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Sept. 22, 2003
Jerry Kutz, courtesy of The Osceola –
Enduring the relentless sun and 90-degree heat, a line of Seminole fans wanting autographs from the 1993 National Championship football team stretched for 150 yards. Three abreast they stood for the chance to meet 61 of the members of FSU’s first football team to ever win the national championship. While I watched the fans make their away around the shaded autograph signing tables, greeting former players, I wondered if the fans realized what these former football players have done with their lives the past ten years.
Most of those fans recognized the players on sight, and could probably recall their greatest plays, but I wondered how many knew that linebacker Ken Alexander, kicker Dan Mowrey and offensive tackle Juan Laureano are now lawyers. Linebacker Todd Rebol is an engineer. Safety Richard Coes, who was working on an advanced degree while playing for that national title, is a Federal Agent for the Justice Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Fellow safety Steve Gilmer is a software designer. Nose guard John Nance, who fought a successful battle with cancer to play in that 1993 season, is a Sheriff.
Wide receiver Matt Frier owns a large manufactured home company. Defensive tackle Todd McIntosh owns a jewelry design and clothing design company. Linebacker David Stallworth is a Navy aviator. Linebacker Travis Sherman manages plantations. Alonzo Horner is supervisor of incoming inmates at a correctional institute. Guard Pat McNeil has a bail bond agency. Nose guard Connell Spain owns a security company. Tight end Lonnie Johnson fulfilled his dream of becoming an ordained minister. Defensive end Chris Cowart is a reverend and a banker. Cornerback Clifton Abraham and lineman John Donaldson are football coaches. Safety Sean Hamlet manages a real estate company in partnership with Derrick Brooks and Derrick Alexander.
While everyone knows Charlie Ward is a point guard for the New York Knicks, how many know that Charlie’s wife is a lawyer or that running back Sean Jackson is a communications specialist for AT&T. Receiver EG Green owns a growing trucking company. Defensive end Dulack Guerrier is a personal trainer. Defensive end James Roberson and center Mark Salva are in pharmaceutical sales and sales management respectively. Receiver Aaron Dely, who earned a master’s degree in biochemical engineering, is a researcher for a pharmaceutical company. Don’t ask me to explain it but apparently he designs polymer structures for time-release medications.
Others, like Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, Zack Crockett, Corey Sawyer, Corey Fuller, Peter Boulware, Danny Kanell, Tra Thomas, Greg Spires and Todd Fordham are still playing in the NFL. While defensive end Derrick Alexander’ s playing career ended too soon, the Cleveland Browns asked him to stay on to work in their player personnel department.
Dunn and Brooks are still doing wonderful things for disadvantaged families. Brooks, who was working on a master’s degree while playing at FSU, is now on Florida State’s Board of Trustees while exposing hundreds of kids to college opportunities. Fullback William Floyd has numerous interests including his “Bar None” Foundation. And offensive guard Jesus Hernandez, who looks like a South Beach model, is involved with business interests and a private foundation he established.
McIntosh was herding his three children toward the autograph tent when I caught up with him to ask what he’s been doing. “I’m just trying to take care of my wife and three children. Trying to make enough so I can send my kids to college and not have to depend on my friend Derrick,” he said, a comical reference to Brooks’ charity that funds educational opportunities for disadvantaged kids.
These are a few of the many life-after-football success stories from this special group. Not only have they become successful in every walk of life, they have become husbands and fathers, too. “It does not surprise me at all that so many of these guys have become successful in life because they were good people,” said Ken Alexander, who worked with the Varsity Club and Hall of Fame committee, among others, to organize the event. “It did not matter what path of life they took, they would be successful. That same motivation and drive that you learn as a football player is the same motivation and drive you need to be successful in life. It definitely carries over.”
One thing did surprise Alexander, an Austin, Texas native, who chooses to practices law in Tallahassee.
“It does not matter what stage of life we have reached, we all just naturally reverted back to the roles we had played when we were teammates on that 1993 national championship team,” he said in amazement.
