Aug. 27, 2003
Tallahassee, Fla. –
With Saturday’s season opener with the University of North Carolina looming like Christmas Day, the 12th-ranked Florida State University football team completed a 20-period practice on Wednesday (August 27). Battling 90-degree temperatures for the third day in a row, the Seminoles practiced in shells (helmets, shoulders pads and shorts).
Most of the afternoon focused on working against the Tar Heels scout teams. Florida State opened the day with special teams and individual drills. The end of the day was highlighted by a brief 11-on-11 scrimmage. As has been the case for most the preseason, the defense had the upper hand as was highlighted with a sack by defensive end Kamerion Wimbley (Wichita, KS / Northwest).
With such an expansive roster, Saturday’s contest means a lot of things to different players. For seniors such as linebacker Michael Boulware (Columbia, SC / Spring Valley) and wide receiver Joey Kaleikini (Niceville, FL) it’s the begging of their last year. Others like tailback Greg Jones (Beaufort, SC / Battery Creek) are trying to come back from an injury.
But for some players who have been with the team for a year, this will be their first chance to take the field. No one really seems to know who came up with the term redshirt or when it was first used to describe players who won’t participate in a game, but still have to practice.
Some believe that it dates back to when freshmen weren’t eligible to play and wore a red jersey during practice to distinguish themselves from the rest of the team. The term was used during the 60’s when associate head coach Mickey Andrews was a member of the Alabama football team where he was a redshirt himself.
“I have no idea how they came up with the name,” Andrews admitted. “I go back a ways, but I have no idea where it came from. Ever since I was playing they called them redshirts. Back them coach (Bear) Bryant wanted to redshirt every one he could so that they would be a year older by the time they were seniors.”
At this time last season, freshman tailback Lorenzo Booker (Ventura, CA / St. Bonaventure) was faced with the reality of not playing his first year. A year older and wiser, Booker is anxious for his first collegiate game, but knows that he is a better today and will be even better down the road after sitting out his first season.
“I love football so it was tough and I didn’t start to get use to it until after Miami,” Booker admitted. “All the way up to the Georgia game I wanted to get out there to help the team. Honestly I don’t know what got me through and how I stayed motivated that long.”
Two players that have been in Booker’s shoes are quarterback Chris Rix (Santa Margarita, CA / Catholic) and defensive end Kevin Emanuel (Waco, TX). For Rix the decision to redshirt was a no-brainer. Incumbent signal caller Chris Weinke had just led the Seminoles to a national championship and was going on to win the Heisman Trophy. Emanuel had a little better chance of playing, but both realized that it was for the best.
“I learned a lot about the college game and seeing how Chris Weinke approached things,
how he prepared for practice and games,” Rix added. “Words can’t describe how much I learned that year watching, trying to mirror what he did. I knew my role on the team and it’s all about knowing your role is as a redshirt.”
“I was upset a little bit, I didn’t want to sit out,” Emanuel noted. “It was the best thing for me, but I didn’t see that at the time. Another big help was with my academics. It gave me a chance to concentrate on my studies during the first year. You have to come out here to help them get better. We had a lot of fun going through scout team, but you’ve got to make it fun.”
Another big adjustment that players must make is learning all the plays at the collegiate level. Few high school programs run as complicated systems as they do at the next level. Both Booker and Rix admitted that the extra year allowed them to easy into the system and gave them a leg up.
“I learned to be patient,” Booker commented. “A lot of times things aren’t going to go your way, but you can either put your head down or bounce back and come back stronger. There are no negatives about redshirting, it’s all positive, you just have to be tough enough to handle it. I know that everything that I’ve been working on and waiting for is going to pay off in three days.”