August 24, 2000 - by
Florida State’s Weinke: Slimmer, Smarter, A Year Older

Aug. 24, 2000


By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer

Chris Weinke is normally unflappable. One thing that gets him riled
up, though, is the perception he has an advantage over college rivals because
of his age.

Nonsense, the 28-year-old Florida State quarterback says.

“Let me tell you something,” Weinke was saying one day in a hotel lobby in
Hot Springs, Va. “I was away from the game for seven years. That’s a
disadvantage. Sure it’s an advantage to go through some of the adversity
I’ve gone through, but put yourself in my shoes.”

OK. How about being a Heisman Trophy contender who led the Seminoles to a
perfect season and national championship by throwing for 3,103 yards and 25 touchdowns? How about an NFL future?

“Not that, but how I came to where we are now,” he said, the wrinkles now showing on his forehead.

“I committed to the school 10 years ago, and five years ago I was still trying to hit a curveball,” Weinke says, referring to his decision to leave Florida State and sign a $400,000 deal to play baseball in the Toronto Blue Jays system.”I came back because I wanted to get my degree and play football. There
were no guarantees about playing. I got the starting job because someone
got
hurt. Then, I laid on an operating table for six hours when someone said I
was
centimeter away from not being able to walk. … For someone to tell me,
`You
shouldn’t be playing college football, you should move on with your life,’
that’s crazy.

“I’m doing something I love to do. Maybe some people are jealous
because
that’s the only way I could think of someone saying, ‘Why would you do
that?”‘

Weinke sat back on the couch, his rant over. He was back to his calm,
cool,
collegiate self.

“Never in my wildest dreams,” he began, “would I have thought I’d be
sitting here talking about trying to go 13-0 after going 12-0 and winning
the
national championship.”

And that’s exactly what Weinke plans to do starting Saturday night,
when
Florida State opens the season against BYU in the Pigskin Classic in
Jacksonville, Fla.

The 6-foot-5, slimmed-down-to 229-pounder spent a carefree summer of
weight-watching, workouts and golf. Didn’t even have a second thought
about
his
decision to wait another year for the NFL.

For the first time since he returned to Florida State, there were no
tough
times to overcome – no months of rehabbing from the late-season neck
injury
against Virginia in ’98, and no cram courses when he was tossed in as the
starter after Dan Kendra went down with a season-ending knee injury prior
to
the ’98 season.

“This is the funnest I’ve had in preparing for a season,” Weinke
said.
“All I’ve had to do is prepare myself mentally and physically for the
season.
And I’m going to enjoy it. Why leave and go try to deal with some of the
headaches you’re going to have at the professional level when you can
defend
a
national championship and try to win another one?”

Sweet music to Florida State coach Bobby Bowden’s ears.

“I don’t know anyone in the United States of America I would swap for
him,” Bowden said before quietly adding, “but that Virginia Tech kid is
pretty good.

“But here’s a guy 28 years of age and he doesn’t try to lord over the
other
players with `I’m older than y’all and I know more than y’all.”‘

Like a coach on the field, right?

“He knows how to talk to ’em. He knows how to rally ’em around him,”
Bowden said. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but that might
be
the best thing we got going.”

It might be. Weinke is calling signals for a team loaded with talent.
Peter
Warrick and Ron Dugans may be gone, but a new set of speed demons are
moving
in, led by Anquan Boldin, one of several receivers who spent the summer in
Tallahassee working with Weinke.

“We’ve had a chance to get our timing down,” Boldin said. “He seems
more
accurate.”

More accurate? Last season, Weinke completed 61.5 percent of his
passes,
hitting on 232-of-377 attempts. In ’98, he completed 50.7 percent,
145-of-286
for 2,487 yards and 19 TDs.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” Weinke, 21-1 as a starter,
said.
“I think you should get better every year and the numbers should be
better.
If
they go down, you’re doing something wrong.”

Weinke and his Seminoles did everything right last year. They
prevailed
in a
41-35 shootout against Georgia Tech and Joe Hamilton, avenged the ’98 loss
to
North Carolina State with a 42-11 win, shut out Miami in the second half
for
a
31-21 win, rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to win at Clemson
17-14,
and rallied after Weinke’s interception was returned for a TD to beat
Florida
30-23.

And, of course, Florida State withstood Michael Vick’s sensational
effort
and beat Virginia Tech 46-29 in the Sugar Bowl for the national title.

“Looking back, it’s much more special when you have to overcome
adversity,
dig down a little deeper,” Weinke said. “What fun would it be to go 12-0
and
win every game 50-0? That’s not fun for me.”

Going 13-0 is the only goal this season.

“Winning last year was the greatest feeling in the world, and that’s
why
the guys are staying hungry,” he said. “We’ve had a taste of success. We
know
what it’s like. We’re greedy.”

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