Bobby Hart came to Florida State as a 16 year old wunderkind from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. He had considerable hype given his youth and impressive ceiling.
By the end of his freshman year he was starting for the Seminoles. Heck, by the bowl game when the team started four freshman linemen, he was one of the most experienced guys in the trenches that day.
Then last year happened. A couple of junior college transfers Menelik Watson and Daniel Glauser came to Tallahassee and beat Hart out. As a result the 17 year-old sophomore was forced to ride the pine and learn an important lesson in humility.
“It was definitely tough, for any athlete it would be tough," admitted Hart. "But once you sit back and you understand why you’re in that predicament you mature and you learn from it, it can be a good thing, it just helps you be- in my case- more hungry and not be so complacent when you get back to that spot.”
It wasn't that Hart lost his hunger so much as immaturity got the best of him. As young as he was, to find himself starting for the Seminoles as a true freshman and playing in a bowl game against a team like Notre Dame, it got to his head a little bit.
“In a sense like unconsciously that’s just something you do like, 'oh you did everything to start as a freshman,'" said Hart. "I don’t know it's just like something that set in, you’re just not as hungry as you were before when you got it and now that it’s been taken away from you, now I understand it can be taken away at any moment so you just want to go out there and do everything you need to do in every moment.
“You just see the picture. When I first got here I was very narrow-minded, you just see things as they’re happening. Now I see things as a bigger picture like why things are happening, why I need to do things and stuff of that nature.”
Hart is 18 now, he will be 19 next season. He's still young, but his maturation is a welcome sign from coaches and teammates a like.
“Bobby’s actually my roommate so me and that guy, going back to high school and playing with him I can see a lot of maturity," said WR Rashad Greene, a teammate of Hart's at St. Thomas. "He’s taking things a lot more serious, you know coming up to the Spring we always had our talks and I can tell he really wants it bad and he’s going to do all he can to go out there to compete and do the best he can and take the coaching and just be ready at all times. We had all those talks and I can honestly say he’s ready, he’s focused.”
“He has improved probably the most of the whole entire offensive line, obviously he’s younger than us so he had to grow up a little but we as a unit have actually noticed how much he’s grown up," said C Austin Barron, another of Hart's former high school teammates. "Because he knows the role he has on the team right now that he’s the guy, he has to produce and he’s really taken his time and thought about what he has to do and he’s just executing out there and doing really well.”
Hart is challenging for the job as the starting right tackle. A job many believed he would win last year. But then Menelik Watson showed up and plans changed.
Nowadays Watson is looking like a potential first round NFL draft pick. The fact Hart wasn't able to beat him out seems a bit more understandable given the age difference between the two. Even despite the competition between though, Watson was still able to mentor Hart and help him become a better player.
“Menelik, what he did, he didn’t play much [before last year] but the way he made up for everything was by going full speed everything," said Hart. "So if he made a mistake he made it 100 miles an hour and that made up for everything. When you do that, I picked that up from him, when you do that you don’t make as many mistakes but when you do it’s more understandable because at least you were doing it 100%.”
Now Hart hopes those lessons and his newfound maturity will lend itself to a successful 2013 season.
“Really I’m not worried about whether I’m going to start right now," he said. "I’m just trying to go out there making sure I do everything right, taking all the coaching in, making sure I do everything to my full ability. Then I’ll leave that up to the coaches.”
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