March 26, 2004
If you’re around the Florida State football offices or practice fields these days, you’ll see a pretty familiar face. Former Seminole cornerback James Colzie has returned to the program. While fans will remember him for his play-making ability on the field, including the unforgettable fourth-quarter interception against Florida in the 1994 “The Comeback” game, Colzie has put away the pads and replaced them with a whistle. Colzie joined the FSU football defensive coaching staff in mid-March and will be responsible for coaching the Seminole cornerbacks.
“We’re excited about having James back with us,” FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. “He played football here, went to school here, got his degree. He’s a Seminole. When we lost (former graduate assistant) Kirby (Smart), one of the things in talking with Coach Bowden was that he liked the idea of bringing a former player back, a guy who had been through the program. We had a few guys in mind, but the bottom line was that James was the best person for the job at this time. We’re excited to have him back working with our cornerbacks and helping with special teams. We feel like James will be an excellent addition to our staff.”
Colzie graduated in 1996 with a degree in international affairs. During his time at FSU, the Seminoles won a national championship (1993) and played for another (1996). Over his four-year playing career, FSU went 43-5-1, won four ACC championships and finished each season ranked No. 4 or higher. Colzie signed a free agent contract with Tampa Bay, but didn’t make the team, so he went back to his second love – baseball –
and played one season in the Montreal Expos organization in Harrisburg, Pa. But baseball wasn’t his thing, because he didn’t like the continuous travel. So Colzie returned home to Miami and taught high school and coached at Miami Christian for two years. Colzie was the head coach for football and baseball and was the assistant coach for the basketball program, which won a state championship during his tenure.
During his second year at Miami Christian, Colzie was offered a position by Coach Don Strock to help build a new football program at Florida International University. He was one of five coaches brought in to help start the program. They used the first year to lay the foundation for the program and a second year to develop the team. Competition began in 2002. Once the program was in place, Colzie was the cornerbacks’ coach and an assistant special teams coach, working with the returners. However, one phone call changed all of that.
“Coach (Mickey) Andrews called and explained how Kirby Smart had left to go to LSU and asked if I wanted to join the defensive staff,” Colzie explained. “I was somewhat surprised. I was aware of the opening, but a little surprised that they called me. I have spoken with Coach Andrews especially coming back (to FSU) to watch my sisters play softball, but he had never said anything about it, but maybe that was because there was no position available. He said he wanted to bring back someone who had played the position here and someone who was coaching.”
So after the phone call, Colzie had some things to think about. He was happy at FIU working as a fulltime coach, but it didn’t take long for him to make the decision to return to FSU.
“It took me a day to let my coaches at FIU know and that was it,” Colzie said. “My only concern was how much coaching I would be able to do as a graduate assistant. Coach Andrews told me pointblank and I talked with Kirby (Smart) and he said that I would basically be coaching the corners and have full-time responsibility. He was the first person I talked to after Coach Andrews called. After talking to Kirby, it was pretty much a no-brainer.”
Having played sports throughout his life, coaching was something Colzie always thought he would do.
“My father coached me when I was little,” he said. “The influential people in my life were all coaches. The majority of people I look up to are coaches, so I figured that once I stopped playing, that’s what I would be doing.”
While Colzie has only been back in Tallahassee a few weeks, Florida State was never really out of his mind.
“I have been up here with my sisters (Shandra and Shundra) playing softball,” he said. “I always kept track of Tallahassee and I always kept track of Florida State. I see some of the buildings now and I saw how they looked before and change is good, change is better and I’m glad to be a part of the change that is here. Players that I played with feel like they helped build this thing, which is somewhat true, but I came to Florida State because of Terrell Buckley, Deion Sanders, Corey Sawyer – the players that were here before me. And talking to people who came after us, they came because of players like us.”
Having played in the Florida State system, Colzie hopes his experience will be an advantage when coaching the current players, but so far, the questions he has gotten haven’t all been about defensive schemes.
“The most questions I’ve gotten from the guys besides defensive questions have been what it was like when I played here,” he said. “My first year, we won a national title. My sophomore and junior years we lost maybe one game and then we played in a national title game my senior year. A lot of the questions have been like, ‘How was it when you were here? How were the players when you were here? Are the players any different?’ I tell them that as far as athletic ability, there is no difference, but that maybe our mind frame was different. We never had to experience four or five loss seasons. I was telling one guy, the way Derrick Brooks would carry himself around here. He was an All-American, but you really didn’t know it.
“They want to know what Coach Bowden was like, what Coach Andrews was like. Coach Andrews is the same that he was in ’88, the same in ’93 and the same now in 2004. He’s tough. He just wants the best from his players and you can’t fault him for that. He just wants to make sure the players he’s putting on the field are the best in the country.”
So, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“It’s good to be back home,” Colzie said. “It’s a lot different than when I was here. My responsibilities are a lot different, but I saw Warrick Dunn and I’m looking at Lorenzo Booker now and I see the same kind of player, same quickness, same number. The only thing that has changed is the name and the face but the athletic ability is still the same.”
While Colzie has fond memories as a player on some of FSU’s most successful teams, he is excited for the opportunity to help teach and mold the Seminole teams of the future.
“As a coach, you are more like a father figure,” Colzie said. “You are their coach, but you are also their confidant and maybe sometimes their advisor. The corners have welcomed me. It’s a blessing to be back and I am happy to be back and hopefully I can help us win a national championship in coaching like we did my first year as a player.”