Samuel Cowart III, LB, 1993-1997
Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 2011
Sam Cowart broke on to the scene in 1993 as a reserve linebacker for Florida State's first ever national title team. By the time he left Tallahassee following the 1997 football season he had become one of the greatest linebackers in Florida State history.
After starring as a high schooler out of Jacksonville Cowart made such a strong initial impact in his first summer in Tallahassee that he avoided a first year redshirt and saw the field enough to notch 31 tackles and a sack on the way to Florida State's national championship.
In his sophomore season he notched 76 tackles before evolving into one of the best linebackers in the country over his junior and senior seasons.
As a junior Cowart lead the Seminoles in tackles with 115 while also adding three sacks and an interception. The total was good enough for sixth best in the ACC and put him on NFL radars everywhere. In the team's regular season finale against the rival Florida Gators Cowart contributed three sacks and 13 tackles. Had he opted to leave school early, he would have fared extremely well in the draft.
Instead he chose to return for his senior season and– 17 years before it happened to Brandon Jenkins– Cowart suffered a season-ending injury that forced him to miss the whole year.
Cowart wasn't done in Garnet and Gold though. He came back in 1997 with a reconstructed knee, a new number (changed from 56 to 1) and a huge chip on his shoulder.
For the second time in three years, Cowart lead the Seminoles in tackles. He finished the year with 116, four sacks and scored an FSU record three times on fumble recoveries. He was the leader of a defense which set a school record by allowing just 1.5 yards per rush attempt and gave up just 51.9 yards rushing per game. He won the ACC's Brian Piccolo award for overcoming his knee injury, finished as a finalist for the Butkus and Nagurski awards and was named a consensus All-American.
Overall Cowart was named to six All-American lists following his impressive senior season in 1997.
He was drafted by Buffalo in the 2nd round, 39th overall, in 1998 and went on to play a nine year NFL career with the Bills, Jets, Vikings and Texans. In 2000 he was named an All-Pro while playing in Buffalo. He finished his career with 87 starts in 100 games, 715 tackles, 12 sacks and four interceptions.
It's easy to overlook Cowart because he didn't feature on a national title team (though he was a reserve on one) and he played in an era where Florida State churned out a lot of very good players. But he deserves his place on this list. Leading FSU once in tackles is no small feat, leading the team twice in three years with a major knee injury sandwiched between the two seasons is amazing.
Cowart could have left FSU twice. He could have made his money in 1995 or he could have left in 1996 and tried to salvage his NFL prospects as opposed to risking anything else in college. Both would have been understandable. Instead he doubled down, changed his number and lead a defense that was as stifling agaisnt the run as any defense in school history.
If that doesn't earn you the loyalty of a fanbase, I don't know what will...
Join us tomorrow when he reveal number 19 on the FSU All-Time countdown...
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