Steve Spurrier winning at football, life

Steve Spurrier

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Bob Stoops' cell phone was buzzing last November. Only hours earlier, he'd passed Barry Switzer to become Oklahoma's all-time winningest coach with a 41-31 win over Kansas State.

It was a given that he was going to hear that night from one of his closest friends and the godfather of his twin sons.

It was Steve Spurrier on the line. And boy, did Stoops hear from the Head Ball Coach.

In his familiar twang, he heartily congratulated "Stoopsy." In Spurrier-speak, just about everybody has a "y" at the end of his first or last name, and sometimes both.

"He let me [enjoy] it for about 10 seconds, let me soak it in just a little bit and then says, 'Now, Bobby, you have to leave and go do it somewhere else like I did,'" recounted Stoops, laughing so hard he could hardly finish the story.

"That's him. There's nobody else like him."

Not even close. Spurrier's so incredibly unique that we're not likely to see another one quite like him ever again in college football. He is the antithesis of coaching convention, an island in a sea of Nick Saban wannabes.

He doesn't sleep in his office, plays as much golf as he can stand in the offseason and demands that his coaches have a life outside of football. He's a walking sound bite in a profession full of stock quotes. If he thinks it, he usually says it, and worries about providing bulletin-board material about as much as he worries about where he finishes in the recruiting rankings.

Spurrier, the all-time winningest coach at both Florida and South Carolina, hasn't just gone against the coaching grain. He has scoffed at it every step of the way, and now as he bears down on the ripe, young age of 70, he's also bearing down on coaching immortality. He might even be around long enough to challenge Bear Bryant's record for SEC wins, once thought unbreakable.

"There's a lot of ways to skin a cat," said Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who worked as Spurrier's defensive coordinator at South Carolina from 2008 to 2011 and has spent time at five different SEC schools. "Steve has the advantage of having developed his own offense, so he doesn't have to spend four or five hours a day deciding what he would do with formations or play-calling.

"I've learned over my 40 years that sometimes the genius in genius is simplicity."

• • •

Although fiendishly competitive, Spurrier revels in the fact that he has never allowed football to consume him. He's home just about every night eating dinner with Jerri, his wife of 47 years. There are Easter egg hunts for the coaches' kids, trips for the coaches and their wives to the coast, and, yes, staff golfing excursions to the Dominican Republic.

"My old coach, Pepper Rodgers, used to say, 'The woods are full of fired coaches who told everybody how hard they worked,'" Spurrier said. "I guess I could come in and stay all day and work all night. I guess we'd find something to do, watch tape or something.

"My favorite coach, philosophy-wise, was John Wooden. I read most of his books and most of his good sayings and never in any of them was his key to success outworking the other guy by hours."

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