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27 posts from July 2013

July 20, 2013

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 13 - Leroy Butler


Leroy Butler III, DB, 1986-1989

Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 2001

When it comes to some of the most inspirational personal stories in the history of Florida State University, it's hard to top Leroy Butler's. Butler was born so pidgeon-toed that doctors had to break bones in his feet as a baby in hopes of correcting the problem.

Early on his doctors thought he would be fortunate just to walk normally when he grew up.

Butler was raised in the crime-ridden Blodgett Homes housing projects in Jacksonville, Florida, along with four other siblings by his single mother. He was in a wheel chair through much of his early childhood and then from six years old until the age of eight he was forced to wear leg braces. 

Per a line in his professional bio: "He spent much of his early childhood gazing out the window watching neighborhood children play kickball—something he could not even imagine doing."

That all changed at the age of eight though when the bones and muscles in his young legs proved to have grown the strength needed for him to begin a more regular life. Doctors said the braces could come off and soon he was outside almost all the time. By the age of ten he was beginning to stand out on neigborhood and junior high football teams. Soon he was in high school where he was a three year letterman at Robert E. Lee. By the time he was a senior he was one of the most coveted recruits in the entire country.

He arrived in Tallahassee in 1986 and was a three-year starter at Florida State from 1987-1989. For two years he shared the defensive backfield with Deion Sanders and was a part of two of the greatest Florida State secondaries in school history.

In 1987 the Seminole defense surrendered just 142.1 passing yards per game. A year later in 1988 they would give up only 133.2 per game. Butler tallied 100 tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted a couple of passes playing free safety during those two seasons.

Then in 1989, with Sanders gone, Butler shifted from safety to corner and turned in one of the best performances any Seminole corner has ever produced over a season. He pulled down 94 tackles and a sack, a forced fumble, nine pass break-ups and seven interceptions. The interception total was the most since Monk Bonasorte hauled in eight a decade earlier. Four publications named him an All-American in addition to earning consensus NCAA All-American honors. 

In the 1990 NFL Draft he went in the second round to the Green Bay Packers, 48th overall. Over the next 12 seasons Butler was a fixture in Green Bay, playing until 2001, winning a Super Bowl, recording 38 career interceptions and weaving himself into Packer lore for the rest of history in the process. He was named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 1990's, but will be best remembered by Packer fans for originating the Lambeau Leap

He was also the first player in NFL history to record 20 sacks and 20 interceptions (or at least was the first to do it in the era that counts sacks as a statistic), was four times an All-Pro and four times a Pro-Bowler. Butler was enshrined into the Green Bay Packers' Hall of Fame in 2007.

If there were a checklist of all the things you look for in a great football story, Butler has all his boxes filled. He overcame physical setbacks as a child to become one of the greatest football players in Florida State Seminole and Green Bay Packer history and has gone on to do some great philanthropic work since retiring.

He played at a high level for a long time, he was a three-year starter at Florida State– playing alongside a future NFL Hall of Famer for two of them– then played for 12 years and won a Super Bowl in Green Bay. 

And he's also produced his share of memorable moments. Points in time that transcend a game or even a season and become synonymous with a team's success or personality from that year. There was the play that orginated the Lambeau Leap (as seen in the link above), and at Florida State there was this:

In 1988, with the game tied at 21 and just 90 seconds remaining, Bobby Bowden called the infamous "puntrooskie" play and faked a bad snap on a 4th down to draw the Clemson punt-return team off guard. Leroy Butler ran the other direction with the ball and went 78 yards to set up the game-winning field goal as FSU toppled the 3rd ranked Tigers on the road.

That was right at the start of FSU's heyday in the Bobby Bowden era. It was, at that point, one of the biggest plays in the program's history and nearly 25 years later it's still near the top of that list.

Leroy Butler did everything it takes to be remembered as one of the best of all time. He turned in great moments, put up great numbers and experienced immense success at every level of the game.  

He's one of the greatest Seminoles of all-time.

(That was the best video of the Puntrooskie I could find, but if you're feeling nostalgic, here's the full highlight package of the 1988 FSU-Clemson game– including Deion Sanders returning a kick for a touchdown.)