There were many fun stories over the weekend, which began with a reunion Friday in the Varsity Club at which a number of people including Bobby Bowden and presidents Bernie Sliger and T.K. Wetherell spoke.
Bowden congratulated the team for caring enough about each other to reunite. On behalf of all the Seminole fans, who waited anxiously for the first national title, Senate president Jim King thanked them for winning it. Athletic director Dave Hart’s welcome included a reminder that while FSU now has two national titles and hopes to have more, the first is always special.
T.K. took the microphone last and had fun playing off some of the others’ remarks. While King said he has never enjoyed anything before or since as much as winning that national championship in Miami, Wetherell said beating the Gators in Gainesville that year, or any year for that matter, does it for him.
There was loud laughter and applause.
Wetherell also told them from personal experience that they would feel something very unusual when they walked out onto Doak Campbell Stadium to be honored the following night. Even though you have done it many times as players, it will be much more intense, he warned.
“It did feel different for several reasons,” Alexander said. “When you are playing you hear the crowd but you are so focused on the game and the opponent that you don’t feel the homage. When we walked out there the other night, the whole reason was to allow the crowd to pay that homage, and for us to feel it, so you focus on it and it is amazing to feel.”
Busses took the players and their wives from the Friday night reception in the Varsity Club to various Tallahassee clubs where the reunion would continue late into the evening.
“People in this community welcomed us with open arms,” said Alexander, who thanked too many people that organized the event to list here. “Hotels held rooms for us at very reasonable rates. People provided us busses and opened their restaurants to us. A lot of people chipped in and it was amazing the alliances. The city poured out its talents at cost, without making a profit. That shows you how well received the national champs are and how wonderful this community is.”
Keep it in perspective
When FSU’s offense was stymied last week by Georgia Tech’s defense, I thought fans made too much of it. Now this week, after the offense rang up more than 500 yards, some are making too much of that, too.
Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful to see Chris Rix and his receivers execute the passing game with such proficiency. A career-high 394 yards for Rix. A career-high eight catches for 220 yards for Craphonso Thorpe. A career-high 10 catches for 119 yards for Sam. A career-high four field goals, on four attempts, for Xavier Beithia.
Any time you put 47 points on the board it is encouraging but let’s not lose perspective. Colorado, whose 70-man travel party to Tallahassee included 50 freshmen or sophomores, is simply not very good defensively. But you still have to make the three-foot putt and Saturday a bunch of guys, who have yanked gimmes in the past, stepped up and calmly drained them.
Completing 30 of 39 passes, Rix looked completely in command, leading many to believe it was because he is more comfortable in the gun. That could be and the coaches really need to study that, but I have an idea that FSU’s breakout game had more to do with the fact that Colorado’s overall defense is rated 96th and Tech’s is still 58th after the Clemson letdown. At least statistically, the Seminoles passing game will face much-stiffer tests after this week’s game at Duke, which is statistically similar to FSU’s past opponents. Duke is 69th in pass-efficiency defense compared to UNC (81), Maryland (72), Georgia Tech (64) and Colorado (71).
The stiffer tests will come when FSU must line up against Miami (32), Virginia (8) and Florida (5), so FSU coaches have two weeks to make some objective decisions about what formations and plays they want Rix to run in various field positions.
Most fans believe that Rix, like Charlie Ward, simply sees the field better from the shotgun. It could be that without quick hitting backs like Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington, FSU is simply kidding itself trying to run the ball out of a tight I formation. For all of Greg’s strengths, FSU may be too easy to defend in those formations. But you know, it could also be that FSU simply had much better field position this week than they did against a much quicker Georgia Tech team, and played pitch and catch a lot better.
That’s for the coaches to analyze.
In the meanwhile, we are left to feel euphoric at the explosive potential of this offense, the return to consistency of the X man, and to enjoy the nation’s least scored upon defense.