Thursday marks the tee-off of the 11th annual Desire Cup, a two-day event in Sea Island (Ga.) hosted by Florida Gators great, former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel, and Desire Street Ministries to benefit community leaders in under-resourced communities.
Wuerffel and the Desire Street Ministries will hold a gala and auction on Thursday night to generate proceeds for community development throughout the southeast, followed by a round of golf between Wuerffel and fellow former Gators and Georgia Bulldogs for a good cause.
"It brings a lot of awareness to both, I think the needs that people have in our country, as well as the opportunity for others to make a difference," Wuerffel explained to AllGators in an interview. "We've raised a lot of money that's gone directly to helping a lot of kids in a lot of different neighborhoods.
"Last year coming out of the event directly, one of the leaders in one of the neighborhoods got two vans that they desperately needed for transportation, that were donated to them straight from the event. So pretty, pretty exciting stuff."
Wuerffel and the Desire Street Ministries were particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic given the work they do within various communities. The pandemic forced the organization to shift its focus at times, which led Desire Street Ministries to prioritize and enhance food distribution to communes over the past year and a half.
The Desire Street Ministries have partners in Mobile and Montgomery (Ala.), Augusta (Ga.), Orlando and Lakeland (Fla.), and Dallas (Texas). Wuerffel shared that the ministry hopes to revitalize 20 neighborhoods by 2025 and that the organization is halfway toward reaching that goal.
Of course, the Desire Cup serves as a prelude to another competitive event between the two universities: The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party; the Florida-Georgia football game.
Wuerffel has been encouraged with the Gators' effort in 2021, even though it hasn't been enough to overcome a handful of SEC bouts this year. The close loss to Alabama and the road upsets to Kentucky LSU, understandably to Wuerffel, left a bad taste in the mouths of Florida fans, but he believes that there are reasons for the UF faithful to be optimistic about the future.
Those reasons start with redshirt quarterback Anthony Richardson.
"The beauty is a win against Georgia can cover a multitude of sins, as we would say. So it could be a real fun upset if we can pull that one off," Wuerffel said. "I think there's a lot of excitement about the possibility, you know, I think that Anthony Richardson has shown incredible upside as a quarterback and a lot of people are very interested to see what may unfold with that."
Richardson was nearly a hero for Florida in the loss to LSU. After replacing starter Emory Jones at the start of the second half, Richardson mounted a two-possession comeback and led UF to four consecutive touchdown drives, ultimately giving the Gators an improbable chance to win the game.
Wuerffel had a message specifically to offer Jones as he feels the pressure of fans clamoring for Richardson to take over the starting role: Focus on what he can control.
"I've been there as well. Splitting time early in my career trying to be the guy when there's lots of people trying to get that spot too," Wuerffel noted.
"You know, I think, really, the advice I have is focus on what you can control and make the most of your opportunities, which I think he's done. And he has developed and he's played really hard, he's made a lot of good decisions. And, I think he's really contributed a lot.
"And I think, you know, unfortunately, because of what people think about the possibility of Anthony Richardson, I think it's just made that a little bit more difficult for Emory," Wuerffel continued. "With that said, I've been very impressed with the collegial support they've had for each other. That's been very impressive to me. I think they both have really managed the situation well."
He'll banter with Bulldogs of the past about the upcoming Florida-Georgia game on the course, and considering his ties, Wuerffel likes to think the Gators could pull off an upset on Saturday. But he respects the challenge that the No. 1 team in the nation presents his former squad and understands the odds of Florida walking out of TIAA Bank Field with a win aren't all that great.
"This is one of those where you kind of have your head and your heart at odds with one another. My head looks at all the data and sees the juggernaut Georgia has on defense and their capable offense and thinks there's very, very few ways that the game could unfold where the Gators would win," said Wuerffel.
"But my heart also knows that anything can happen. A rivalry game opens that door for upsets more than in general. And then I've got to think, you know, in the back of their minds, Georgia has so often peaked early and just really had some disappointing losses, that could be weighing on their mind too. Like, oh, man, they've got nothing to gain and everything to lose. All that gives my heart the thought that we may show up and steal the day."
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