Next on the countdown is a Seminole pass-rushing great.

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

July 19, 2013

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 14 - Fred Biletnikoff


Fred Biletnikoff, WR, 1961-1964

Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 1977

Of all the great players to ever come through Florida State University, Fred Biletnikoff is the hardest to rank. The game was different when Biletnikoff played it, he was one of the players that helped move college football into the passing era. He is one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. The award given annually to the nation's best wide receiver is even named after him.

At the time his numbers looked absurd, his 57 catches and 11 touchdowns as a senior captured the attention of the entire country. 15 years after restarting the school's football program, Biletnikoff was the first Seminole to be named a consensus All-American.

But in today's era with the passing game such a major part of offenses across the nation, Biletnikoff's receiving totals from the early 60's seem unremarkable. Ron Sellers, who played in the same decade, had two thousand more receiving yards in the same number of seasons as Biletnikoff played, for instance. 

And forget comparing him to some of the receivers Florida State has had in the past couple decades.

Different eras, different game. Nowadays you see multiple receiver sets, spread offenses and a whole range of innovation in the passing game. It has evolved. In that era it was pretty straight-laced, just one or two receivers lined up out wide. It was fairly rare to even see something as nuanced as a twin set.

In some ways Biletnikoff's numbers were more impressive than some of the numbers put up today because there weren't three or four other receivers and backs also running routes to take heat off what Biletnikoff was doing. He had to make it happen with his own speed and athleticism– two gifts he had been blessed with an abundance of.

Biletnikoff came to Florida State in 1961 and played for three seasons. He first made it on to the field as a sophomore when he had a modest six receptions for 118 yards and a score in 1962. The next year those numbers jumped to 24 receptions for 358 yards and four touchdowns.

Then in 1964, his senior season, Biletnikoff hauled in 57 passes for 987 yards and 11 touchdowns, all school records in their time. What those figures do not include however are bowl statistics (because they were inexplicably not counted towards a player's statistic for decades). In the '64 Gator Bowl against Oklahoma State he set FSU and Gator Bowl records with 13 receptions for 192 yards and four touchdowns.

So Biletnikoff actually caught 70 passes his senior season for 1179 yards and 15 touchdowns. That's an impressive season in this day and age, it was absolutely eye-popping in the 60's. Biletnikoff was named an NCAA Consensus All-American in addition to being named an All-American by seven different media outlets. 

When his career as a Seminole was over he had amassed 1463 yards and 16 touchdowns. And that doesn't include bowl statistics.

He was taken in the third round of the 1965 NFL Draft, 39th overall, by the Oakland Raiders. Biletnikoff played his entire 14 year NFL career in the silver and black, hauling in 589 career receptions for 8974 yards and 76 touchdowns. He was an All-Pro for six consecutive seasons from 1969 to 1974, he was also voted to the Pro Bowl six times. 

In Super Bowl XI Biletnikoff hauled in four balls for 79 yards, three of which set up Raider touchdowns. He was named the game's MVP as Oakland beat Minnesota handily by a score of 32-14.

He retired in 1978 and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1988.

Biletnikoff is on the list more for what he represents than anything else. Even when giving consideration to the different eras, one big season out of any other wide receiver wouldn't be enough to crack the top 25. 

But Biletnikoff came first and gave Florida State some national recognition at a point when the program was trying to establish itself. He went on the have a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, they named the award for the top college receiver after him, he's a legend for good reason. He was one of the most athletic players in his day, and one of the greatest NFL wide receivers of all time.

He's also one of the greatest Seminoles. 

Fortunately, as I mentioned in the Honorable Mentions section, FSU's football history doesn't date back much further than Biletnikoff's era given that the program wasn't resurrected until 1947 after FSU had gone co-ed again. He is the oldest player on the list, and given his stature in the game, no matter how many more great players FSU churns out, he'll always have a place on that list.

Next up, a key cog in some of the greatest Seminole secondaries ever...

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

July 18, 2013

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 15 - Sebastian Janikowski


Sebastian Janikowski, K, 1997-1999

To be inducted to the Florida State University Hall of Fame on September 13, 2013

Sebastian Janikowski likely could have never existed at Jimbo Fisher's Florida State. Of all the colorful characters who have suited up for the Seminoles in the past several decades, few stand out quite like Janikowski did.

