Mike Bianchi: Coaching legend Steve Spurrier reflects on life after best buddy Allen Trammell passes away

ORLANDO, Fla. — It happens to all of us, even the legends.

As we grow older, as some of our siblings and boyhood friends and high school teammates and college buddies begin to pass away, we start contemplating our own mortality.

Maybe you’ll get ready to make a phone call and suddenly realize that Billy passed away three weeks ago.

Or maybe you’ll be on the golf course and remember that this is the hole where Jimmy chipped in for an eagle six months before he had the fatal heart attack.

Or maybe you’ll come across an old photograph, and you’re the only one in the picture who’s still living.

“A lot of my buddies are starting to go,” Florida Gators legend Steve Spurrier, 78, says. “It makes you start thinking your day’s coming, too, so you better get as much living in as you can while you can.”

Get as much living in as you can while you can.

Sort of reminds you of the classic country song by Tim McGraw, “Live like you were dying.”

“And I loved deeper. And I spoke sweeter. And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.

“Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”

This is a lesson for everybody — old or young — and one that has hit home for Spurrier more and more during the last few weeks in the wake of two of his best friends and former Gator teammates passing away.

First it was Bill Carr, the former UF All-American who was Spurrier’s center when he became the first player in state history to win the Heisman Trophy in 1966. Carr, who would go on to become UF’s athletic director, passed away Feb. 3 at 78 and Spurrier spoke with him just before he died.

“When I visited him, he was somewhat upbeat,” Spurrier recalled. “He always called me Orr. That’s my middle name. And I always called him Willie C. William Curtis Carr was his name. It seems like we all had a nickname back then. But he said, ‘If it’s my time to go to heaven, I’m ready. I am prepared.’ He almost could see it in the future, seemed like.”

And then a few days ago, Allen Trammell, the former Orlando insurance executive and perhaps Spurrier’s closest friend, passed away at 81 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Trammell, a former UF football player and assistant coach and a star on the Gator baseball team, left behind three adult children (Allen, Michael and Shannon) and wife Charlotte.

How close were Spurrier and Trammell? As Spurrier’s daughter, Amy Moody, reflected in a Facebook post after Trammell’s death: “I was 11 years old before I found out that Allen Trammell was NOT my Dad’s actual brother.”

“My dad and Coach Spurrier went to college together and their kids grew up together,” Trammell’s son, Allen, says. “Coach Spurrier’s daughter Lisa used to babysit me. They truly were like brothers. They would constantly needle each other and give each other crap, but they loved each other.”

They met in college at UF, where Trammell was a year ahead of Spurrier. They became fast friends and Trammell sort of took Spurrier under his wing as they became comrades and confidants throughout life.

Spurrier, of course, won the Heisman Trophy, became a first-round draft pick and went on to become one of the great coaches in college football history. Trammell was a phenomenal athlete in his own right and is one of the greatest two-sport stars in UF sports history.

Trammell came to UF as a walk-on, but became an All-SEC punt returner and cornerback who sacked Joe Namath in a monumental win over Bear Bryant’s Alabama team in 1963 and recorded a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown to seal a dramatic victory against FSU in ’65.

As an outfielder in baseball, he was even more accomplished and still holds the UF record for best batting average (.425) and still owns a share of the NCAA record for most RBIs in an inning (8). That’s right, Trammell hit a grand slam and two doubles and drove in eight runs in a 25-1 victory against Kentucky in 1965.

“He was a heckuva baseball player,” Spurrier brags. “Somebody told him he couldn’t play baseball in the pros because he didn’t have a good enough arm for the outfield. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ The way A.T. could hit, why not just put him at first base? But he picked football instead, and he broke his ankle in his first preseason game with the Houston Oilers. As they say, hindsight is 20-20.”

But it isn’t the athletic exploits on the field that Spurrier remembers most about Trammell, it’s their journey through life together.

Like when the Gators played in the 1965 Sugar Bowl, and the pair drove from Gainesville to New Orleans in Trammell’s sporty Plymouth Barracuda. They drove through Trammell’s home state of Alabama, where where his Uncle Seymore was in the cabinet of infamous segregationist Gov. George Wallace.

Spurrier does his best old-South accent when talking about actually meeting Wallace at the Governor’s mansion in Montgomery. Little did Wallace know at the time that Spurrier would later become the head coach at South Carolina, where he would speak out against Antebellum South era symbolism and call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol building.

Spurrier also remembers in those days before NIL when Trammell’s Uncle Seymore, as they were getting into the Barracuda to continue their journey to New Orleans, gave each of them a $20 bill.

“That was the most money anybody had ever given me,” Spurrier recalls with a laugh.

Oh, the stories Orr can tell about A.T.

It was on that trip to New Orleans that Trammell taught Spurrier how to eat raw oysters. “Put a lot cocktail sauce on them and make sure you have some cracker with every bite.”

Then there was the time Trammell and Spurrier were on the same rec league basketball team that won the Gainesville city championship one year.

Or the time when Trammell took Spurrier fishing at Cedar Key and they were slaying the mackerel on one trip, but a week later they never got a bite. “I think that was my last fishing trip,” Spurrier says.

Or what about the annual “Wit’s End” golf tournament, where Trammell and Spurrier and a bunch of old friends and family members would get together for a weekend in Crescent Beach?

Or all those “Silver 60s” trips to Crystal River where the UF players who played for Coach Ray Graves in the 1960s still have an annual summertime reunion. All of those old players and their families get together every year, sit by the hotel pool, barbecue, have a few brews, tell a few stories, play with the kids … and now the grandkids … and just relish being together again.

And Trammell, he would always bring his boat because he was always the life of the party.

“A.T. loved to do things in life,” Spurrier says. “He didn’t sit around. He learned how to drive boats. He hunted. He fished. He played basketball. He was a participant; he was not a spectator. I’m gonna miss him.”

The passing of old friends makes us all come to grips with the transient nature of life and the fact that Father Time is unbeaten.

The clock ticks for everyone, even legends.

The question is how do you deal with it? Do you sit around and think about the losses or do you keep on trying to win?

Spurrier has obviously chosen the latter. He is still healthy except for some arthritis in his back that, he says, has put “some gimp in my giddyup.” He still works out, plays golf and helps run his successful restaurant in Gainesville. He still has an office at the University of Florida, where he helps the athletic program raise money. And he and wife Jerri spend time with the kids and grandkids and still travel to annual functions such as the Heisman Trophy and College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

“I believe in staying active and trying to do the things that you’ve been doing your whole life,” Spurrier says. “Just keep on living.”

Even after all these years, Spurrier is still preaching and teaching offense.

Still instructing us to fun and gun our way through life.

He is a legend who has accomplished so much in his past, but he still dreams and strives.

Don’t use your own mortality to be sad about the past. Use it as a fuel for everyday life.

Be like Allen Trammell: Be a participant. Not a spectator.

Be like Bill Carr, who told Spurrier just before he passed away: “I’m ready when my number’s called.”

In other words, leave it all out on the field.

Keep on playing through the echo of the final whistle.

Or, as the Head Ball Coach himself, likes to say:

“Live as much as you can while you can.”