DANNY WUERFFEL

DANNY WUERFFEL … NFL QUARTERBACK, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, GREEN BAY PACKERS, CHICAGO BEARS, AND WASHINGTON REDSKINS, 1997 2002 … 1996 HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER … 1996 JOHNNY UNITAS AWARD WINNER For every pass I ever caught in a game, I caught a thousand in practice. DON HUT SON, Hall of Fame wide receiver, Green Bay Packers 90 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Imay be good at keeping my emotions in check today, but in my years in college and playing pro ball it wasn’t always like that. I first remember losing it and paying the price in fourth grade at a racquetball tournament. It was a round-robin competition and I was doing well until the final match. I faced this other really good player and beat him in the first game, but in the second game there was a bad call and I got so bent out of shape that I lost 15 4. But I regrouped in the third for the win. As it turned out, they counted total points, not wins, in a tiebreaker, so he beat me 51 50. I never forgot that the reason I lost that tournament was because I let a bad call psych me out. I learned to shake off a bad play or interception rather easily. Why? Because of that racquetball match! ANOTHER MOMENT YOU LIKELY DID NOT MISS My Heisman season, my teamthe University of Florida Gators played Florida State twice.

The first time we came in as the number-one team in the country, and I was knocked down thirty-two times and we lost big. I never lost my composure and never stopped getting back up. Through some strange scenario, we had another shot at Florida State, with the winner taking the national title. This time, we beat them 52 20. Being at the top and getting hammered only to later get back up and reverse fortunes is what I am really proud of. You might think the loss would be a negative experience for me, but it wasn’t. I had many people tell me they saw that game and afterward voted me the Heisman because I kept it together despite the beating we took. FLORIDA AT TENNESSEE First drive, fourth and ten, on the Tennessee thirty-five-yard line, in the pouring rain, Coach Spurrier calls a timeout, which means we’re going for it. Can you imagine the pressure in front of 107,000 hostile fans? Even Coach Spurrier’s eyes were jumping around from the stress of the situation. Well, out of nowhere, I remembered the C.S. Lewis quote from my bible study class: As you grow in understanding this concept of faith DANNY WUERFFEL 91 you will be realized in the midst of chaos.

As the world around you is spinning, you will be at the most peaceful place of all. At that point, any stress I had just left my body, because I realized it was only a football game. I went out there and completed a thirty-five-yard touchdown pass, and we went on to win the game and I got the Heisman Trophy. We all strive to get to that place on the field and in life: when stress goes up, you calm down. Why is it that Danny is able to make it work? Read on for the answer. ATTENTION, PARENTS When I was in first grade, I remember racing for ribbons. I ran the 100- yard dash and won. All week I heard my voice in my head saying, Danny, you will win. You are the fastest and you will come out on top. I remember taking a test, not knowing an answer but knowing that the girl next to me did have it right. And as I went to look at her paper, a voice in my head said, Danny, you do not need to do that. You’re a smart kid. Just do your own work. I didn’t cheat, at least not on that day! Last story. Senior year, I was 6’2″, a smallish center on my high school basketball team. For the title game, I was matched up against a guy who was 6’6″ and about three hundred pounds. For four days I heard this voice in my head saying, Danny, you are so strong. No one is stronger then you. You can handle this guy. I ended up doing very well, and our team ended up winning. I never thought about that voice until I had my son, Jonah. My mom came to visit and one day I was getting up early to get a drink at about 6:00 am and I heard her saying, Jonah, you are such a good boy.

You are so strong and smart. I checked back and thirty minutes later she was still saying it, and it just brought me to tears. I realized those voices I’d heard throughout my life were the voices of my mom and dad, who had been preaching affirmations to me since I was an infant. PROVING YOURSELF I knew I could relax because I knew I was loved and respected through my faith, both before and after every game, win or lose. If your identity and self-worth are tied up in your performance on the field, then you are on a slippery slope. A guy who wins it all and still says something is missing fits 92 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME into that category. I did not want to have a career where my self-esteem was centered on my stats or whether I got cut. It’s part of the reason I could do so well with a coach like Steve Spurrier, who likes to point out what you did wrong and often yells it to everyone within earshot. All that never bothered me because of what I know about faith and football. MY WRAP Like so many other athletic performers, Danny achieved great things when he stopped caring so much. He seems to have always been older than his years, which explains why he left football when he did in 2002 rather than squeeze in a couple more years as a backup. Danny didn’t need football, but football needs more people like Danny. DANNY WUERFFEL

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