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July 16, 2013

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 17 - Greg Allen

GregAllen

Greg Allen, RB, 1981-1984

Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 1990

Greg Allen is hands-down one of the fastest athletes to have ever come through Florida State University. That's not just hyperbole either, it's documented. As in, when Greg Allen wasn't toting the ball for six yards a carry on the football field he could be found competing on the Florida State track team. 

Allen ran a 10.82-100 meters, long-jumped 24'11¼" and was clocked at 4.28 in the 40-yard dash.

If you're not a track and field enthusiast, that means the Milton, Florida native was blazing fast. A trait he showed off within months of arriving in Tallahassee during the fall of 1981. Over the course of eight days– in back-to-back games on the last two weekends in October– Greg Allen burst into the national headlines in spectacular fashion.

After seeing limited carries during the first five games of his freshman season, he saw the lion's share of the carries against LSU and responded with 203 yards and his first career touchdown on 31 carries.

He built on that performance by going for 322 yards and another score on 32 carries against Western Carolina the following weekend. He also returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and ended the day with well over 400 all-purpose yards.

True freshman don't typically rush for over 500 yards in October. In fact, that's a tall order for almost any back playing D1 football. Greg Allen only needed two games. Coming into the LSU game Allen had run for just 106 yards in five games.

He ran for five times that amount in the next two. 

If that happened today ESPN would have the 30-for-30 film about it made by the start of his sophomore year. Anyway, that got the country's attention and immediately made Allen a fan-favorite in Tallahassee. As a true freshman Allen finished with 888 yards and three touchdowns, his 6.4 yards per carry average was 5th best in the nation and enough to earn him freshman All-American honors.

That was his warm-up act. Over the course of the next three seasons Allen built on his freshman success by laying waste to the Florida State record books. After scoring a modest three touchdowns in his first year on campus he exploded for 41 from 1982-84. 

In Allen's sophomore season his yardage dropped 112 yards to 776 and his average per carry dropped to 5.1, but between his receiving numbers and rushing totals he went for over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and averaged six yards per touch. More importantly he lead the nation in two significant scoring categories, his 21 touchdowns from scrimmage and 20 rushing touchdowns were the best in the country in 1982. 

Allen's mark of 20 rushing touchdowns that season is a school record that turned 30 years old this past season. 

Despite the prolific way he scored in his sophomore year, Allen was not named to any All-American teams, garnering just a single honorable mention (Associated Press). He broke through as a junior though, being named an All-American by four outlets and earning consensus NCAA All-American honors after the 1983 season. Allen took exactly 200 hand-offs his junior year and averaged 5.7 yards per carry on his way to a career-best 1,134 yards and 12 more touchdowns. His rushing yardage mark from that season was a school record at the time and still sits 4th all-time in FSU's record books.

Allen's senior season was cut short against South Carolina, but he was on pace to beat his rushing total from the previous year with a career best 7.3 yard average. He finished the year with 971 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games. Despite missing time that season he still finished 7th in Heisman voting and was again named an All-American by four outlets. 

He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the second round, 35th overall in 1985. His NFL career lasted just two seasons, one year in Cleveland and one in Tampa the following year. 

Despite the lack of professional success though, Greg Allen is more than deserving of his place amongst FSU's greatest of all-time for two major reasons. First of all, in a time when Florida State was still working to establish its place amongst college football's elite Allen was a key figure in giving Florida State some much needed exposure.

Bobby Bowden came to Florida State in 1976 and his first decade had its ups and downs. Allen was at FSU right on the cusp of the program taking the last step towards being considered a legitimate national contender.

But back in the early 80's ESPN was in its infancy and relegated to Connecticut, televised college football offerings were sparse and people still read newspapers. 

Point being, it was an era where you couldn't just go on the internet and look up sports results or get news about any team. When it came to following sports you were limited to what was around locally and very limited national coverage. That made getting national headlines extremely important for recruiting and raising the profile of an up-and-coming program.

