TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Last week, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher wrote a letter asking for high school football programs around the state to donate uniforms and equipment to flood victims in his home state of West Virginia.
On Wednesday, alongside his friend and longtime assistant Rick Trickett, Fisher personally delivered some of those donations while speaking to a large gathering of football players, families and community leaders in his hometown of Clarksburg, W.Va.
“We all came from the same place,” Fisher said. “We all learned the same values. And people say, ‘Coach, thank you, thank you.’ You don’t have to thank me. You know why we’re here? Because it’s the right thing to do. That’s what West Virginians do.”
Floods tore through West Virginia last month, claiming at least 23 lives while destroying more than 1,200 homes.
President Barack Obama declared West Virginia a major disaster area on June 25 and several thousand residents were without power days after the initial storms.
“A lot of people lost everything,” Fisher told Mike Bianchi on 96.9 FM in Orlando last week. “We all know in the state of Florida how violent water is. But it’s a little bit different up here (in West Virginia) in that, because you’re in a mountain region, everything runs to the valleys. And when it does, it picks up speed and all those streams and rivers, they keep getting bigger and bigger.
“The devastation is incredible.”
So Fisher sought to help as best he could.
With high school football practices set to start in just a few weeks, several area teams found that they lost their uniforms and equipment to the floods. Others are dealing with damage to their fields and practice spaces.
Some schools, Fisher said, might not even be ready for this fall, meaning their students could be forced to attend elsewhere.
Fisher knows that playing football games won’t heal all the wounds that his home state has suffered over the past few weeks. But he believes it can help.
“It’s amazing how sporting events, at times, they bring communities and people back together and remind them that things are going to be OK,” Fisher said. “There’s not many things in the community that everybody can go to and feel good about, watching their kids and grandkids and nieces, nephews, whatever it is, play. We just think it’s a little bit of something we can try to do to help them get back on their feet.”
Trickett, meanwhile, spoke to the gathered football players and implored them not to use their recent challenges as an excuse to let up on the field this fall.
They now have what they need to play, but it’s up to the players themselves to play well.
“We’re not just going to show up and say, ‘Woe is me,’” said Trickett, a native of Masontown, W.Va., who coached at West Virginia University before coming to FSU in 2007. “I tried to hit on each individual kid out there that it’s his job and his responsibility to pick that up and go.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban, a fellow West Virginian who worked with Fisher and Trickett at LSU, coordinated similar efforts as well.
Fisher’s message came a day after officials in Clarksburg recognized their native son with a sign declaring the city as the “Home of Coach Jimbo Fisher, 2013 College Football National Champion.”
Florida State is still accepting uniform donations. They can be sent to:
Uniform Flood Donation
c/o Florida State Football
403 Stadium Drive West
Tallahassee, FL 32306