Wuerffel being treated for Guillain-Barre syndrome

Updated at 9:22 p.m.

Former Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel was hospitalized for and is recovering from a rare condition known as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a source close him confirmed to OGGOA Wednesday afternoon.

Wuerffel’s charity, Desire Street Ministries, of which he is the executive director, has provided the following statement:

“Fortunately, an early diagnosis identified the disease, permitting swift medical treatment,” writes Luder Whitlock, the board chair of DMS. “Consequently, his GSB specialist expects a full recovery. Meanwhile, Danny has asked me to express his appreciation for the prayers, love and support he has received during this time.”

In an e-mail he sent to a number of close associates that was forwarded to OGGOA late Tuesday evening, Wuerffel explained his current health episode.

A prayer request on my end. I caught a stomach bug last week on our Desire Ministry retreat in Colorado and my body got screwed up fighting the virus. I didn’t recover well. I started losing feeling in my legs, and then while in Montgomery this week visiting our ministry partner, Bryan Kelly, I started losing feeling and strength in my hands and arms. After a series of crazy tests all day Friday (it was actually a blessing to have been in Montgomery), I was diagnosed with Guillian Barre Syndrome, a pretty dangerous type of temporary but progressive paralysis. It was my immune system overreaction to the stomach bug that started attacking my nervous system. Fortunately, it was diagnosed early and I’m on a week-long treatment that should make everything be ok.

“He is OK but not great. Scary stuff,” the source said. “[The Wuerffels] are trying to balance privacy and keeping everyone informed.”

Wuerffel’s executive assistant, Sara Pace, told us late Wednesday that the Heisman Trophy winner “is thankful that he isn’t required to stay in the hospital overnight” but will continue receiving outpatient treatment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Guillain-Barre syndrome “is a disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. […] The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown, but it is often preceded by an infectious illness such as a respiratory infection or the stomach flu. […] In about 60 percent of cases, an infection affecting either the lungs or the digestive tract precedes the disorder.”

We will provide updates and relay any additional concrete information we learn about Wuerffel’s condition as soon as possible. For now, please respect his family’s privacy, pray for his health and hope for a speedy recovery.

Wuerffel has requested that any gifts, donations or letters of support be made to DSM rather than him personally. Should you wish to send any of the aforementioned, please direct them to adam@onlygators.com, and I will forward them to the appropriate contact.

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Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

When college football fans think about Florida Gators football in the 1990s, three names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. A three-time first-team All-SEC selection (1990-92) who finished fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, Matthews set Florida’s career passing yards record, led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years and led the Gators to their first official SEC Championship.

Finishing his college career 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns, Matthews moved on to the NFL where he played for 14 seasons as mostly a back-up with Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo and finally Miami.

Enshrined in the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2002, he spoke to us on Tuesday as a precursor to his involvement in the 90’s Gators Celebration benefiting Desire Street Ministries during this all-important weekend in Gainesville, FL (more information below).

Matthews gave us almost 30 minutes of his time; unfortunately, OGGOA experienced some technical difficulties during the interview. Even though 50 percent of the conversation was missed, we were able to recover a portion of it for publication, which you can read below along with some summary answers to our other questions.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent 14 years in the NFL, first seeing extensive playing time during your sixth season in 1999 (167-of-275 for 1,645 yards and 10 touchdowns). What did it feel when you were actually given the opportunity to show your stuff?
SHANE MATTHEWS: “The reason I lasted as long as I did in the NFL was because of my mind. I could learn plays in a second, an entire playbook in a day and never have to look at it again. I was only 6’3” 190 lbs. at the most. Didn’t have the arm strength or the size to take a pounding, but when I did get my chance, I had some good games and some good moments, but I also had some bad ones. That just comes with the position. You’re going to play well at times, you’re going to play poorly at times. I enjoyed my 14 years in the NFL. In 14 years, I think I only played in 35 games, so I knew my role on teams – didn’t rock the boat – tried help the other quarterbacks and the coaching staff knew they could count on me.”

