Pat ‘Doc’ Spurgeon – 1929-2022

Patrick “Doc” Spurgeon, professor of English literature, one of the most successful football coaches of all time and a beloved father and husband, died on Thursday. He was 93 years old.

“A number of people have called Dr. Pat Spurgeon a ‘renaissance man’,” said longtime friend Joe McGlamery. “Pat seemed to fit the definition because he excelled in so many areas, as a scholar and teacher of English, as a football coach of outstanding achievement, as a poet, as a painter, as a gardener , as a competitor, intellect and loyal friend.

Born in Indiana in 1929, he grew up in East Tennessee. Spurgeon graduated from Emory & Henry College in Virginia. He went on to earn a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee and came to Statesboro as an English professor at Georgia Southern College in 1963.

Spurgeon has become known as an exacting teacher of choice for serious students of English literature and to be avoided by those just meeting the requirements for a degree. Those who made A’s won them. When he retired from Georgia Southern, the university awarded Spurgeon Professor Emeritus.

Pat “Doc” Spurgeon is shown in 1984 when he was head scout and kicking coach for Georgia Southern. (Photo courtesy of the Spurgeon family)

After Georgia Southern hired Erk Russell in 1981 to bring football back, university president Dale Lick suggested Russell speak with Spurgeon about joining his coaching staff.

“We talked for three hours and talked about everything except football,” Spurgeon said, recounting the reunion 40 years later. “I can’t tell you how much respect I had for Coach Russell. A great man and a motivator for young men to do more than they thought they could.

Spurgeon was hired from college to coach kickers and handle scouting for upcoming opponents and at the time, Russell told the Statesboro Herald, “We’re probably the only college with a Ph.D. in English in his football coaching staff.

In fact, Spurgeon sometimes used his appreciation of literature to explain to his players why he chose to wear black on the pitch.

Referring to Christopher Marlowe’s 16th-century play “Tamburlaine the Great,” Spurgeon said on the first day of a siege, the emperor and his soldiers wore white to encourage his opponent to surrender. If there was no surrender, on the second day they wore red to indicate that blood, especially of their enemies, would be shed. On the third day without surrender, the war dress was black to signal that everything would be destroyed.

Spurgeon worked with Russell until Russell retired after Georgia Southern’s undefeated championship season in 1989 and remained at Georgia Southern for one more season and championship. He then joined coach Jim Tressel at Youngstown State, where they won four national titles, and was with Tressel as a volunteer coach at Ohio State when the Buckeyes won the national championship in the 2002 season.

He retired from coaching college football after 2010, but continued to work part-time with several high school programs, including Marist in Atlanta. Spurgeon is in the sports halls of fame for Georgia Southern, Emery & Henry and Marist.

But Spurgeon has come out of retirement once again.

Former Georgia Southern football coach Chad Lunsford first met Spurgeon in 2016 and in 2018 convinced him to coach the team’s kickers again. Lunsford said he started meeting Spurgeon weekly to talk about football and life and they spoke on the phone regularly. Spurgeon, Lunsford said, had a huge impact on his life and he tries to pass on what he learned from Spurgeon to others.

“I made my decision then, I wanted to be like Doc Spurgeon and share with others and help them reach their full potential,” Lunsford said.

Cafe Club

The 10:30 Uptown Coffee Club was started in Statesboro in 1959 by the late Tal Calloway. Spurgeon joined the club quickly after arriving in Statesboro in 1963 and was a mainstay even as time eroded the places the club met and people left. Spurgeon said Snooky was his favorite Coffee Club hangout.

“The time spent at Snooky’s was the highlight of The Coffee Club,” Spurgeon said last year. “At that time, we had 16 to 18 a day. We would as much like to be put in jail as to miss a day of going to the coffee shop. It has become such a wonderful and joyful part of all our social lives. .”

In recent years, Spurgeon has been quietly showing off the many text messages, emails and phone calls he’s received from former players and students thanking him for the positive impact he’s had on their lives. Some people, he said, had not heard from them in over 40 years.

Pat-Spurgeon Emory and Henry.jpg

Pat Spurgeon was an all-conference fullback and linebacker for Emory & Henry College from 1949 to 1951. He was inducted into the college’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Emory & Henry Middle School)

“It was definitely humbling to hear from people you didn’t know you were helping them even a little bit,” Spurgeon told friends. “It makes me appreciate the chance I’ve had in my life to possibly help a few others.”

McGlamery gave an example of the obligation Spurgeon felt in his interactions with others.

“In 1992, Pat shared with me some words he had scribbled on the back of a napkin. He wrote: “To be all for all, at all times, in all places and in all situations is indeed an arduous task; it is, however, a task that must be attempted if one is to fulfill one’s human responsibility,” McGlamery said. “I have watched Pat’s attempts to achieve this tremendous goal time and time again.

“I lost a friend, but our community lost a friend who made a big difference in the lives of many others,” McGlamery said.

Spurgeon is survived by his wife of 74 years, Ann Spurgeon, his sons, O’Dyer (Mary) and Kevin (Barbara), his grandchildren, Kathleen, Rick, Russell, Anna and Bri.

He was predeceased by his parents Dallas and Vivian Spurgeon, his sister Jalna Larkey and his daughter, Anna Kathleen.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

Memorial donations may be made to North Tattnall Middle School Football Program, PO Box 369, Reidsville, Georgia 30453

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