Former University of Florida quarterback and 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel stood in front of a large crowd at the annual Forsyth and Dawson Counties Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet Thursday night.
The event, held at Lanier Tech’s conference center, drew hundreds of area athletes, coaches, moms and dads, many who came to see Wuerffel along with former University of Georgia quarterback Buck Belue speak on their faith and their testimonies.
Unsurprisingly, UGA Bulldogs were the dominate fan base in the audience, and Wuerffel knew who he was talking to.
“Almost six years ago we moved to Decatur,” Wuerffel began. “A lot of people ask me, ‘How in the world did you decide to move to Georgia, don’t the [Bulldogs] there give you lots of trouble?’”
“And I tell them, you know, at least when I was playing, they never gave us any trouble,” he quipped, referencing the Bulldog’s 0-4 record against the Gators during his career.
Even the most faithful Bulldogs had to smile, at least a little.
Wuerffel promised that would be his only joke.
That was far from the truth.
The majority of the first 10 minutes of Wuerffel’s time was spent on comical stories about his own NFL follies, Coach Steve Spurrier, his coach during his time at UF, and kids, who had no idea who Wuerffel was, asking him to get Tim Tebow’s autograph for them.
The crowd ate it up.
As successful as Wuerffel was on the field (he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last year), it wouldn’t be hard to argue that he has been equally successful without a helmet and shoulder pads.
After sharing some stories from his career at Valdosta High School and UGA, Buck Belue, who won a national championship with the Bulldogs alongside Lindsey Scott and Herschel Walker, was tasked with introducing Wuerffel.
Before that though, Belue shared testimony of how during his most difficult times as a quarterback, he prayed. Relentlessly, he prayed.
Belue grew up in a Christian household, but he said it was his time with FCA, both in high school and college, that solidified the relationship between sports and his beliefs.
“I’m so proud to be a part of FCA,” he said. “It played such a huge role in my life as an athlete.”
“I’ve had a chance to speak with some high school teams this year about my faith and story, and I’m telling you, all of us need to be a light right now, because this world is becoming a dark place.”
Belue said he never had the chance to meet Wuerffel during his time at Florida or in the NFL, but that he always admired Wuerffel’s character, on and off the field, from afar.
“The way he played the game, the way he played the position,” Belue said. “He was a team-first guy, and you could see that just by watching him on TV.”
During his time with the New Orleans Saints under head coach Mike Ditka, Wuerffel began work with a Christian non-profit dubbed Desire Street Ministries, whose self-proclaimed goal is to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.
On his way to practice every day, Wuerffel came to an intersection that, if he turned right, took him to the Super Dome and practice with his teammates. If he turned left at this intersection, the road took him to work at Desire Street.
“I had been on an incredible journey of highs and lows up to that point, celebrations and tragedies,” Wuerffel said. “Every single day it became more and more difficult for me not to turn left.”
Wuerffel played his last down for the Washington Redskins in 2002 and shifted his focus to Desire Street Ministries.
Twelve years later, Desire Street is in seven different inner city neighborhoods in cities like, Atlanta, Dallas, Montgomery, Ala., and the flagship city, New Orleans.
“If we are honest, most of the time, the way we spend our time, our money, our talents, is orbiting around us and around our immediate family at best,” Wuerffel said. “We are stuck in a ‘mine mentality,’ and we have to remember these things don’t need to revolve around us.”
“The story of your life isn’t the main story going on; you are a minor character in a fantastic story if you can only find your part.”