Allen became that national conduit for Florida State during his four years in Tallahassee. 500 yards in back-to-back games as a freshman was a national story. Leading the country with 20 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore was a major national story. Being a consensus NCAA All-American as a junior brought more national recognition. Then as a senior Allen was a Heisman candidate with the third best rushing average in the nation.

Even when FSU's team wasn't experiencing a lot of success Allen kept the Seminoles nationally relevent with his speed and ability to score from anywhere on the field. Ask any recruit about why he chose the school he did and it won't be long until he mentions a player he followed at that school growing up, a player who got him interested in the program. 

In the early 80's Greg Allen was that player at Florida State. The recruiting classes that Bobby Bowden's staff signed in 1983 and 1984– while Allen was running wild for the Seminoles– were juniors and seniors when Florida State turned the corner in 1987 and went on its streak of 14 straight seasons with at least ten wins. 

It may seem like an insignificant impact, but ask some of the players from those FSU teams of the late 80's who their favorite Seminole was and you'll hear Greg Allen's name more than a few times.

Kids around the country heard "FSU" and thought of Greg Allen for a few years. Just like the Warrick Dunns and Derrick Brooks and Charlie Wards of the 90's had an impact on getting kids to take an interest in FSU, Allen was bringing that kind of recongnition to the 'Noles as they were clawing their way towards college football's upper echelon in the early 80's. 

But if that doesn't interest you, the second reason Allen is on here is that he rewrote the Florida State record books while he was there. When he graduated, he was atop every single rushing statistic in the Florida State record book. All of them. Attempts, yardage, touchdowns, average per carry and he was tops across all the categories: career, season, game. He had all of the records.

A lot of them still stand to this day too, almost 30 years later. 43 career rushing touchdowns and 20 rushing TD's in a season, in particular, may stand at Florida State for another 30 years.

 

Next up on the FSU All-Time Top 25 countdown is arguably the most controversial placement on the entire list...

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 18 - Andre Wadsworth

Andre-Wadsworth

Andre Wadsworth, DE, 1993-1997

Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 2004

Andre Wadsworth is a bit of a controversial figure because his NFL career fizzled. That's not to say it was all his fault– injuries and a rookie holdout played a big role in that– but being considered an NFL bust is a bigger deal when you're the highest drafted player in the history of a program.

As the third pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, that's exactly what Andre Wadsworth is: is the highest drafted player ever to come out of Florida State.

That's an impressive honor considering the number of players FSU has put into the NFL, but also a dubious one considering Wadsworth played just three seasons before his professional career ended.

Wadsworth was taken with the draft pick immediately following Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf's selections in the '98 Draft, third overall. In an ill-fated decision Wadsworth and his agent opted to hold out for quarterback money and as a result Wadsworth signed his rookie contract the night before Arizona's first game of the regular season. 

Then the Cardinals played him in all 16 games of his rookie season– starting him in 15 of them.

So without the benefit of training camp or even getting to see the speed of the game in a preseason exhibition, he got tossed into the NFL fire. Sign on the dotted line, suit up tomorrow. That works in movies and videogames, usually not in real life.

He finished the season with five sacks and was selected to the NFL All-Rookie team.

But in the two seasons that followed he had four knee surgeries over the course of 15 months, one of which was a micro-fracture procedure. That was back when microfracture surgery was still in its infancy and the procedure had not evolved into what it is today. It's not a slam-dunk in 2013, it was career threatening back in 2001.

Wadsworth never played in the NFL again.

I lead off with Wadsworth's NFL career for a reason. To the casual fan, the forgetful fan or fans of pretty much any team other than Florida State the name Andre Wadsworth is forever stained by what happened after FSU. That may be fair to some extent, but it also tends to make people forget what an amazing story Wadsworth was when he was a Seminole.

