TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State football’s freshman class of 2018 won’t officially begin classes for another few days, but school was in session on Wednesday afternoon at the Moore Athletics Center.
And Professors Simon, Boulware, Haggins, Frey and Edwards had each student’s full attention.
As part of a busy first week that included moving into their dorms, participating in a number of seminars and team-building activities, and getting set up on campus, the football freshmen sat down for a detailed look at the history of Florida State football through the eyes of some of the program’s greats: Corey Simon, Peter Boulware, Odell Haggins, Greg Frey and Mario Edwards.
In a session that lasted nearly 90 minutes, each former Seminole – three of whom are still on coach Willie Taggart’s staff – shared their experiences as FSU football players, while reminding each of the newcomers of the standard they must uphold and offering their thoughts on how to prepare for life after football.
For players at that dawn of their collegiate careers, that sounds like a long way away.
But, as Haggins told the group, it sounded like a long way away when he was a freshman back in the fall of 1985, too.
“The former players we brought in have done an excellent job of establishing their legacy on the field, but have carried it into the community as well,” said Trae Hackett, FSU’s director of player development. “We want to set the tone with our newcomers right off the bat that, again, it’s not only what you do on the field, but it’s what you do off the field.”
Simon spoke to that point.
A consensus All-American, national champion and first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, Simon (1995-99) shared a story from his sophomore year at Florida State.
While serving as a celebrity waiter at a charity dinner, Simon was approached by an FSU fan in the business realm who wanted a picture with him.
Years later, following an eight-year, Pro-Bowl career in the NFL, Simon and that same man connected again, this time as business partners in the financial world. And in their office sat that picture of the two men together.
“You never know who you’re going to shake hands with now that could develop something later,” Simon said. “It’s about the relationships that you build in this community.”
Simon and Boulware, his former teammate and FSU’s all-time single-season sack leader, then gave the freshmen a head start on that by giving out their phone numbers, along with a simple message:
If you ever need anything, call.
“Experience is the best teacher,” Simon later said. “Because we’ve gone through some things, it allows us to try to help them through the pitfalls that may be there. I’d much rather learn from somebody’s else’s experience than suffer that tail-kicking on my own.”
While much of the conversation veered away from the football field, there was plenty of talk about what happens between the lines as well.
Simon smiled and reminded that, in four years as a player (he redshirted in 1995), the Seminoles lost just four games, played for three national titles and won one.
If each player doesn’t strive to be the best ever, he said, then Florida State isn’t the place for them.
And Boulware, now a partner in Tallahassee’s Legacy Toyota, reeled off a laundry list of FSU’s standouts – Deion Sanders, Marvin Jones, Simon and Haggins among them – and encouraged the freshmen to grab the baton from them, so that one day they might be able to pass it on to another generation of Seminoles.
That means continuing to raise the bar on the field, but also one day being successful professionals, fathers and husbands, too.
“One day, 10 or 15 years after your career is over, hopefully you’ll be able to come back and stand behind this microphone and talk about the successes that you had at FSU and the successes that you will have at the next level,” Boulware said.
“But really,” he continued, “you’ll talk about the fraternity and the Seminole family. And you’ll talk about bleeding garnet and gold, because it’s so special.
“The world is before you.”
Boulware and Simon were the latest in a long line of Seminole greats to visit the current team, and yet another sign of Taggart’s ongoing commitment to bridge the past with the present.
Previous guests have included Derrick Brooks, Charlie Ward, Peter Warrick and Jameis Winston.
“It’s been a breath of fresh air,” Simon said. “You really get a chance to see that (Taggart) really, truly cares about these young men. And it’s really going back to what Coach (Bobby) Bowden was all about, and that’s shaping young men. If you can shape young men, they’ll develop into the players. That’s the thing that comes natural to them.
“But the growth that comes from being in experiences where they can learn all the things around them, that will shape them once they leave this program, those are the things that I can see he’s putting much more emphasis on.”