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Georgia Southern sports world remembers the legendary 'Doc' Spurgeon
Doc Spurgeon
Pat “Doc” Spurgeon is shown at far right with former Georgia Southern and current Buffalo Bills kicker Tyler Bass, center, at Paulson Stadium in November, 2019..

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

Spurgeon was an assistant coach and English professor at Georgia Southern during the Erk Russell tenure and then a little more. He passed away Thursday at the age of 93. 

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

Famous for his work with Eagle special teams, Spurgeon perhaps best contributed to the Eagles’ success by going out and scouting the upcoming opponent and compiling pages of notes in an era prior to the internet and videos being readily available. Spurgeon would hold court during game weeks at Georgia Southern booster luncheons, 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 of "Dr. Doom" because of his famous scouting reports at the Southern Boosters weekly luncheon. He and Erk would put on a show every week. There has never been anything like it since.”  

“Doc was a special part of Erk's dynasty,” said Roy Akins, a member of the original Dirty Dozen who helped bring football back to Georgia Southern. “Anyone who heard his scouting reports at the booster luncheons were in for a real treat. He was something.” 

When he wasn’t on the road, Spurgeon spent the most time with the Eagle special teams, who may have known him the best from a player’s standpoint. 

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

Spurgeon knew the physical aspects of the kicking positions but was also astute at the mental game. 

“Doc understood that kicking was as much mental as it was physical,” said Harvin. “He pushed you hard mentally. If you’re at the college level, you obviously have the physical ability to kick field goals or punt. You have to make it between your ears before you can make it between the sticks.”  

“He always had a different way of approaching every kicker and punter,” said former Eagle Don Norton. “He felt like mental toughness was the most important thing. I came from South Florida and didn’t have much, but he always helped us find jobs to help us have some spending money. The jobs were pretty tough though, and many times we went straight from there to kicking, which definitely makes you mentally strong.” 

“As a kicker I worked with Doc pretty much every day, year-around so we had a very close relationship,” said Mike Dowis. “He was very special to all the specialists. We enjoyed the reports he gave on Monday of our upcoming opponents as much as everyone else did. It was things like that that just made it a special time and Doc was just such a huge part of that.” 

 Spurgeon also had a playful side which is something that has stuck with former Eagle running back Darryl Hopkins. 

“My true freshman year I got hurt in the first game and ended up being redshirted and put on the scout team,” Hopkins said. “Doc ran the scout team offense. If we made a mistake running a play he called, he would crawl our butts and not let up. One day Doc made a mistake and quarterback Albert Huntley called him out. Doc said you are right Albert I messed up, slap me. Albert refused, and Doc said it about three more times. Then all of a sudden, we heard a loud slap before he finished the sentence. Needless to say, Albert got a good slap in and we finished the day with a great practice. The rest of the year if Doc messed up Albert would walk up to him and deliver a slap and simply say come on Doc you’re better than that.” 

Spurgeon left Georgia Southern a year after Erk Russell’s retirement and ended up winning five more national championships as part of Jim Tressel’s staff at Youngstown State and Ohio State. Spurgeon was brought back into the fold at Georgia Southern by then head coach Chad Lunsford in 2018. 

“I had always heard of Doc Spurgeon in my early years at Georgia Southern, but never had the opportunity to meet the man.” Lunsford said. “I officially met him at a coaching clinic in 2016. I didn’t see him again until after I became head coach. We had just gotten the new staff together in 2018, and in early February we went to RJs to have breakfast as a staff after morning workouts. Doc was having coffee with a bunch of the crew of regulars at RJs. We started talking a little and I asked him to come meet with me one on one at the football office. He took me up on the offer and in that meeting, there was immediate chemistry.

 “He was so full of wisdom and knowledge that I was excited to try to make my meetings with him more often,” Lunsford said. “We got to the point where we met pretty much once a week. He filled me in on so much of the history of Georgia Southern but also imparted the experiences he had with Coach Russell and Coach Tressel. These proved to be invaluable in the head coach situations that you are not prepared for until you go through them. This man meant the world to me and I’m going to miss him more than most people will know. He helped me want to share with others and help them to reach their full potential.” 

While at Georgia Southern with Lunsford, Spurgeon also got back into helping the Eagles special teams. It just so happened that time overlapped with one of the Eagle all-time-great kickers, Tyler Bass.  

Bass credited Spurgeon with helping him achieve his dreams of playing in the NFL where he is currently one of the top kickers in the league with the Buffalo Bills. 

“At the beginning we had a lot of, shall we call them, debates. But he found out I’m always right,” Spurgeon said in an interview with the Syracuse Post Standard in June of 2020. “We would just talk. I’d listen and he’d become exasperated and I’d become exasperated. And (finally) I’d say, ‘Just do it.’ And he said, ‘OK.’ Wasn’t too long until he’d say, ‘Doc, you were right again.’ “

Spurgeon told the reporter for the Syracuse newspaper that he couldn’t possibly reveal all of his teachings that took place over the two years he spent with Bass. But the “Golden Stroke” comes down to simple physics and the difference between centrifugal and centripetal force. The key is coming straight through the ball. 

“Don’t try to smash the ball,” Bass said. “Just hit a nice, smooth golden stroke and it will all work out. Some people try to — I’ve even done it before where I try to kick it harder than I need to. It either misses or it’s not as good of a kick as I want it to be. 

“What he says is restraint will win in the long run. So that means just kind of restrain yourself, just kick it and you have enough leg for it and just trust yourself.”