Georgia’s southern sports world remembers the legendary Doc Spurgeon

He may not have won a game as head coach, but when it comes to Eagle football, many would say that Georgia Rushmore’s Mount Rushmore will include Pat Doc Spurgeon.

Spurgeon was assistant coach and professor of English at Georgia Southern during Erk Russell’s tenure and beyond. He died Thursday at the age of 93.

Spurgeon trains three All-American players and five All-American kickers. His coaching career record is 555-125. He was inducted into the Southern Athletics Hall of Fame of Georgia in 2014.

Known for his work with Eagle’s special teams, Spurgeon may have contributed best to the Eagles’ success by going out and researching his upcoming opponent and compiling pages of notes in an era before the Internet and videos were readily available. Spurgeon would hold the court during the game weeks of Georgia Southern’s booster lunches, which became a must-see event.

“Pat Spurgeon was a positive force with so many of our players,” said former Eagle AD Bucky Wagner. “We gave him the nickname” Dr. Doom “because of his famous scout reports at the Southern Boosters weekly lunch. He and Erk did a show every week. There has never been anything like it since. ”

“Doc was a special part of the Erk dynasty,” said Roy Akins, a member of the original Dirty Dozen, who helped bring football back to Georgia Southern. “Anyone who has heard his intelligence reports during the booster lunches is a real pleasure. He was something. ”

When he wasn’t on the road, Spurgeon spent the most time with Eagle’s special teams, who probably knew him best from the player’s point of view.

“Doc was a Renaissance man who wore all black and was never without his pipe,” said former Eagle player Terry Harvin. “Doc was probably the only college coach who had a doctorate in English. Who would have thought that Shakespeare, Tolstoy or Edgar Allan Poe could be used to help Tim Foley kick goals or Pat Parker?

Spurgeon knew the physical aspects of kicking positions, but he was also shrewd in mental play.

“The doctor realized that kicking was as much mental as it was physical,” Harvin said. “He put a lot of pressure on you. If you are at college level, you obviously have the physical ability to kick goals or pound. You have to do it between your ears before you can do it between the sticks. ”

“He has always had a different way of approaching each kicker and player,” said former Eagle Don Norton. “He felt that mental endurance was the most important thing. I came from South Florida and didn’t have much, but he always helped us find work to help us spend money. However, the work was quite hard and many times we went straight to kicking, which definitely makes you mentally strong. ”

“As a kicker, I worked with Doc almost every day, all year round, so we had a very close relationship,” said Mike Dowis. “He was very special for all the specialists. We enjoyed the reports he gave on Monday about our upcoming opponents, as well as everyone else. That’s exactly what made it a special moment, and Doc was a huge part of it. ”

Spurgeon also had a playful side, which is something left with former Eagle running back Daryl Hopkins.

“My real first year I got injured in the first game and I ended up wearing a red shirt and joining the scout team,” Hopkins said. “A doctor is leading the scout team’s attack. If we made a mistake by playing a game he shouted, he would crawl on our asses and not relax. One day Doc made a mistake and quarterback Albert Huntley called him. Doc said you were right, Albert, I was wrong, he hit me. Albert refused, and Doc said it three more times. Then suddenly we heard a loud slap before he finished the sentence. Needless to say, Albert got a good slap and we ended the day with a great workout. For the rest of the year, if Doc makes a mistake, Albert will go to him and slap him and just say, come on, Doc, you’re better than that. ”

Spurgeon left Georgia Southern a year after Erk Russell’s retirement and eventually won five more national championships as part of Jim Trussel’s team in Youngstown and Ohio. Spurgeon was returned to Georgia Southern by then-head coach Chad Lansford in 2018.

“I’ve always heard of Dr. Spurgeon in his early years in Georgia Southern, but I’ve never had the opportunity to meet the man. said Lunsford. “I officially met him at a coaching clinic in 2016. I didn’t see him again until I became head coach. We just gathered the new staff in 2018 and in early February we went to RJs to have breakfast as staff after a morning workout. Doc was drinking coffee with a group of regular visitors to RJs. We started talking a little and I asked him to come with me one on one to the football office. He accepted my offer and there was chemistry in that meeting right away.

“He was so full of wisdom and knowledge that I was excited to try to meet him more often,” Lunsford said. “We came to the point where we met almost once a week. He filled me with so much of Georgia Southern’s story, but he also shared with me the experience he had with Coach Russell and Coach Trussel. They have proved invaluable in head coach situations for which you are not prepared until you go through them. This man meant the world to me and I will miss him more than most people know. He helped me want to share with others and help them reach their full potential. ”

While in Georgia Southern with Lunsford, Spurgeon also returned to help the Eagles’ special teams. It so happened that time overlapped with one of Eagle’s greatest kicks of all time, Tyler Bass.

Bass admits that Spurgeon helped him achieve his dreams of playing in the NFL, where he is currently one of the best kickers in the league with the Buffalo Bills.

“In the beginning we had a lot of, let’s call them, debates. But he realized that I was always right, “Spurgeon said in an interview with Syracuse Post Standard in June 2020. We’ll just talk. I would listen and he would get angry, and I would get angry. And (finally) I would say, “Just do it.” And he said, “Okay.” It wasn’t long before he said, “Doctor, you were right again.” “

Spurgeon told a Syracuse reporter that he could not reveal all his teachings during the two years he spent with Bass. But the Golden Strike boils down to simple physics and the difference between centrifugal and centrifugal force. The key comes straight through the ball.

“Don’t try to break the ball,” Bass said. “Just hit a nice, smooth golden punch and everything will work out. Some people try – I’ve even done it before, when I try to kick it harder than necessary. Either it misses, or it’s not as good a kick as I want it to be.

“What he is saying is that restraint will win in the long run. So that means just refrain, just kick it and you have enough legs for it, and just trust yourself. ”

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