TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Peter Warrick figured he was in Tallahassee to meet Florida State’s new coaching staff and tour his old stomping grounds.
Odell Haggins figured it was a typical Friday during spring camp, a two-and-a-half-hour session in shells before the team’s first scrimmage the next day.
But after the Seminoles sped through 25 periods in the Albert J. Dunlap Practice Facility on a rainy morning, Warrick and Haggins, two of FSU’s all-time greats at their respective positions, were each honored and surprised with moments they’ll never forget.
It started when Rob Wilson, FSU’s associate athletics director for communications and longtime media relations director for Bobby Bowden in the 1990s, introduced Warrick to the current team in the post-practice huddle.
After Wilson reeled off Warrick’s laundry list of accomplishments – being a two-time consensus All-American, FSU’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns, a 1999 national champion and 2000 first-round draft pick among them – he revealed to Warrick the real reason he was standing in front of the team:
Warrick’s No. 9 jersey will be retired this fall.
Congrats to @Pdub80! 👏
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) March 30, 2018
“This is like the best news ever,” Warrick said with a wide grin. “I honestly didn’t have a clue. … It was a shock, but it’s a blessing. I’m overwhelmed. They almost made me shed a tear.”
Moments later, Doug Mannheimer, chairman of the FSU Hall of Fame and Recognition Committee, stepped in front of the team to deliver one more honor, this one to someone with whom the current Seminoles are a little more familiar.
Haggins, the former Seminole defensive lineman now approaching 25 years as an assistant, and who steadied the program as interim head coach last December, will be inducted into the FSU Athletics Hall of Fame later this year.
A heartfelt speech from @odellhaggins.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) March 30, 2018
“I’m lost for words, but it means a lot,” Haggins said. “I was given this opportunity by Bobby Bowden to be here as a player. And it made me a better man, in my life, the way he treated me. … This place has done a lot for me, and I thank Florida State and the people at Florida State University for giving me this opportunity back in 1985. It means the world. … I just want to thank God for that.”
Warrick is joining company both exclusive and elite. He’s the 11th FSU football player to have his jersey retired, and first since linebacker Marvin Jones (55) in 2015. The others include Deion Sanders (2), Derrick Brooks (10), Chris Weinke (16), Charlie Ward (17), Fred Biletnikoff (25), Terrell Buckley (27), Warrick Dunn (28), Ron Sellers (34) and Ron Simmons (50).
Haggins, meanwhile, will be the 99th FSU football player to join the Hall of Fame. Per committee policy, current university employees are not eligible to be inducted. But given both the length and significance of Haggins’ contributions to Florida State, the committee made an exception.
“It couldn’t go to two better guys than Odell and Peter Warrick,” coach Willie Taggart said. “Both guys love this place, both guys take care of their business and both those guys help make us proud.”
One of Taggart’s priorities over the last few weeks has been to get more former players involved with the program and, in turn, to have his players learn as much as they can from their predecessors.
Warrick certainly seemed up for it. After practice, he spoke to a huddled group of receivers for several minutes, then stuck around to toss passes, pose for pictures and exchange phone numbers.
— 🖤 (@dat_dj) March 30, 2018
“I’m always talking about, ‘Do Something,’ and Peter did something,” said Taggart, who grew up near Warrick in Palmetto, Fla., and competed against him in both youth and high-school football.
“That just goes to show how much everyone appreciates what he did here. He’s always been that way. It was expected. Peter has always been the man. He’s been a ‘dude’ his entire life.”
And Haggins, of course, has been investing in future Seminole generations ever since joining Bowden’s staff in 1994.
As far as Taggart is concerned, there is no better bridge between the players of yesterday and today.
“Odell doesn’t just talk about it. He is about it,” Taggart said. “He lives the Florida State way. You can tell that that garnet and gold is in his DNA, and the guys appreciate that.”
Here are other highlights from Friday’s practice.
