Today we continue our month-long look at the best football players in the history of Florida State University.
A lot of different factors went into determining these rankings. We'll get to that in a bit, but first a brief bit of historical background. You may or may not have seen a commercial touting UF as a direct legacy of Lincoln's push for the public funding of education (it's hard to miss if you live in Florida).
That's kind of a Disney version of that 150-year journey though. UF started as East Florida Seminary (originally in Ocala) and gradually evolved into what it is today while FSU began as West Florida Seminary (the Suwanee River was used as the line of demarcation). Now, that intersects with football because as both schools evolved and merged with other upstart institutions of higher education, athletic clubs and teams began to form at them.
At The Florida State University there was a football team at the start of the 20th century (1900's). They played from 1899-1904. In 1904, FSU's team (not yet the Seminoles) became the first ever "champions of Florida" by beating Florida Agricultural College and Stetson.
Then came the 1905 Buckman Act which consolidated the seven public colleges and universities in Florida into four segregated ones. FSU was for white females, UF for white males, FAMU for "colored people" (the designation used at the time) and they also established a college for the blind and deaf.
That meant in 1905 the Florida State University football team became the University of the State of Florida football team. They played in Lake City for a year in 1906 before moving to Gainesville in 1907 where they would eventually grow into the Florida Gator team Seminole fans love to hate.
Florida State didn't resume playing football until 1947. After World War II ended, an influx of young male soldiers going to college on the GI bill forced the Florida legislature to rename the Florida State College for Girls and allow men in. Seminole football, at least as we know it, has only been going since the late 40's.
This makes it a lot easier to compile a list because it reduces the number of players and eliminates a couple eras from consideration. Fred Biletnikoff is challenging enough to consider when you try to factor in how the game has changed since he played. So you can imagine it was nice not to have to have that curmudgeonly Notre Dame-like debate about how players like the four horsemen should be viewed nearly a century later.
That all said, there were still plenty of different factors to consider. I tried to look at a player's statistics, when he played, how much success the team he played on had, what kind of a pro career the player had, what kind of esteem he is held in now that his playing days are over and there were also several intangible qualities I gave weight to as well.
At points over the course of this countdown, I'm sure I'll get to each of the factors and how they played into the compilation of this list. And to that end the six players I've chosen for Honorable Mentions are partially intended to illustrate some of the thought behind these rankings. These are not the next six best players (26-31). They're players who were close to making it but also illustrate the challenges (and subjectivity) that were at play when putting this list together.
Now, if you hadn't already scrolled down to this part, let's get to the honorable mentions...
Danny Kanell, QB, 1992-1995
After Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, the debate over Florida State's next best quarterback gets really difficult. There are as many as four guys who have legitimate claims to that title and no clear cut answer. Kanell's argument is a strong one, he threw for 6,372 yards and 57 touchdowns and piloted Florida State's offense in the middle of the 90's during its heyday. He had the unenviable job of replacing Charlie Ward and responded by breaking Gary Huff's decades old career passing touchdowns records in his two seasons as a starter. In his senior season (1995) he broke Ward's single season TD mark by five, connecting on 32 touchdowns passes.
But what puts Kanell ahead of other good Florida State QB's are some of the moments he produced. He went 28-38 and threw for 5 TD's against Maryland playing for an injured Charlie Ward as a sophomore on FSU's '93 national title campaign.
More famously, he lead Florida State back against Florida when facing a 31-3 deficit at the start of the 4th quarter in a game that is remembered by both fanbases as "The Choke at Doak."
So will Kanell be the third highest-rated quarterback on the list? I'm not telling.
Darnell Dockett, DT, 1999-2003
Dockett is an example of a player who was all over the top 25 list. He was totally unranked and then rose as high as 19 at one point before slowly sliding back into the honorable mentions. Playing in the middle of the Seminole defensive line Dockett pulled down 10.5 sacks and an impressive 69 tackles for loss over the course of his career, but he may be best remembered by both fanbases for an incident that Earnest Graham alleged happened at the bottom of a dogpile during UF and FSU's annual slugfest.
What helped him move up a little bit in a crowded group of defensive linemen was his pro career. A third round pick in 2004, Dockett has gone on to become a lynchpin of the Arizona Cardinal defense. He's a three time Pro Bowler who has also been named an All-Pro once and helped lead Arizona to the lone Superbowl appearance in franchise history back in 2008. While his pro accolades alone aren't enough to bump him up above other similar players in FSU history on their own merits, they did serve as a useful tiebreaker when it was close.
Jamal Reynolds, DE, 1997-2000
Reynolds is an example of a guy whose pro career dropped him a bit when compared to other players who had similar careers in Garnet and Gold. Despite being the 10th overall pick by the Packers, Reynolds lasted just three years in the league.
