Steve Spurrier was the king of zingers, comebacks and hilarious jabs at opponents while coaching the Florida Gators. But the man who made visors cool and went on to coach the NFL’s Washington Redskins and the South Carolina Gamecocks was also a mastermind play caller.
The Head Ball Coach kept opposing coaches on their toes, willing to break out trick plays just when they least expected it. From the University of Florida to the University of South Carolina and the Alliance of American Football, Spurrier has been known to throw a wrinkle or two at opposing defenders. Before Tim Tebow began the jump pass craze, it was Spurrier who showed he wasn’t afraid to get creative.
Back when Spurrier was winning SEC titles, had the Gators scoring at will, and The Swamp rocking in the 1990s, he broke out one of the most creative trick plays I’ve ever seen. Surely you’ve heard of the “Hidden Ball Trick” in baseball, but the HBC brought it to the college football ranks.
And here’s the thing: It worked.
Steve Spurrier’s ‘Hidden Ball’ Trick Play
Florida was playing West Virginia in the 1994 Sugar Bowl, two years before it beat Florida State in the same game to capture its first national championship. WVU entered the game undefeated and sought a share of the national championship.
By the fourth quarter, the Gators grew their lead to an insurmountable 41-7 score. Quite simply, they were kicking the Mountaineers’ ass.
So late in the game, the UF head coach decided to let the offense run the his hidden ball trick play.
What does that mean exactly? Like something you’d see in pee wee football, the quarterback and a bunch of offensive players huddle up in the middle of a play then turn and each act like they’re carrying the ball.
Spurrier’s play worked to perfection.
Quarterback Eric Kresser, tight end Jeremy Kennedy, running back Carlton Pouncy and fullback Chris Bilkie gathered up and broke out. Though it may not have went for a touchdown, Bilkie took the ball right through a confused West Virginia defense for about eight yards.
Of course, this is nearly impossible without the help of the offensive line, who gave those guys plenty of time to let the trick play unfold. And you have to wonder what WVU players were thinking after this.
The hidden ball trick isn’t Spurrier’s invention. Its roots trace back to Pop Warner, who in the early 1900s sewed elastic waist bands into football players’ jerseys to hide the ball. But Spurrier clearly adopted his own version of it and wasn’t afraid to run it in a game.
Spurrier ran trick plays often in his career. Conference opponents like LSU, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Arkansas had to always be ready for them.
Steve Spurrier was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1986 and a coach in 2017, and plays like the 1994 Sugar Bowl ‘Hidden Ball’ trick play are exactly why. Maybe Spurrier’s nickname should really be the “Hidden Ball Coach.”