Sept. 11, 2007
Entering his final season at Florida State, senior Andre Fluellen is widely known as one of the top defensive linemen in college football.
A preseason candidate for the Outland Trophy and the Bednarik Award, Fluellen has been tabbed as one of ESPN’s “10 Seniors to Watch” in 2007, selected as a preseason All-America honorable mention and named to three preseason All-ACC lists.
Yet while it would be easy for all that pomp and circumstance to cloud his mind, it only takes a brief minute in the 6’5″ 280-pound defensive tackle’s presence to realize it’s his charisma, not his ego, that fills the room.
Born in a northern Atlanta suburb in 1985, Fluellen grew up watching the faces of Warrick Dunn, Corey Simon and Peter Warrick chasing down National Championships for Florida State on Saturday afternoons.
“I’ve been a Florida State fan my whole life,” said Fluellen. “I used to love watching them in the 90s, just beating
Coincidentally, Florida State’s rise to the cream of the NCAA crop peaked the year Fluellen first donned the pads of the Cartersville High School Hurricanes. Four years later, when it came time to pick the school where he would play out his NCAA career, the respect and admiration Fluellen had long-held for Florida State prevailed, sending him southbound on I-75 with Tallahassee on the horizon.
“When I first got here, I never thought I’d be starting at Florida State,” recalled Fluellen. “I was like `Man these people are out of my league, I’m not a good enough athlete to play here.'”
Off the field, things didn’t start out easily for Fluellen either. Transitioning from high school to college is never easy, and for a student-athlete it means having to balance a full-time sport with a new school, new classes and new surroundings.
“You have to prioritize things; you can’t put things off–especially playing football, because you won’t be able to balance it all.”
Being away from home for the first time is a big step, too, and one that took its toll on the family-oriented Fluellen.
Fortunately, soon after he came to Florida State, Fluellen’s older brother moved to Tallahassee to attend school at Florida A&M.
“We live together right now, so I see him every day. It’s just really helped me because I’ve got somebody to talk to all the time.”
Back on the turf, Fluellen also saw considerable improvement in his play following his redshirt freshman year. Determined to keep a leg up on competition, Fluellen committed to himself and his team that he would do whatever it took to be the best.
“I always talk about working hard, but I know I’m not the biggest, I’m not the strongest, I’m not the fastest, and I’m not the most-talented person. I’m not even the most-talented person on our defensive line. But I figure if I’m not all that, if somebody’s working harder than me then I’m giving them the upper hand, so I’m not going to let anyone work harder than me.”
With that attitude burning as motivational fuel, Fluellen unleashed himself on the Seminoles’ opponents his sophomore season, moving from six total tackles in 2004 to 26 in 2005. The momentum continued into his junior season, where Fluellen led the Florida State defensive linemen with 28 tackles, including eight for minus yardage.
Fluellen’s efforts both inside and outside of football not only garnered him the attention of those outside Tallahassee, but also those within the walls of the Moore Athletic Center.
“Andre Fluellen is one of the most unselfish guys I have ever seen,” said the Seminole assistant coach Odell Haggins.
“I have never had to say, `Fluellen, you have to do this or do that.’ He’s a leader by action. He’s that type of player.
That kid–I just can’t say enough good things about him. He does well in the classroom, he doesn’t miss classes, and he does well on the football field. If you tell him to do something, he’s going to do it 110 percent.”
Even when it comes to his own coaches, that is just the sort of respect a man of Fluellen’s character commands–the kind of man who stays in Tallahassee for the summer to help his younger teammates with their own training instead of focusing on his own.
“I thought about going somewhere and training, but I thought I really needed to be here with the team and just help the younger guys out, so I stayed here and trained, took a couple classes just to get ahead. I just stayed around and worked really hard and tried to get everybody else to work hard.”
All the awards and statistics aside, it is that dedication to his team that has made Andre Fluellen one of the Seminoles’ best leaders on and off the turf. By his own words, he says he leads by example and it is that stellar example of a true athlete that Fluellen will leave behind when he picks up his diploma in December.
But before he’s gone, Fluellen still has one ultimate goal left for the football team he loved so much as a child.
“Personally, I didn’t come to Florida State to go 7-6,” said Fluellen. “I want to bring us back to the top.”
By Shannon O'Neil Florida State Sports Information Graduate Assistant