There was a notable absence yesterday for Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier's final press conference, and that was his wife, Jerri Spurrier. However, the HBC explained that she was in class on campus preparing for her graduation this coming December: "Jerri couldn't be here, she has class and will graduate with a degree with psychology in December. She didn't have time for this silly little thing." This little detail reveals the kind of coach's wife Jerri Spurrier is...During her time with us, she was more than just a figure head for our football program; she made herself a part of our campus, student body, and Gamecock family. She didn't serve our community simply because she is Steve Spurrier's wife, she served because she was truly invested in the University of South Carolina and its people.
To properly explain the sacrifices Jerri Spurrier has made for this program, I'll have to take you back to Knoxville, Tennessee in 2009. It was Halloween and South Carolina was losing to Tennessee on a cold and rainy night. It was a tough loss to sit through as a fan, especially when losing to a team coached by Lane Kiffin. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, both Vol and Gamecock fans began to leave early to go celebrate or mourn the game. My family and I chose to stay and watch until the the bitter end. As I sat shivering in an emptying Neyland Stadium, a stranger came and wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and said, "Honey, I know your frustration and we are probably going to lose...But it means a lot to this team that you've stayed the whole game...And staying for the whole game when you lose, makes it feel even better when you win." I turned around and saw, much to my excitement, that the stranger was Jerri Spurrier. She had chosen, as she did for every game, to brave the elements and sit among the fans to watch the Gamecocks play. She made herself one of us when she could have watched from the comfort of the press box. I'll never forget that moment, because she took the blanket off of her own shoulders to comfort me, a complete stranger,in a time that I assume would be the most difficult for a coach's wife. She very humbly chose to support the team alongside the fans,and put their needs before her own, during a tough loss. She didn't view herself as someone greater, or more important, than anyone else involved with the program. She very selflessly supported her husband, the team, and the fans themselves.
I had the privilege to speak to former Gamecock player and graduate assistant coach, Andy Boyd, yesterday evening, and he shared some of his favorite memories of Jerri Spurrier. First and foremost, he wanted to to ensure that the readers of this article know and understand that everything "Miss Jerri" does is genuine. During his time around the program, he noticed Jerri made it a point to make every person involved in the football program feel welcome and important. She personally knew and greeted by name every person involved with the program: from the assistant coaches and their families, to the grounds crew and the security personnel. She strove to make everyone involved in Gamecock Football feel welcome, appreciated, and above all, like they were a part of a family. Andy recalled that on the second Tuesday of every month, she would bring in homemade chocolate chip cookies for all of the players with a birthday in that particular month. He remembered these cookies fondly: "They were perfect. The right amount of sweet, the right amount of chocolate, the right amount of butter. I cannot recall a time any of these cookies ever made it out of the locker room. They were huge and she gave you a ton. She made enough so you could share them with your teammates if you chose to". Andy said she went out of her way to give the program an inclusive family atmosphere. On Wednesday nights, she would have all of the coaching staff bring their families to eat with the team. She knew each assistant's birthday and the birthdays of their wives and children. Andy ended our conversation with this "I ran into her before the Kentucky game this year. She hugged me and spoke to me as kindly and as warmly as she did in my days as a player and a graduate assistant. Even after you move on from the program, she is still as supportive and as caring as she was when you were there".
I could write hundreds of pages on how Jerri Spurrier positively impacted Gamecock football and the University of South Carolina. There are countless stories of how she was a major influence in recruiting players and their families to the university, in making players feel at home and part of the Gamecock family, and in preparing those players for life after their playing days were over.
Last season, ESPN aired a special entitled "The Better Half: SEC Wives" where the first ladies of the Southeastern Conference had a brief moment in the spotlight. While each woman had something interesting to contribute, I could not help but notice how much Jerri Spurrier stood out in comparison. While the other wives chose to be filmed in glamorous make-up and close-ups of themselves, Jerri wore her regular clothing and chose to be filmed spending time with her family. When asked about her experiences with the Head Ball Coach she made the statement:
"They're not just his memories, they're mine too"
That statement most certainly rings true; in losing Steve Spurrier, we are losing an important pillar of our program: the First Lady of South Carolina Football, Jerri Spurrier. Thank you for the memories you have created.
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