AS: With Saturday’s game featuring two of Florida’s greatest coaches, how do you compare and contrast Spurrier and current head coach Urban Meyer?
SM: “Urban and coach Spurrier are a lot alike – extremely strong competitors. However, they run their programs differently. Urban’s a great motivator, kind of runs a tight ship and keeps everybody in line, where coach Spurrier is kind of that laid back southern personality. His practices are more laid back and relaxed by comparison. The biggest thing is, coach Spurrier is an offensive-minded head coach where Urban is a defensive-minded head coach. Both of them have done a tremendous job for the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Shane Matthews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

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SIX BITS: Harvin, Haden, Miller, Wilbur, Kentucky

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin was added to the Minnesota Vikings injury report on Thursday with what is being called a hamstring injury. Minnesota did not decide to release how severe the injury is but the Vikings certainly need Harvin on the field Sunday night for their divisional rivalry game against the Green Bay Packers. Harvin has been a big scoring threat for Minnesota recently, returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown last week and hauling in two receiving touchdowns the previous week.

2 » Grabbing his first career interception last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden wants more playing time, and he just might get it, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “I thought he had his best week of practice since he’s been with us,” head coach Eric Mangini said of how Haden prepared last week. “I think that he’s starting to understand what it means to be a pro. He’s starting to understand what it takes to prepare each week, and there’s no doubt in my mind that that week of preparation, the way that he was last week, led to his best performance since he’s been here. If he keeps developing, he’ll keep pushing for playing time. That’s what you want. That’s what I want. That’s what he wants, and I don’t mean I’m looking to replace anybody. I’m looking for him to get better to push those guys to replace them because that competition makes everybody better.”

3 » Miami Heat forward Mike Miller, who is currently participating in his first preseason with the team after being signed over the summer, injured and possibly broke the thumb on his shooting hand Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks. Teammate and fellow former Florida player power forward Udonis Haslem told the Associated Press that doctors believe the injury is “not season ending.”

4 » Former Gators punter Eric Wilbur has been shining this season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, and his ability to kick “high and deep angled” punts has provided his team with “a stunning field-position advantage,” according to the Hamilton Spectator. “We’re asking him to place the ball in a certain spot, so there were a couple which could have been better but overall it was excellent,” said special teams coach Dave Easley. “He gets tremendous height on the ball because he’s got a very, very strong leg.” Wilbur may be asked to kickoff as well next year for Hamilton though his eyes are still set on a bigger stage. “My ultimate goal is to be in the NFL,” Wilbur told the paper. “But I love it up here. I love the atmosphere, I love the games. If I have to stay up here, I’ll be happy.”

5 » Upsetting South Carolina last week at home, Kentucky’s fans were rightfully excited. After the final whistle blew, plenty of blue-and-white faithful stormed the field to celebrate – something that is seen all over the country after a home team upsets a top-ranked opponent. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Southeastern Conference, such celebrations are not allowed under league rules. That is why, on Thursday, Kentucky was fined $25,000 for a sportsmanship policy violation by the SEC. The policy that was violated states that “access to competition areas shall be limited to participating student-athletes, coaches, officials, support personnel and properly-credentialed individuals at all times. For the safety of participants and spectators alike, at no time before, during or after a contest shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area.”

6 » Join former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel and Desire Street Ministries for a 90’s Gators Reunion Celebration from Nov. 12-13 in Gainesville, FL. Wuerffel and other Gator greats like WR Chris Doering, QB Doug Johnson, QB Shane Matthews, WR Travis McGriff, offensive tackle Jason Odom, safety Lawrence Wright and others will be in attendance to celebrate a great decade of Florida football while raising money for DSM. For more information on the event and how you can participate, please click here to read the invitation.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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Wuerffel’s Words: “See what you’re looking for”

For the entire month of September, former Florida Gators national championship- and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel will be contributing his post-game thoughts about how the team performed the previous Saturday exclusively here on OGGOA at the beginning of each week.

