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My New Life


Danny Wuerffel could still be in the NFL, on the field (the Redskins wanted him as a backup) or on the sideline (a couple of teams offered him coaching positions this off-season), but the Heisman Trophy winner is taking higher aim. "If I had five lives to live, I'd love to keep playing or be a coach," says Wuerffel, 30, who assumed the hands-clapped, eyes-to-the-sky stance after each touchdown pass. "But I have only one."

In January, weighing a comeback (he was cut by Washington after last season) and working out in New Orleans--where he lives with his wife, Jessica, and their infant son, Jonah--Wuerffel volunteered at a ministry in Desire Street, a ravaged, 1,860-unit low-income housing development. He'd been haunted by the project since his days as a Saint, from 1997 to '99. "I saw these old buildings that looked like something from a bombed out World War II city," Wuerffel recalls. "I thought, Damn, these must have been condemned 20 years ago.... And then a beautiful little girl walked out of one. That's powerful."

Wuerffel--who believed he had about five NFL years left in him--retired and took a job as athletic director and quarterbacks coach for the football team at Desire Academy, the project's junior high and high school. He's become a mentor to dozens of kids and, as the ministry's development director, uses his name and connections to drum up support. Saints owner Tom Benson has contributed substantially to the academy. A Gators booster (Wuerffel starred at Florida) donated 20 PCs. The Orlando Magic gave weight-room equipment. Says Wuerffel, "If using my name to get Desire Street in the door so people will listen is my God-given purpose, then so be it." --Adam Duerson