A big, bar-fighting, nightlife-loving, Polish kicker with a leg so strong that he regularly put the ball through the uprights on kickoffs.

Before Mike Vanderjagt was drunkenly telling a Toronto paper what he really thought about the Colts or Todd Sauerbrun was fighting people, before Pat McAfee was swimming in the canals of Indianapolis after a night on the town, Sebastian Janikowski was originating the bad-boy kicker act. 

Originating it so well in fact that Al Davis– forever enamored with raw speed– took pause during the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft, looking up from his list of 40-times momentarily at a kicker with a booming leg and an in-your-face attitude and said, "I must have that."

Sebastian Janikowski was good enough that you had no choice but to play him. And he knew it.

Born in Poland, the son of a professional soccer player, Janikowski took to soccer from a young age too. After his parents divorced and his father married an American woman and moved to Orlando, Janikowski immigrated to the United States as a teenager despite speaking very little English. He learned the language primarily by watching television and starring on the high school soccer field.

By the time he was ready to graduate he was playing both soccer and football at Daytona Beach Sea Breeze High School. Despite having grown up on the sport his father loved, his ability to kick field goals from beyond 50 yards was what caught the eye of college scouts and he was offered football scholarships by a group of D1 schools.

He chose Florida State and was listed as 6-2, 215 on the 1997 Florida State roster. By the next season, in '98, he was listed as 6-2 255. 

Whether he actually gained 40 pounds in his first year in Tallahassee or whether the Florida State athletic department was just a bit more honest about his figure in his sophomore year, who knows? While it does add to the legend a bit, it's irrelevent either way. All Sebastian Janikowski needed to do was kick and he did it better than anyone in the country his sophomore and junior years.

Everything else was secondary.

Janikowski was not the starter as a freshman, Bill Gramatica was. Janikowski beat him out over the first half of the season and was named the starter after the Miami game and Gramatica left the school shortly after.

In his sophomore and junior seasons Janikowski connected on 27 of 32 and 23 or 30 field goals respectively, making 89 of his 90 extra point attempts and winning back-to-back Groza awards for the first time in history.

But that's not really the story of why Janikowski was so good, the field goals belie just what a weapon the kicker was for the Seminoles. What really made Janikowski notable (aside from his off-the-field antics) was his ability to shorten and lengthen the field.

That was most visible when he would clear the entire endzone on his kickoffs. He often put the ball through the uprights twice in a row during games, once on the extra point and again on the kickoff just for good measure. Opposing teams would typically have to drive the ball 80 yards on a very good Seminole defense if they wanted to answer a Florida State score because the odds of a returnable kick from Janikowski were extremely low.

In the field position battle you can't overlook how important getting a touchback on a kickoff is. Nowadays the ball comes out to the 25, but before 2012 when it was the 20, that provided a major advantage to a defense. It's hard to drive the ball 80 yards on anyone. Both of the years Janikowski won the Groza the Florida State defense was in the top three in the country in points against.

The field position had a lot to do with that.

He also shortened the field for Florida State offense too, not that those offenses needed a lot of help, but their range with Janikowski extended out to around the opposing 35 yard-line by virtue of Janikowski's leg strength. He hit on four 50+ yard field goals in his three years at Florida State and likely could have connected from farther if allowed to.

On those 1998 and 1999 teams, Florida State's return-men could strike at any time and regularly set the offense up with great field position. Then Janikwoski shortened the field to where on any given drive 30-40 yards could be worth at least 3 points. Afterwards, the opposing offense would need to drive the ball 80 yards to answer. 

He was named to five All-American teams and selected as an NCAA consensus All-American in 1998, and then in 1999 he was selected to eight All-American squads and once again picked as a consensus All-American. He also won those Grozas. He was too good not to play.

Even a couple of bar fights in 1998 couldn't keep him off the field. Prior to the 2000 Sugar Bowl (at the end of the '99 season) he announced he would turn pro, then broke curfew a few nights before the game. 