The 1996 winner of eight football and academic awards, Wuerffel has a unique perspective as a four-year player at Florida who passed for 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns in his college career. Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, he is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

I attended an event a few weeks back and heard Amy Grant perform a song with a very thought-provoking line: “You see what you’re looking for.”

After three games this season, there are enough troubling occurrences for some to get discouraged about Florida’s play, and yet there are plenty of encouraging things as well. As I talk with fellow Gator fans, I can quickly discern where they fall on the spectrum, and I can understand both sides of the equation.

On the one side, we are the mighty Gators, and we basically expect that we’ll be playing in the SEC Championship game every year. (I don’t know about you, but I already planned my weekend of Dec. 3-4 in Atlanta, GA, around the game.) We’ve even gotten to the point where not playing in a BCS game is a disappointment. Couple these incredibly high expectations with the first three games this year, and it’s understandable that many Gators are feeling troubled with the team’s start.

On the other hand, Florida is 3-0 and just won a huge SEC East game on the road in a really tough environment. Trust me, I’ve been there and know how loud it can be. But, as I recall, all the noise died down after we put up a quick 28 points my senior year. :)

The Gators’ defense continues to force turnovers. John Brantley keeps impressing me with his decisions (no interceptions) and passing ability. The receivers are making some big-time catches, and Florida has tons of speed all over the field.

We can watch, celebrate, criticize and even debate about who this team is and how it is performing. But at the end of the day, it’s up to these young guys to define who they are.

So what do you see when you look at the Gators so far this season? Most likely, you see what you’re looking for.

Go Gators,

By joining together people from all walks of life who are interested in redeeming the inner-city, Desire Street Ministries believes that they are bringing together leaders who actually move into the neighborhood, indigenous leaders who already live there, and neighbors who “move in” spiritually through prayer, encouragement and financial support. Please take a moment to visit Desire Street Ministries online or in person and find out how you can help support and/or donate.

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Wuerffel’s Words: “Don’t be too alarmed…”

For the entire month of September, former Florida Gators national championship- and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel will be contributing his post-game thoughts about how the team performed the previous Saturday exclusively here on OGGOA at the beginning of each week.

The 1996 winner of eight football and academic awards, Wuerffel has a unique perspective as a four-year player at Florida who passed for 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns in his college career. Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, he is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

As I watched the Gators game Saturday, I couldn’t help but remember the countless times in my career I heard a coach harp on us about “the fundamentals” of football. Usually, though, that would be an admonishment about blocking and tackling – the two most basic fundamentals of tackle football.

For the Gators this week, I guess we were all reminded there is one more basic level that comes even before that: the snap – the fundamental exchange between the center and the QB. Without that, blocking doesn’t much matter.

But don’t be too alarmed Gators fans. The first game is often a little sloppy. This problem will be remedied quickly, and we’ll get the chance to see how our new group of athletes can truly play in the coming weeks.

My worst game my senior year was the first one but fortunately for me, no one remembers that one.

As for me, I’m still optimistic about this group of guys and the season ahead. The defense should have a very solid year, and I’m excited to see Johnny Brantley develop as our QB. I think he’s got all the tools to have a great season.

And in case you missed it…Jeff Demps is FAST!

Lots of excitement to come!

Go Gators,

By joining together people from all walks of life who are interested in redeeming the inner-city, Desire Street Ministries believes that they are bringing together leaders who actually move into the neighborhood, indigenous leaders who already live there, and neighbors who “move in” spiritually through prayer, encouragement and financial support. Please take a moment to visit Desire Street Ministries online or in person and find out how you can help support and/or donate.

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Danny Wuerffel to guest blog for ONLY GATORS

With the Florida Gators 2010-11 football season set to begin on Sept. 4, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive is making a concerted effort to provide our readers with additional perspective from someone who has plenty of experience inside the huddle at The Swamp. On Tuesday, former national champion and multiple award-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel agreed to join OGGOA as a guest blogger for the entire month of September.