Terry, Gavin embrace expanded roles: While the Seminoles might not have the deepest numbers on their receiver depth chart, they more than make up for it in apparent big-play ability. Although much of the focus this spring has been on sophomore D.J. Matthews and the injured Nyqwan Murray, both redshirt freshman Tamorrion Terry and junior Keith Gavin have spent the last week providing FSU’s quarterbacks with big-bodied targets on the outside.
The two are working almost exclusively with the first-team offense, they have made at least one big play in seemingly every practice, and, most importantly to James Blackman, Bailey Hockman and Deondre Francois, they are both able to get up high and make plays on the ball.
Terry stands at 6-foot-4, 197 pounds, while Gavin isn’t far behind at 6-3, 217.
“(Lining up outside) was new to me,” Gavin said. “I like it a lot, though. I still have 1-on-1 (matchups) with most DBs and I have a lot of room to work.”
Gavin is looking to take a step forward from last year, in which he appeared in 10 games and finished with 27 catches for 278 yards.
And Terry is in line to make his first impact at the college level after redshirting a year ago.
“Those guys are strong, they’re physical,” Taggart said. “Whenever you’ve got strong, physical receivers that can catch the ball, they can do a lot of damage for you.”
Situational scrimmage up next: Taggart will cross off another checkpoint on Saturday morning when he holds his first team scrimmage as Florida State’s head coach. Rather than have a true game simulation, Taggart intends to work offense versus defense in a number of in-game scenarios – think red-zone, short-yardage, two-minute drill and the like.
A full scrimmage will follow at the end of next week’s practices, and, of course, the Garnet & Gold Game will be held on April 14.
“So often, you just put them out there, 11-on-11, and tell them to play football. And they’re running plays but they’re not understanding the situation,” Taggart said. “We’re just trying to teach our guys the game. We’re going to put our guys in a lot of game situations and make sure they’re locked in and understanding where they’re at and not just running lines in a playbook.”
Specialists pushing themselves: For the first time in their careers, specialists Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler have a dedicated position coach in Alonzo Hampton. And they’re also among the only Seminoles without any competition for their starting jobs. At least not in the most obvious sense.
But while the two veterans will likely reprise their roles as FSU’s kicker and punter this fall, that doesn’t mean Taggart has them resting on their laurels this spring.
Tyler has looked solid throughout the spring, booming a number of kicks to a waiting group of returners that includes Levonta Taylor, Khalan Laborn, D.J. Matthews, Gavin and Zaquandre White.
And Taggart has kept Aguayo engaged by implementing the kicking version of a pop quiz – surprise field-goal drills during practice in which Aguayo must step up and attempt without any advanced notice. If Aguayo makes it, the team might be in for a lighter day of post-practice conditioning. If he misses, well … let’s just say it makes for about as much pressure as there can be in mid-March.
“There will be times in practice where we’ll just call a field goal,” Taggart said. “And you’ve got to be ready. You don’t know when that time’s going to be … You’ve just got to be ready to come win the ballgame for us.”
Atkins brothers visit: It’s getting a little tricky to keep up with all the former players visiting, but, in addition to Warrick, former FSU lineman Dumaka Atkins and his brother, former Miami standout Baraka Atkins, were in attendance.
The two competed against each other during the mid-2000s.
Extra highlights: Bailey Hockman had an impressive sequence in which he evaded a heavy pass rush, rolled to his left and floated a pass over a defender and into the arms of Deonte Sheffield, who took care of the rest for a long touchdown. … Sheffield later a caught another TD on a smooth crossing route across the back of the end zone during 7 on 7 drills. … White broke free for a 45-yard touchdown run up the middle. … Levonta Taylor showed off his instincts and athleticism by sitting on a short out route, jumping in front of the pass and taking off for what would have been an easy pick-six during short-yardage drills. (Incidentally, the quarterback who threw the pass then took off for a lap around the practice field, another new Taggart tradition.)