Former University of Florida head football coach Steve Spurrier raised $5,400 for the Alachua Chamber of Commerce before he even took the stage as the keynote speaker at Tuesday night’s annual gala.
Real estate broker, Santa Fe High School football game announcer and huge Spurrier fan Ben Boukari helped garner the bids for the prize of dinner for six with Spurrier at his restaurant Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille.
About 300 business owners and guests including local mayors, city managers and U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Gainesville, showed up to the event at Santa Fe River Ranch with Concept Companies serving as the title sponsor.
Emcee Adam Boukari, a former Alachua city manager, warmed up the crowd and declared that “Alachua stands on its own.”
“We don’t play backup to anyone,” he said, attributing the city’s success to the sense of community and strong business leaders.
Organizers handed out three awards before Spurrier’s keynote address.
Officer of the Year went to Carlos Hunt of the Alachua Police Department, Business of the Year went to Lacerta Therapeutics, Volunteer of the Year went to the Alachua chamber communications committee made up of Joe Hancock, Zach Seymour, Doug Hancock, Elliot Welker, Ed Potts and Mitch Glaeser, and the Hall of Fame award went to Jerry Smith, former owner of First National Bank of Alachua.
Campus Credit Union CEO Jerry Benton introduced Spurrier and reeled off a long list of accomplishments for the Head Ball Coach.
“He is a Gator first,” Benton said. He went on to describe Spurrier as Heisman Trophy winner, national champion, high school state champion in football and baseball, third overall pick in the 1967 NFL draft, only coach to hold winningest records at two Power 5 universities (UF and the University of South Carolina), coach of the year nine times in two different conferences, only person to win the Heisman and coach a Heisman winner (Danny Wuerffel), only living player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame twice (as a player and coach), member of 20 halls of fame, names on three football fields and founder and owner of Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille.
“It’s his integrity that makes him a proud son of Gainesville,” Benton said as the crowd, which included Spurrier’s wife Jerri, stood on its feet for the first of two standing ovations Spurrier received.
Spurrier claimed his spot at the podium and for an hour he took the crowd back to the glory days of football. He reminded them of what it takes to succeed not only at sports but at running a business and at life.
Spurrier said his parents moved to High Springs during his time playing for the Gators and attended church in High Springs and Alachua.
He praised Alachua for its “bold vision” and recognized the biotech industry along with flourishing incubator programs.
“Alachua is to be commended for the growth,” he said, adding that he played on Turkey Creek golf course while coaching in the 1990s.
The crowd laughed loudly and often throughout Spurrier’s speech.
“Games are lost at the line of scrimmage,” he said before reminiscing about career opportunities he said he was blessed to have. He shared quotes and excerpts from coaches he looks up to and from classic literature.
He said Duke Coach Red Wilson handed out a sheet of coaching guidelines that included advice he followed: Treat all players fairly; if you criticize a player, do it to their face; support your players every chance you get; make everyone feel important; and coaches should never argue in front of the players.
The concepts apply to any business manager or executive, he told the crowd.
“Enthusiasm is contagious,” he said. “Never allow a player to loaf no matter who he is. Refuse to be held captive by the environment you’re in.”
Spurrier said there are two ways to be successful in life.
“Do it like everybody else, and try to outwork them or do it differently.”
He referred to Mark 9:23 as inspiration and said, “All things are possible for those who believe.”
Spurrier also emphasized the importance of positive thinking.
“One of the greatest discoveries of our generation is that a person can alter his life with a change in attitude,” he said. “A team can alter life as a team with a change in attitude.”
Spurrier quoted from “War and Peace” and named his mentors and coaches whose lead he followed, including UCLA’s John Wooden, who Spurrier said gave him a compliment once when Wooden told him ‘I can tell you try to do things like we did.’
Spurrier quoted psychologist Dr. Charles Garfield’s list of characteristics of peak performers. Almost anyone can acquire these traits, he said.
“Be positive, have good body language, make no excuses, be responsible and accountable, effort, courage, determination, give it your best shot in all you do, preparation, take risks, face adversity, then bounce back.”
He also said losing a game doesn’t define a team: “One game does not make you a loser from achieving your goals.”
And he said winning works the same.
“Transcend previous accomplishments, don’t get full of yourself,” he said. “Put big wins behind you, enjoy them that day, but don’t get full of yourself.”
Spurrier said people should love to compete.
“Compete the best you can then look up and see what the score is,” he said.
Spurrier closed his speech with references to the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu as it pertains to athletes and business owners.
“There are ways to predict victory or defeat,” he said. “Which team is in complete accord? At the University of Florida we didn’t get booed by our fans. Which team has advantages of where they play? Gators love doing battle in the Swamp.”
He said pay attention to the little things.
“In which team is discipline rigorously enforced? No careless penalties,” he said. “In which team are the officers [assistant coaches] fully trained? Which team has merit properly awarded and misdeeds severely punished?”