There are four games scheduled for Florida next month – Sept. 4 vs. Miami (OH), Sept. 11 vs. South Florida, Sept. 18 at Tennessee and Sept. 25 vs. Kentucky – and Wuerffel will be contributing his post-game thoughts and keeping readers abreast about how he thinks the team performed each Monday following the Gators game.

The 1996 winner of the Heisman Trophy, Johnny Unitas Award, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, NCAA QB of the Year Award, Draddy Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award (also 1995), Wuerffel has a unique perspective as a four-year player at Florida who passed for 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns in his Florida career.

A first-team All-America selection in 1995 and 1996, many of Wuerffel’s numbers remain the best in Southeastern Conference history and the second-best in national history. In 1995, his efficiency of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record, and in his Heisman year of 1996, his 3,625 yards (SEC record), 39 TDs (led nation, SEC record) and efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or more in back-to-back years. Wuerffel led the Gators in passing in each of his four seasons (1993-96) and still holds Florida records for most career passing touchdowns and most passing touchdowns in a season (in which he also holds second place). In fact, one out of every 9.74 passes Wuerffel threw in his career would be scored for a touchdown.

Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, Wuerffel is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

Keep a look out for his contributions exclusively here on OGGOA as the season begins!

OGGOA RELATED: Exclusive interview with Danny Wuerffel

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QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

When most college football fans think about the Florida Gators 1996 season, two names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Winner of seven individual awards in 1996 including the Heisman Trophy (and another Davey O’Brien Award in 1995), Wuerffel led the Gators to their first National Championship in his final effort after a four-year career in which he threw for an astounding 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns.

A first-team All-America selection in 1995 and 1996, many of Wuerffel’s numbers remain the best in Southeastern Conference history and the second-best in national history. In 1995, his efficiency of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record, and in his Heisman year of 1996, his 3,625 yards (SEC record), 39 TDs (led nation, SEC record) and efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or more in back-to-back years. Wuerffel led the Gators in passing in each of his four seasons (1993-96) and still holds Florida records for most career passing touchdowns and most passing touchdowns in a season (in which he also holds second place). In fact, one out of every 9.74 passes Wuerffel threw in his career would be scored for a touchdown.

Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, Wuerffel is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

OGGOA spoke to Wuerffel on Tuesday and, even though our interview was feared lost by a technical difficulty, it was recovered at the end of the day. How lucky are we?

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of Fort Walton Beach, was attending the University of Florida an easy choice for you – something you always knew you wanted to do?
DANNY WUERFFEL: “Actually, we were living close to Florida State and my sister was attending Florida State. By default, I was more of a Seminole fan in high school. I took three visits – one to Alabama, one to Florida State and one to Florida. At the end of the day, the two things that drew me to Florida were, firstly, the quality of the education with so many different directions – I wasn’t centered or decided on a major and Florida just had so many highly respected colleges and majors to choose from – I was really impressed with the school, and then secondly, the opportunity to play for coach [Steve] Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

AS: When deciding on Florida, did you know your high school coach wanted to eventually go back to the Gators, or did that happen afterward?
DW: “Coach [Jimmy Ray Stephens] – he played at Florida and had coached at Florida and he was always hoping to get back there – I think that was one of his goals. It was a year or so after I got signed, a year or so after that, coach Spurrier gave him the opportunity to come.”

AS: You played four years at Florida – which is not something a lot of quarterbacks really get the chance to do – but obviously broke out in your final two seasons in 1995 and 1996. Was there a particular switch that turned on for you, was it a measure of the talent around you – what was the difference?
DW: “Practically what happened – both my freshman and sophomore year I was splitting time with Terry Dean – so in terms of snaps and reps, [I] didn’t get as much. For both the 1995 and 1996 team[s], there were some really, really dynamic players and folks that came along and we had two really good teams those two years. And it just happened those were the two years I was in the driver’s seat. When you’re in the right place at the right time with the right coaches and the right players, a lot of cool things can happen, and those were definitely some good years.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Danny Wuerffell…after the break!
Continue Reading » QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

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