300-yard games (18) and wins by a quarterback (89).

A two-time All-American, Manning led the Vols to a 30-29 over Auburn in the 1997 SEC Championship game. He won the 1997 Maxwell Award for the nation’s best all-around football player his senior season. Among the other honors was the AAU James E. Sullivan Award presented to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.

“It’s a tremendous honor to represent Tennessee and join the distinguished list of University of Tennessee alumni in the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame,” Manning said in a statement. “I’ve always had great appreciation for the unbelievable history of Tennessee football, coaches and players. I’m extremely appreciative and humbled by this incredible honor.

“I know it wouldn’t be possible without the great coaches and teammates that I was surrounded by in Knoxville including my Hall of Fame coach, Phillip Fulmer, who was recently inducted. I truly accept this as a team honor, and when I say ‘team,’ it’s more than just the players I played with. It’s the fans, the alumni and the great support system I was blessed with at Tennessee.”

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