January 2, 1999
By ROB GLOSTER
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – The headaches linger. Seven weeks after spinal
just standing up makes him dizzy. But all that doesn’t prevent Florida State
quarterback Chris Weinke from harboring a fantasy.
“Maybe I’ll sneak on some pads and run out there,” he said with a
half-hearted laugh, knowing his only role in Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl
as a mentor for his replacement, Marcus Outzen.
Six years of minor-league baseball and a lifetime of athletic competition
could not inoculate Weinke from the pain he’s enduring – not from the hits
nearly paralyzed him, but from the frustration of being merely a spectator at
the biggest game of his career.
“Not being able to play Monday night is probably the toughest thing I’ve
ever had to deal with,” he said. “Each and every day something comes up where
I wish I could be a part of this.”
Weinke, a 26-year-old sophomore who came back to college after
years as a first baseman in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization, is lucky even
to be able to stand on the sideline for the national championship game against
He endured two crushing hits in a Nov. 7 game against Virginia that
herniated disk and a thumbnail-sized bone chip pressing on a nerve. Five days
after the game, he had surgery to remove the disk and fuse two vertebrae.
The operation went well, but the bone chip caused a leak of spinal fluid
that caused massive headaches for weeks. He lost 22 pounds. Sleeping more than
three hours at a time was impossible because of the pain.
Weinke could barely walk and had just enough energy to click the remote
control while watching UCLA and Kansas State get upset in late November,
elevating Florida State to No. 2 in the nation and giving the Seminoles a
chance to face undefeated and top-ranked Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.
By the time he arrived with his teammates in Tempe, most of the pain
head had subsided. The reality of what he was about to miss started sinking
“When we got off the plane, I think it really set in that we’re
the national championship and I can’t be part of it,” he said. “It’s been
tough all week.”
It hardly has been the storybook ending that Weinke seemed to be
One of the top prep athletes in the country in St. Paul, Minn., the
Weinke signed with the Seminoles in 1989 but opted for the Blue Jays’ $375,000
signing bonus after spending only four days in fall football drills in
He invested much of his bonus in real estate, and is financially
played 750 minor-league games and even earned a two-week stint in the majors.
But he started missing football. While playing baseball in Tennessee, he
would go to the empty football stadium in Knoxville and walk on the field.
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer visited and kidded about him becoming a
Playing in Tennessee “put that football blood back into me,” he said.
“But they couldn’t get me – I was still a Florida State fan.”
When Weinke decided to try football again, Florida State coach Bobby
had his old scholarship waiting. And when a couple of other quarterbacks got
injured, Weinke became a starter.
He threw six interceptions in his second start, a 24-7 loss at North
Carolina State Sept. 12 that is the Seminoles’ only defeat this season, but
rebounded to go the next 7 1/2 games without an interception.
When he was hurt, Weinke had thrown a school-record 218 passes without
picked off. During that span, he passed for 2,037 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“I feel like I played a major role in the reason we’re here playing
national championship,” he said. “And I feel like I have a role to play this
week and be in Marcus’ shadow.”
Outzen, who will be making his third collegiate start, said it will be
having Weinke on the sideline Monday night.
“It helps me out, it’s another quarterback with the Florida State
in his head,” said the sophomore, who already plans on being Weinke’s backup
next season. “Everything he can see that I’m not seeing helps me.”
Weinke, too, already is thinking ahead to next season.
“Life is a challenge,” he said. “This is a chance for me to get back to
100 percent and try to get back to this game next year. Knowing I’m not
play in a game of this magnitude, I think what it’s going to do is make me
hungrier for next year.”