Andre Wadsworth was born in St. Croix on the US Virgin Islands, he moved to South Florida when he was five years old. He grew up and took a liking to football, eventually starring as a tight end at Olympia Heights Florida Christian. But he was only offered by non-D1 schools. So he chose to accept an invitation from Chuck Amato to walk on at Florida State. 

After sitting out the Seminoles' national title run in 1993 with a redshirt he made it onto the field in 1994 as a defensive lineman.

Throughout Wadsworth's Seminole career he was a whatever-it-takes-type grinder, a mentality likely borne out of having to earn his way on to the team sans scholarship. He played both ways in high school but enjoyed more success at Tight End. His best shot to see the field and earn a scholarship in Tallahassee was to embrace defense though, so he started working as a defensive end.

After notching 47 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a reserve in '94, he was asked to move inside and play tackle. Given the guys playing end for FSU in '95 and '96, it's understandable that Wadsworth had to slide inside if he wanted to stay on the field (both of them will appear lower on the countdown).

So number 85 picked up a new position, bulked up about 30 pounds and created push from the middle of the Seminole defensive line for the next two seasons.

In his first year at the nose he settled in by finishing second on the team in tackles. Thoroughly acclimated with playing in the middle by the start of the '96 season, Wadsworth was a key cog at the center of one of the best defenses Florida State has ever fielded.

With Wadsworth mauling opposing guards and centers and forcing offenses to pay him attention the rest of the Seminole defense feasted.

Florida State's defense hauled down the quarterback 67 times in 1996, they set school records by holding opponents to just over 1.5 yards per rush attempt and an average of just 59 rushing yards per game. 

Over the course of the two seasons Wadsworth played in the middle Florida State's defense totaled 102 sacks and absolutely stifled any attempt to run the ball. Reinard Wilson and Peter Boulware combined for 52.5 sacks just between the two of them over that time. Both would be selected in the first round of that year's NFL Draft.

Wadsworth had a huge impact on those sacks and the viciousness of that run defense. Just like Corey Simon and Derrick Alexander did in their respective time at FSU, Wadsworth presented opponents an immediate threat in the middle of the Seminole defensive line, somebody capable of beating interior linemen off the snap, collapsing pockets and wreaking havoc. 

What Wadsworth had already accomplished heading into the 1997 season was an impressive enough feat, in and of itself. There are players Florida State actually offers scholarships to that don't ever make it on to the field. Wadsworth rolled the dice and passed up surefire chances to play in college to walk on, he earned his scholarship the hard way. Then he evolved into an impact player over three seasons worth of action, notched 7 sacks, made 176 tackles and graduated with a degree in Sports Management– earning ACC All-Academic honors while he did it.

Then in 1997 Wadsworth cemented his legacy as a Seminole great. Florida State had just lost the two most prolific sack artists in the program's history in Wilson and Boulware, the defense would have to replace both of its starting defensive ends.

So after earning a reputation as one of the nastiest defensive tackles in the nation over the course of the previous two seasons, Wadsworth moved back to defensive end and wasted little time forcing the collective football universe to sit up and take notice. In Florida State's season opener he collected two sacks and three tackles for loss at the LA Coliseum while the Seminoles took down USC 14-7. 

Over the course of the '97 season Wadsworth victimized opposing offenses to the tune of 59 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. The 16 sacks he recorded that season still stand as the second best mark in Florida State history.

Wadsworth was named to five All-American teams, earned NCAA Consensus All-American honors and was a finalist for the Outland trophy following the Seminoles' season. That Spring at the NFL Draft he was selected higher than any player in the history of Florida State University.

Andre Wadsworth's legacy is determined by the lens you choose to view his career through. To fans that only choose to see part of his NFL story, maybe this pick seems a bit odd. But to Seminoles fans it's the story of a young man who started as a walk-on and worked his way into becoming the highest drafted player in the program's history. 

 

Next up on the countdown we highlight another tailback at number 17...

For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...


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