Last night Florida State finished the first 13-win season in the program's history and nobody played a bigger role in that than Lamarcus Joyner.
There are plenty of seniors that have had an impact on the return to prominence that FSU is experiencing this season, but few players -- not just in the present, either, but in the entire history of Florida State football -- have done more to prop up the program.
"This program has been down for a while and Coach Fisher came in here and did a pretty great job of recruiting and rebuilding this program," said Joyner last night. "Just to be a part of something special, to be able to bring this program back, watching this program when I was a young child, and to be a part of it and be a part of something special, there's no better feeling right now."
Fisher may have recruited the class, but Joyner acted as Fisher's glue. As a high-profile recruit Joyner used his clout to talk other recruits into signing with FSU at various camps and all-star games.
'Let's bring FSU back,' was the mantra. And Joyner used it to ensure the class he arrived with would be tight knit and focused on the same goal.
He continued with that mantra once he got to Florida State, using it to lock down recruits on official visits and to build camaraderie with his teammates.
"If you look at the progress that we made over the years, Chick‑Fil‑A Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Orange Bowl, we kept getting better, we kept climbing the ladder, and that's what I envisioned to do, coming back as a senior leader to keep climbing that ladder," Joyner said.
Last season, after FSU had won 12 games, recaptured the ACC and won the Orange Bowl, Joyner made the decision to return for his senior season. He likely would have been a second or third round pick.
The self-interested decision would have been to turn pro. Joyner has admitted before that one of his biggest motivations is getting his family out of its current financial predicament. He had that chance last year and nobody would have faulted him for taking it.
But Joyner came to FSU with a purpose -- one he felt he had yet to fulfill -- and he opted to return for his senior season, this time with one mission: to make sure FSU made it the rest of the way up that proverbial ladder.
"It just goes back to spring training, fourth quarter drills. I mean, training together and all, just seeing the nation doubt us and being able to come to practice and work every day and look Telvin and Jameis and Coach Fisher in the eye and say 'I love you, Coach;' 'I love you, Jameis;' 'I love you, Telvin,'" said Joyner.
"And then you go find yourself telling someone you love them every day, then you just build a brotherhood, and we started believing in each other. That's when I felt that we was the best team in the country, and I said that early on at the ACC kickoff that it didn't matter what people said about us or think about us, it was all about what we felt about and thought about each other."
Joyner embodies the ferocity of this year's Florida State defense perfectly. He gets every last ounce out of his physical talents, plays selflessly, trusts his teammates and attacks without hesitation.
That's why it was fitting that Joyner lead the way for Florida State's defense on Saturday night -- much as he has done all season.
It was the former Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas standout that delivered a fearsome blow to set the physical tempo early on when the teams were still feeling one another out.
It was Joyner who came up with a key interception early in the second quarter after Duke threatened following a Jamison Crowder punt return.
"Larmarcus' interception changed the momentum and got it back for us and it allowed us to go back down and score a touchdown," said Jimbo Fisher. 'That play by the defense to change the momentum by Lamarcus, it was a great play by a great player."
Now only 60 minutes of football stand between Joyner -- and his Florida State teammates -- and their goal of winning a national title. Well, 60 minutes and Auburn.
Perhaps appropriately if the Seminoles are to best the Tigers it will take a big performance from a nickel corner in run support to help stymie the Auburn rushing attack. That means Lamarcus Joyner will have to step up for the Seminoles one final time.
If the past four years are any indication, Joyner will be ready come January 6th.
"We have to just do the little things that we've been doing all season, and by the time we're in California and ready to play in that National Championship, then I'll be able to say that we're confident," said Joyner. "But it's all about the power of preparation and what we do throughout this week and the weeks that come to prepare for this game."
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