Danny Wuerffel Talks Success, Helping Community On Doc And The Block Podcast

Danny Wuerffel, who currently works as Executive Director of Desire Street Ministries, joined the Doc and the Block podcast to discuss his upbringing and factors that helped him achieve success.

Wuerffel is a former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner in 1996 when he led the Florida Gators to their first national championship.

During the podcast, Wuerffel explained how the tough moments in his life were also the ones that caused the most personal growth.

“In a football game, if you win the game, you do your film review, you get coached, but you usually don’t learn near as much as if you lost a game, there’s something about losing a game and the review, and the critique really sticks,” Wuerffel said. “And you know, for my life, there’s a lot of things that you could look at that are really quite magical that, you know, very proud of, and very thankful for. But when I look back, you know, and I’m 48, almost 49. Now, by far the things that stand out as the most sort of trajectory changing moments in my life were the tough ones. You know, we won a high school state championship, but it was the loss to our rival, my junior year where I threw an interception right before we went where I was crying in my car afterwards. We celebrate the national title at Florida, but we don’t like to talk about the year before that we lost to Nebraska, they crushed us. And it was a lot of things we learned from that that led to where we were.”

“I look at, you know, my own life and story. And, you know, we went through Hurricane Katrina, we lost everything we had, both, you know, my wife and I in our home. But then also all the work that we were doing in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans was just just amazingly damaged, kids were spread all over the country that we had to try to look for, through Desire Street Ministries. And then, you know, another one was about 10 years ago, a little more, I started to get paralyzed, I had no idea what was going on. And I had a really weird autoimmune disorder called Guillain Barre Syndrome, where I literally was almost paralyzed for a few weeks. I was, you know, terrible, didn’t move much for several months, and then was tired for a year. And, you know, those are the experiences that really began to shape me and, and adjust and change me much more than the success and the things that were easy,” Wuerffel added. 

“So when you were young, what, what were the kinds of things that motivated you, and that kind of set you on the course so that you couldn’t be the kind of person who would lose the state championship by throwing in an interception one year, but then come back the next year and win? Like, how did that happen for you?” Scott “the Doc” Barbour asked Wuerffel. 

“I’ve got all sorts of ideas I thought of over my life, that sort of made me seem really cool and special. But more and more, I think it was the people around me, the environment that I grew up and the support systems that I had,” Wuerffel said. “Clearly starting with my parents, I was very fortunate to have just two amazing parents, a mom and a dad. I had different coaches. Along the way, I had different, you know, youth group leaders, family members, and just a wide network of folks that were stabilizing and growing and challenging me and, you know, part of what my whole life’s work is through Desire Street Ministries is recognizing that a lot of kids don’t have the same structures of support, and how can we provide that for them as well.” 

Later in the podcast, Wuerffel discussed his nonprofit Desire Street Ministries. 

“We work with leaders that live and serve in under-resourced neighborhoods all over the southeast,” Wuerffel said. “You know, we found that in all the different places, there’s usually somebody there already, that’s very talented, that has vision that has credibility, but just hasn’t had the support, the training, the resources, to really see change and the neighborhood. And you know, a lot of people from every different cultural background or political party have a lot of different opinions about how we got to certain places, or what, but everyone agrees that having amazing leaders in neighborhoods, developing young people is part of the solution. And that’s what we do at Desire Street. And we’re in the middle of a five year plan to develop 20 neighborhoods by 2025. And so we’re just really, really excited and proud about that.”

Wuerffel said that people who want to learn more about Desire Street Ministries can go to desirestreet.org. 

“For people if they live in Atlanta, we have several different ministries in and around Atlanta and Bankhead Grove Park English Avenue, Pittsburgh neighborhood,” he said. “And then we work with the leaders and then they’re doing different programs in the community. It might be after school programs, we’ve got some house people that are helping people get into housing, we’ve got some medical clinics, school and actual school and the church that we’ve helped develop. So those are the things we do at Desire Street, but desirestreet.org is the best way for people to get involved.”

D & B Staff

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Episode 11