"He missed curfew, but I think this is much ado about nothing," Bowden said to SI at the time. "It's really not important."

Not when your kicker can do the things that Janikowski could.

The Polish kicker announced his reason for leaving early was so that he could afford to bring his mother to the United States. Still, a kicker leaving college early to turn pro is highly unorthodox.

But so is a kicker being selected in the first round, which is exactly what happened next when the Raiders selected him 17th that Spring. 

He's been suiting up in black and silver ever since. Now headed into his 14th season he has an 80.6 career field goal percentage and a handful of NFL records including a share of the longest field goal in history after connecting from 63 yards on September 12, 2011. 

Thanks to rule changes and more media scrutiny than ever, there will likely never be another Sebastian Janikowski in college. But at the end of the 90's in Tallahassee, Janikowski was one of the most colorful characters on arguably the greatest Florida State team of all-time.


Next on the countdown we set the clocks back...

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

July 17, 2013

Florida State Announces 2013 Hall of Fame Class


Florida State University announced their 2013 Hall of Fame class on Wednesday, seven former Seminoles will be inducted to the FSU Hall on September 12, 2013.

Leading the names is Sebastian Janikowski, who is number 15 on the list of the top 25 greatest Seminoles off all time. Janikowski was a kicker at Florida State from 1997-1999 and was the first player in history to win back-to-back Groza awards (given annually to the country's top kicker). He has played for the Oakland Raiders for the past 14 seasons.

Jamal Reynolds is also in the 2013 class, he was the 2000 Lombardi winner (top defensive lineman) and starred on the 1999 National title team. Over his Seminole career he notched 23.5 sacks. He was a first round selection by the Green Bay Packers. 

The class also includes outfielder Matt Diaz, who hit 43 home runs over two seasons at Florida State but is probably best remembered for a throw to the plate he made from right field against Miami. Diaz has hit .290 over 11 seasons in the majors.

Joining Janikowski, Reynolds and Diaz will be former Miami Dolphins running back Sammie Smith, who broke the FSU single season rushing record in 1987 and is still 5th all-time in career rushing yardage at Florida State.

Softball coach Joanne Graf, soccer player Cindy Schofield and booster Douglas Mannheimer will also be inducted. 

The 2013 class will be formally inducted at a banquet the night before the Seminole’s first home football game.  A very limited number of tickets to the event are available to the public via email at fsuhalloffame@gmail.com or by calling 850-556-0433.


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

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 16 - Walter Jones


Walter Jones Jr., OT, 1995-1996

When you consider the entirety of players' careers, Walter Jones is without a doubt the best offensive lineman to have ever played at Florida State University. The fact he suited up for just one season in Garnet and Gold is why Jones finds himself so far down on this list. Had he played just one more year as a Seminole, the future NFL Hall-of-Famer would be in FSU's all-time top 10, possibly even the top five.

Born in Aliceville, Alabama, Walter grew into a monstrous 6-5, 260-pounder by the time he was 18 and looking to play football in college. He started at Holmes Community College in Mississippi and played there for two years as a tight end and offensive tackle.

By the time he was ready to move on to Division I he had been named the Mississippi Junior College player of the year after surrendering just a single sack over his two seasons at Holmes. 

He arrived in Tallahassee in 1995 and was forced to take sit out with a redshirt that year. The following Spring he moved from guard back to offensive tackle as a result of depth concerns along the Florida State line. By the time the season rolled around he was entrenched at left tackle and went on to start all 12 games on FSU's ill-fated '96 National Title run– surrendering just a single sack the whole year.

Then after one season he left and was taken sixth overall by the Seattle Seahawks.

He earned only one All-American honor in his time at Florida State (a second team selection by the Associated Press) and just as soon as Seminole fans had started to learn his name he was already out the door.

But Walter Jones is still the best offensive lineman to have ever come out of Florida State.

Right now there are two Florida State Seminoles in the NFL Hall of Fame, Deion Sanders and Fred Biletnikoff (both are ahead on the countdown). In the upcoming vote, for the class of 2014, FSU is likely to get two more.

One is Derrick Brooks (also ahead on the countdown), the other is Walter Jones. 