His selection that high was justified, Reynolds starred on two Florida State teams that played for back-to-back national titles.
In 1999 Reynolds recorded seven sacks, but burst into the national spotlight when he hauled down Michael Vick three times in the Seminoles' national championship win over Virginia Tech. The next season he built on his Sugar Bowl performance by racking up 12 sacks and 15 tackles for loss and earning consensus All-American status. Unfortunately for guys like Reynolds, being considered an NFL bust nudges them in the opposite direction of a guy like Dockett when it's close.
And it was close. There are a lot of very good defensive linemen to choose from when you look at FSU's history. 14 different players have recorded ten or more sacks in a season, 11 have more than 20 for their career. When things are that tight and it goes to the tie-breakers, what they did in the NFL has to play.
Everette Brown, DE, 2005-2008
Brown is another example of a very good defensive lineman in Florida State history whose legacy could still change and who could end up higher on the list ultimately (if his NFL career turns around), but as of right now he's one of several defensive linemen in the 20-sack range– not unlike Reynolds and Alonzo Jackson– on the outside looking in.
Two things worked against Brown. First he played on teams that accomplished less (by FSU standards). Unlike so many others who are on the list Brown never won an ACC title and his teams lost 14 games in three seasons. While that isn't on Brown himself, it's a small consideration.
Everette Brown recorded three sacks in limited time as a redshirt freshman, but then came on for 20 over his next two seasons, including 13.5 as a redshirt junior in 2008. Had he stuck around for another year, he would have likely crept into the top three all-time at Florida State in sacks. He was on pace to break Reinard Wilson's record of 35.5. As it stands he ended with 23, which is good enough to be tied for sixth but given there are eight different guys who finished with betwen 20-25 sacks in their careers in Garnet and Gold, it also doesn't set him apart.
In 2009 he was picked in the second round by the Carolina Panthers where he recorded 6 sacks in two seasons. He's now with his second team in as many years, signing with the Eagles this offseason after playing in just three games for the Chargers last year. While any one of these factors alone wouldn't have kept Brown from being higher, together they make enough of a difference to have him just out and several others just in.
Alex Barron, OT, 2000-2004
Barron is a guy who very easily could have made the list just by virtue of the fact he's the only two-time consensus All-American to play on the offensive line in FSU history. Barron was very good at Florida State, he started in 24 of 25 games in his final two years and was considered the best pass blocking offensive tackle in the country at the end of 2003. He's the only offensive lineman in the history of the program who has ever had his locker sealed.
But is Alex Barron the best tackle to have ever worn Garnet and Gold? No. Make no mistake, Barron is in the upper echelon of linemen when it comes to Seminole football history, but he also played on some rather bad offenses (at least by Florida State standards). In 2004 as a senior the Seminoles' offense was ranked 61st overall and 57th in scoring. That's not Barron's fault necessarily, it has a lot to do with the Seminoles being mired in the Jeff Bowden era, but it certainly didn't help his case either.
He also hasn't been helped by a rocky NFL career that has many in St. Louis calling him the b-word (bust). He was taken 19th overall and never established himself like the Rams hoped he would as Orlando Pace's eventual replacement. Instead he was the second most penalized player in the league over that period and has bounced around to four teams in the past four years since leaving St. Louis.
Coronta "Tay" Cody, CB, 1996-2000
Cody is an example of a very good defensive back that may make this list at other schools but can't given the number of other talented players to play his position at FSU. As I said, these six Honorable Mentions aren't part of the rankings, which is to say these are not necessarily the next six guys in. They're more players that help to illustrate a point about the number of good players and the difficulty that comes with ranking them. If it weren't Cody, there are two or three other DB's that could have been in this spot.
Cody played on some elite defenses. He made up part of three of the best secondaries in the nation from 1998-2000. Two of those teams played for national titles. In 1999 he started seven of 11 games for the Seminoles and earned honorable mention All-ACC honors. The next year he was a consensus All-American and had six interceptions for a defense that did its part in a 13-2 National Championship loss to Oklahoma. He was drafted in the third round and played three years in San Diego before heading to Canada to play in the CFL until 2008.
That's an impressive resume, but given the number of other future NFL and even NFL Hall-of-Fame bound players to come before and after him, it wasn't enough to make the list of the top 25 Florida State Seminoles of all time.
Also received consideration: WR Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, WR Lawrence Dawsey, TE Pat Carter, QB Danny McManus, DB Corey Sawyer, DB Samari Rolle, DB JT Thomas, OL Jason Whitaker, OL Rodney Hudson, OL Pat Tomberlin, RB Travis Minor, DL Alonzo Jackson, DL Carl Simpson, K Graham Gano, K Dustin Hopkins
Starting tomorrow, we count down the top 25...
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