CHARLOTTE, N.C. – DeMarcus Walker doesn’t consider himself much of a morning person.
But the alarm clock went off early this morning, as Walker, Dalvin Cook and Jimbo Fisher all caught a 6:30 a.m., flight here to Charlotte, N.C., where they represented Florida State at the annual Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff.
WATCH: Jimbo Fisher at ACC Kickoff
The FSU trio then hit the ground running through a full day’s worth of interviews, photo shoots and networking with other players and coaches from around the league.
“It’s fun,” Walker said. “I’m blessed to be here and represent my team.”
Tiger by the tail
Although the Seminoles won’t meet the Clemson Tigers on the football field for another three months, their day started with a breakfast visit from CU coach Dabo Swinney.
Swinney, who recruited both Cook and Walker out of high school, stopped by their table to ask about their families, their academic progress and how they’ve spent their summers.
He also hinted that he wouldn’t mind if the two took a vacation in late October. Clemson visits FSU on Oct. 29.
“Y’all feel free to take the weekend off,” Swinney said with a smile. “Go on a fishing trip to Bermuda or something.”
Swinney also visited a while with Fisher, as the two compared notes on the start of their respective fall camps (Clemson’s begins on Aug. 1, FSU’s on Aug. 9) and season openers.
Like Florida State, Clemson starts the season against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
The Tigers visit Auburn on Sept. 3. Two days later, the Seminoles will face Mississippi at the Camping World Classic in Orlando.
Put a bow on it
Rather than their usual game jerseys, the players this year opted to wear suits and ties as they toured the media circuit. For Walker, that meant a navy blue suit, a white shirt, button suspenders and a floral bow tie.
A nice, clean look with one problem: tying a bow tie is quite a tall order.
So after half a dozen YouTube tutorials and several failed attempts from FSU support staff, Walker called in emergency aid in the form of Andy Staples, college football writer for Sports Illustrated and a bow tie enthusiast.
In just a few moments – and after a size adjustment on the tie – Staples had Walker straightened out and ready to go.
“It was like, ‘Alright, we’re going to ACC (Kickoff), I’ve got to have the bow tie,” Walker said.
Run the gauntlet
After breakfast, Fisher, Cook and Walker made their way down a long hallway in the Westin Charlotte hotel, stopping every few feet to take photos or record a promotional video.
The scene looked like something from a fashion runway, with photographers directing Cook and Walker to move with the music playing in the background, then to flex (and flex higher), point at the camera, turn around and show off the names on their jerseys.
Asked if he’d like to strike a Heisman pose, Cook, a record-setting running back on the short list of preseason contenders for college football’s top individual honor, just shook his head and said, “Not yet.”
Other stops included question and answer sessions with ESPN, Raycom Sports and the ACC Digital Network.
WATCH: Dalvin Cook at ACC Kickoff
On two separate occasions, Cook was asked to recall his favorite Halloween costume. Although he couldn’t recall one that stood out, he did allow that he might like to dress up as Scooby Doo this year.
Other quirky questions for Cook – along with his deadpan answers – included:
If you were running for President, what would your campaign slogan be?
“Vote for Dalvin.”
If you could create an emoji, what would it be?
Who do people say you most look like?
Between TV interviews and a trip to radio row, the FSU contingent took a break to try out the ACC Digital Network’s virtual reality exhibit.
Cook, Walker and even Fisher took turns donning the VR headset, in which they explored a haunted house, swam with sharks and, finally, sliced up fruit with a ninja sword.
The main event
A little after noon, the players paused for lunch and then headed into a ballroom for the centerpiece of ACC Kickoff, interviews with print and TV media.
Fisher joined Cook and Walker on stage for a question and answer session, then the trio split into individual tables to meet with smaller groups of reporters.
Cook, of course, was a big draw, and he fielded questions for more than 45 minutes.
The star running back touched on how he plans to stay healthy this fall (“Work on the little muscles”), his chase for Warrick Dunn’s career rushing record (“It would be an honor”) and his next step as a player.
“Leading these guys the right way – that’s what I’ve got to work on,” Cook said.
Walker, meanwhile, reflected on his decision to return for his senior season (“I want to finish how I started”) and entertained his media gathering with tales of yoga classes.
“It was great for my flexibility,” Walker said. “My freshman and sophomore years, I was stiff. … Now I can reach down to the bottom of my palms, straight-legged.”
That’s not to say it was all gain and no pain.
“Oh yeah, that downward(-facing) dog position? I hate that,” Walker said with a laugh.
Finally, Fisher’s session hit a wide spectrum as he provided some team news and updated the Seminoles’ quarterback race.
As expected, defensive end Lorenzo Featherston and offensive lineman Chad Mavety won’t play this fall due to medical issues. Defensive end Chris Casher is also no longer with the team, although Fisher did not offer a reason for Casher’s departure.
When it comes to quarterbacks, Fisher said that fifth-year senior Sean Maguire is fully recovered from the ankle injury he suffered at the end of last season, and although he spoke mostly of Maguire and redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, he didn’t rule out J.J. Cosentino or Malik Henry, either.
“We’re in great shape,” Fisher said. “The future looks really good. Anxious to see how these first guys battle in fall camp, see where we’re at.”
There and back again
Their media obligations fulfilled, Fisher, Cook and Walker left Charlotte almost as quickly as they arrived.
Cook and Walker recorded one last message, directed at Florida State fans, and then headed for the airport.
“We had a successful day, represented everybody well,” Cook said.
“Represented that garnet and gold,” Walker then added.
Up before dawn, a full day in Charlotte and then home before dinner.
Walker may not be a morning person, but he should at least get a good night’s sleep.