In talking about the "Greatest Seminoles" of all-time it's important to remember that their contributions on the field while at Florida State are the primary consideration, but other factors certainly come into play as well.

Andre Wadsworth (no. 18) could have been one of the top ten Seminoles of all-time if his time in the NFL had panned out better for him. Injuries and his rookie holdout both conspired to shorten what once looked like a promising professional career and as a result his reputation– and to a smaller extent Florida State's– were impacted negatively for it.

If you do word-association and say "Andre Wadsworth" to an NFL fan, the unfortunate truth is that nine out of ten will blurt out "bust." When there's as many talented alums as Florida State has produced in the past 40+ years, competition is tight and that sort of factor can drop a guy down the list. 

Walter Jones benefits the opposite way when you zoom out on his career. He spent just two years, one season, 12 games on the field for the Seminoles. But come August of 2014 when he's standing beside a bust of himself in Canton as one of the greatest players in the history of the game– that's not going to look bad for Florida State.

Especially when he's standing beside another Seminole on the same stage.

Walter Jones' place in Canton is more-or-less a given at this point. Whether or not it's on the first ballot (it likely will be) he's definitely headed to the Hall.

Jones' 12 season NFL career was the epitome of what a team hopes for in a top ten NFL Draft pick. Five selections after "can't-miss-prospect" Orlando Pace was taken first overall, Seattle took Jones sixth in 1997. He started 12 games his first year and earned NFL All-Rookie honors.

Two years later, in 1999, Jones was selected to his first NFL Pro Bowl. He made nine of them over the course of his career. He was also named an All-Pro seven times, including five straight years from 2004-2008, half a decade, that Jones was considered the consensus best left tackle in all of professional football. Not surprisingly he was also selected to the NFL's 2000's all-decade team.

Less than a year after hanging up his cleats the Seahawks had already retired Jones' number 71 jersey. And while he's yet to be inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame, I imagine it won't take long after he walks across the stage in Canton before he gets that invitation too.

His Seminole career may have lasted just 12 games, but his bust will sit in Canton forever and the line in his Bio beside "College:" will always say Florida State.


Next up on the countdown is one of the most colorful characters in FSU's history...

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

July 16, 2013

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


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, 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...

July 11, 2013

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 19 - Corey Simon


Corey Simon, DT, 1995-1999

Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 2010

Corey Simon's career is impressive enough, but he would have made the list just for the top line of his collegiate resume. Corey Simon was the key for the defense on the only wire-to-wire National Championship team in the BCS era. 

Bam. Done. See you tomorrow...

In all seriousness though, it's quite possible to argue that Simon is the best defensive tackle to have ever come through Florida State. He was a force in the middle of the Seminole defensive line for two years, eventually earning consideration as the top defensive tackle in the entire country.

From his spot in the middle of the Florida State defensive line he wasn't charged with bringing the pass rush– though he did notch 11 career sacks, including nine in his final two seasons. Rather, Simon was charged with occupying space, taking up blockers and eating the ball-carrier alive on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

He literally made his living that way.

By the time Simon was done at Florida State he had collected 193 tackles from his spot in the middle of the line– including tying Ron Simmons' school record with 44 tackles for loss. 

After arriving in Tallahassee and taking a redshirt year in 1995, Simon battled injuries until his junior season when he absolutely exploded on to the scene. In 1998 he notched 65 tackles including 16 for loss and five sacks while earning first team AP All-American status and the ACC's Brian Piccolo award.

The following season on FSU's 1999 National Championship team Simon pulled down 84 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and four sacks. Simon finished as a finalist for the Lombardia and Outland trophies in 1999 and was named to nine All-American teams including earning consensus NCAA All-American honors. 

The NFL was more than a little interested following his senior. Simon was drafted in the 2000 NFL Draft in the first round, sixth overall, by the Philadelphia Eagles and went on to star for them before injury issues resurfaced and shortened his career.

On his way to earning All-Rookie team honors in 2000 Simon broke into the league with 52 tackles and 9.5 sacks in his first year in the NFL. Simon played with the Eagles until 2005, then he signed with the Colts. Two injury plagued seasons in Indy and an injury-shortened year in Tennessee followed before Simon was ultimately forced to hang up the cleats. He finished his NFL career with 194 tackles and 32 sacks.

