Even while he was becoming the most accurate passer in NCAA history, Florida’s Danny Wuerffel never sought the spotlight. On Saturday night, it found him when he was awarded the Heisman Trophy.
An articulate and thoughtful young man off the field, Wuerffel was the perfect triggerman for coach Steve Spurrier’s Fun ‘N’ Gun on the field. He threw for 3,625 yards and led the nation with 39 touchdowns while guiding the the Gators (11-1) to a fourth straight SEC title and another shot at Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
Wuerffel, an Air Force chaplin’s son, who is always quick to praise others, beat out Iowa State running back Troy Davis, Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer and Ohio State left tackle Orlando Pace.
In a historic Heisman twist, Wuerffel became the first winner to be coached by a former winner. In 1966, Spurrier won the Heisman as the Gators’ quarterback.
After the announcement, Wuerffel hugged his father and mother and smiled when he stepped up to the podium. He was true to form.
“If you guys are watching,” Wuerffel said, talking to his teammates, “I hope you have a sense of accomplishment. This is just as much you as it is me.”
Many people expected a close race between Wuerffel, the most accurate passer in NCAA history, and Davis, the first player to have two 2,000-yard rushing seasons. And it was, with Wuerffel winning by 189 points over Davis.
The 22-year-old from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., probably clinched the Heisman last week with a six-touchdown, 401-yard performance in a 45-30 SEC title game victory over Alabama.
He beat Davis in the closest vote since 1989, with Plummer third, Pace fourth and Florida State running back Warrick Dunn fifth.
Wuerffel, third in last year’s Heisman voting, received 300 first-place votes and 1,363 points in balloting by media and former Heisman winners.
Davis, who ran for 2,158 yards despite the Cyclones’ 2-9 season, received 209 first-place votes and 1,174 points. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior was fifth in last year’s Heisman voting, and was trying to become only the second player from a losing team to win the Heisman. Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung won in 1956 when the Irish were 2-8.
Plummer, the Sun Devils’ daredevil quarterback, who led them to a perfect regular season and Rose Bowl berth against No. 4 Ohio State, had 116 first-place votes and 685 points. Plummer threw for 2,575 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Pace, trying to become the first offensive lineman to win the Heisman, had 87 first-place votes and 599 points.
Rounding out the top 10 were Texas Tech running back Byron Hanspard, Northwestern running back Darnell Autry, Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning, Wyoming wide receiver Marcus Harris and Air Force quarterback Beau Morgan.