177: Former Heisman Trophy winner, Danny Wuerffel was not only an amazing quarterback for Florida back in the day but has taken that same drive and energy & made helping others his life’s mission. He is the executive director of Desire Street Ministries and the inspiration behind the Wuerffel Trophy, an NFF Award to honor the top college player for exemplary community service to others and leadership on and off the field

November 13, 2020

Danny Wuerffel

Danny Wuerffel discusses growing up with his family in Florida as one of the top quarterback recruits. “I definitely have to thank my family and sort of the foundation of my parents. I remember being young winning something, bragging about it. My dad, I will never forget a look he gave me in fourth grade when he found out I was bragging in a sense. He was like, ‘That is not how we do things.’ So, there was this tension of always wanting to win. But at the same time trying to be humble about it and recognize that it is not all about you.”

On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, we talk with Danny Wuerffel, Former Heisman Trophy Winner and Executive Director of Desire Street Ministries, who also emphasizes the role his spiritual faith has had in his life. “A lot of my understanding of the world and not seeing yourself as the center comes from my faith, and there is a long line of Christian faith in my family. My dad was an Airforce Champlain, and a lot of other folks and families. So, a part of the way that we understand our faith is to live it in a way that really impacts other people. So, I think that was very foundational for me. At different points as I got older, kind of recognizing that and embracing it for myself.” 

What You Will Learn:

Danny Wuerffel talks about how humility has continued to be important to himself and his family. “You never want to be around somebody who thinks that they are better than you are. My son is on a soccer team and there is a couple kids on the team that are really good. But, he just struggles because they walk around like they know they are good. So, he immediately doesn’t feel connected to them. So, I think the ability to be honest, and to be real, and share your own struggles, and to walk with people, and to listen, you know? I was going to write a book. It was kind of a joke. Sometimes when you are successful, it can stunt your growth as a human being.”

Danny Wuerffel  discusses getting involved in Desire Street Ministries as the executive director. “I was drafted by the Saints and I felt like I wanted to be a part of something to help people. So, I was kind of looking around and I didn’t have anything specific that I was looking for. Just a unique coincidence if you will, or perhaps divine intervention if you believe that led me to a small organization in the 9th Ward of New Orleans working in the Desire Housing Project called Desire Street Ministries. It was working with families and kids in the neighborhood trying to raise up leaders with the goal really, it sounds insane, but to help transform at one time the worst neighborhood in the country to a desirable, wonderful place to live.”

What is the moment that pushed him towards the work that he does? “As I drove by these empty buildings, I saw a girl walk out with a doll, a little girl, and then I realised that she was living there. That ever so often in these projects you see an air conditioner and there were people living in these neighborhoods. My heart was broken. I definitely wanted to be a part of helping and making something better. So, Desire Street is very holistic. At the time we started an after school program and then we started a school. We had started building houses. We had started helping people get into jobs and businesses. We started a health clinic and a church.”

How long has Danny Wuerffel been the director of Desire Street Ministries? “In the years since (Hurricane) Katrina, I became the director in 2005, and we moved our headquarters to Atlanta to expand. What we do now is we basically, instead of starting and running new Desire Streets, we found that there are already heroes living and working in neighborhoods all over the country. But, so often they don’t have the resources they need, the training, the support. So, rather than these heroes having an incredible effect on their neighborhood, they are often burning out or just hanging on.”

How does Desire Street Ministries expand their reach? “Really what Desire Street does now is we partner with leaders to establish thriving and sustainable works in the inner city. Our new mission is to develop 20 sustainable ministries in the next five years and we are really excited about how that works and the things that we can do to support them.”

African-American Leaders

 Danny Wuerffel talks about being committed to work hand in hand with African American leaders to make change a reality. “I feel a little bit more like a proud brother, someone who is there right alongside and doesn’t always have all of the answers, but is committed to walking the walk with them. Also, in particular, my heart has been in what happens to be often African American neighborhoods and leaders and just over the years of getting to know and listen and be in deep relationships with people. It also makes me extra encouraged that so many of our leaders, our people of color that so often don’t get the same levels of trust from donors that I would get, or the same opportunities. To see them rise up and be so successful is extra special as well.”

Succeed with Humility 

During this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, Danny Wuerffel speaks about how important it is to be humble. “Whenever you are successful, people like to say, you know, anybody can do anything if you just try hard. There is some truth to that. But, I also think there should be a little bit more humility with those of us that have succeeded because a lot of times we are just fortunate, you know? My dad was supposed t o move to Minnot, North Dakota when I was going into high school. Instead, at the last minute they switched it and moved to the panhandle of Florida where football is amazing.”

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