GAINESVILLE, FLA. — The biggest shoes to fill in all of college football belong to the University of Florida's Danny Wuerffel, the straight-arrow quarterback with the golden passing touch. Wuerffel's familiar No. 7 has not been retired and now a virtually unknown yet poised Canadian, Jesse Palmer, has arrived to don the same number as the school's graduated Superman.
What else do you call the wondrous Wuerffel, a Florida native who led the Gators to a national title, won the Heisman Trophy, and is a model citizen?
Palmer may or may not earn Wuerffel's old assignment, but he's in the hunt. During the team's first "spring" scrimmage the other week, he was not especially sharp, but then he didn't expect to be. He says he has to "think faster" to adjust to the speed of college ball. The scrimmage was played before a thousand onlookers, possibly the largest crowd of his career.
Palmer's father, Bill, a former linebacker for the Canadian Football League's Ottawa Rough Riders, coached Jesse on a club team in Nepean, Ontario. Even in this outer football orbit, Palmer drew attention.
Numerous major colleges recruited him, but Palmer chose Florida because of its high-powered passing attack. He aspires to play professionally. Performing before 83,000 college fans, however, could be challenge enough. "I think I could get used to that pretty quickly," Palmer says, before heading off on a spring-break Florida vacation with his family.