As far as Florida State University goes, Simon's legacy in Garnet and Gold is hard to argue. Defensive tackle, like several other positions, is easy to overlook if you're not paying attention. The snap occurs and most fans' eyes follow the ball, it's natural. Do yourself a favor though and watch the play in the trenches a few times a game next Fall.

Despite not pulling down the same stats as other players, good interior defensive linemen take a defense from solid to elite. If you follow FSU closely today, you've probably heard Jimbo Fisher say that to be elite in college football you have to have a bunch of big athletic guys up front.

Corey Simon fit that description perfectly.

On that 1999 team, even on the plays where he wasn't bringing the pressure or bringing down the ballcarrier, he is making as big of an impact as anyone on that field.

Guys like Jamal Reynolds (who lead the team in sacks) or Tommy Polley (who lead the team in tackles) were able to make a lot of those plays thanks to the role Simon was asked to play. Go back and pop in the highlights of that team, then watch how many sacks came as a result of Simon taking on a double or triple team (and still pushing them backwards). Go back and watch how many times on that defense somebody else was in a position to make a tackle because Simon didn't just play his gap assignment but blew it up and caused the run play to break down. 

There's a reason Corey Simon went sixth overall following that season. It's the same reason he's one of the greatest Seminoles of all time.

He was that good.

Join us tomorrow when we reveal number 18 on the FSU All-Time Countdown...

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

July 10, 2013

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 20 - Sam Cowart


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...

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

July 09, 2013

FSU All-Time Countdown - No. 21 - Derrick Alexander


Derrick Alexander, DE, 1991-1994

Inducted into the Florida State University Hall of Fame in 2007

Derrick Alexander's reputation takes a fairly big knock because of his pro career. Coming out of Florida State as more of a 3-4 defensive end, Alexander was selected ahead of names like Warren Sapp and Hugh Douglas along the defensive line in the 1995 NFL Draft. The Minnesota Vikings took him 11th overall, he lasted just three seasons in Minneapolis before spending 1999 in Cleveland and hanging up his cleats.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at what Alexander represented to Florida State.

A Jacksonville native, Alexander arrived in Tallahassee in 1991 and redshirted, then over the course of the next three seasons he was as dominant a player on the defensive line as you could find in the entire country. Alexander's sack numbers were never elite. Bbeliecause of the defenses he played on and what he was asked to do he isn't mentioned amongst the greatest Florida State sack artists of all time.

But that's a numbers game, it belies the ability Alexander had to both get after the passer and play on the other side of the line of scrimmage against the run. After notching three sacks and 38 tackles in ten games as a reserve during his redshirt freshman season, Alexander exploded onto the scene on FSU's national title team in 1993.

From his spot at end Alexander notched five sacks but also finished second on the team in tackles with 100. In the National Championship game Alexander victimized the Nebraska Cornhusker offense to the tune of a game-leading 11 tackles. He was named to four All-American teams following that season and started 1994 on virtually every watch list in existence.

The following year Alexander built on his sophomore performance by being named the ACC Defensive player of the year, getting selected to seven All-American squads and being picked 11th overall in the NFL draft after leaving a season early.

Had his NFL career developed more as he and the Vikings undoubtedly hoped it would, he would likely be even higher on this list.

As it stands, Alexander was neck and neck with another defensive tackle who just edged ahead of him in the final rankings. As I've said several times on this countdown though, when it comes to Florida State defensive linemen it was a very crowded group. Alexander's legacy is different than a lot of the more conventional pass-rushers that were considered because of the defense he played on and what he was asked to do. 

While Alexander is definitely not the best pass-rushing defensive linemen to have come through Florida State you could make a case for him being one of the best run-stoppers, even one of the best all-around.

If you have any doubts about his inclusion though, go back and pop in some highlights of the defense on that 1993 Florida State national title team. Take a look at what Derrick Alexander was doing to opposing offensive linemen on the regular. 

That's why Derrick Alexander is one of the 25 greatest Seminoles of all-time.


Join us tomorrow when we reveal number 20 on the countdown...

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



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