Reviewed by Jeanne
Love him or hate him, Steve Spurrier left his mark on SEC football starting with his years as a player and then as coach to Florida and South Carolina. His press conferences were legendary; reporters could always count on a great quote from, as someone dubbed him, the Ol’ Ball Coach. (Spurrier reportedly hated that version. He always referred to himself as the Ball Coach or Head Ball Coach.)
In Head Ball Coach: My Life in Football, Spurrier begins at an ending: his unexpected resignation as the South Carolina coach. As with most things, he decided to do it his way and, instead of waiting to be fired or struggle to hang on, he went out in the middle of the season on his own terms.
The rest of the book covers his storied career, not necessarily in chronological order. He played quarterback at Florida, was drafted by the 49ers into the NFL, and coached at Georgia Tech and Duke before ending back at Florida where he was welcomed as hometown boy made good.
In fact, his actual hometown is a bit closer to us. One of my favorite chapters was “Johnson City Dreams,” in which he recounts playing baseball at Kiwanis Park—yes, baseball! He also played basketball and for a time considered that to be his best sport. It wasn’t until his senior year that he began to show real promise as a quarterback in football, but even so the parades at Johnson City weren’t for football but for baseball. Science Hill High School took the Tennessee State Championships for both 1962 and 1963.
Spurrier was recruited by several colleges, but “recruiting” then wasn’t anywhere near the elaborate wooing that goes on these days. He was interested in Tennessee but their offense at the time was based more on running not passing, which was Spurrier’s strong suit. Instead, he visited a number of schools. Florida was a bit of an afterthought, but ended up being his choice in part because it was January and the temperature in Gainesville was about 40 degrees warmer than it had been in Johnson City.
Another favorite chapter is entitled “Things I Probably Said.” Spurrier’s own favorite came while he was South Carolina’s coach and commented on the annual game with Georgia: “I always sort of liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
So if you’re feeling a little nostalgic and want to read about the way college football used to be, or you just want to hear some stories about great SEC rivalries, then pick up Head Ball Coach.