Sept. 10, 2003
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Looking to stay undefeated in 2003 and atop the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Florida State University football team practiced for 20 periods on Wednesday (September 10). The Seminoles (2-0 overall, 2-0 ACC) play their third conference game in a row on Saturday when they take on Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (1-1 overall) are coming off a 17-3 victory over previous #17 Auburn, who some picked to win the national championships.
Practicing in shells (helmets, shoulders pads and shorts), the Seminoles started the afternoon with individual skills before working on the Georgia Tech offense and defense against scout teams. Next the offensive passing attack went up against the secondary in 5-on-5 drills, while the lineman focused on both ends of pass rushing. The day concluded with an 11-on-11 scrimmage.
The final portion of the scrimmage was a one-minute drill with the goal of setting up a game-winning field goal. Going up against the second-team defense, the number one offense failed to get the field goal team onto the gridiron. The number two offense faired better, moving the ball to the 35-yard line versus the first-team defense and setting up a 52-yard field goal by Xavier Beitia (Tampa, Fla. / Jesuit) which he hammered down the middle to end the day.
During the number two offense’s march down the field, as well as the drive by the first-team squad, freshman running back Marlon Napier (Tallahassee, Fla. / Rickards) was heavily involved. Facing the second-team defense, he posted a 20-yard run, while catching a 15-yard screen pass from Fabian Walker to set up the field goal.
Even though it’s just practice, the big plays mean a lot to Napier who is seeing more playing time in practice these days with injuries to Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. What brings even more attention to his situation is that he is a walk-on for the Seminoles this year and is not receiving a scholarship to play football. He’s out on the field everyday in the 90-degree heat for the love of the game.
“My motivation is that I’m playing for the best team in the nation,” Napier said. “We have history, tradition, character and a legendary coach. A lot of guys can’t say that they are playing for a legendary coach and that keeps me going. I have two younger brothers and my mother and it motivates me to work harder so I can get out there and she can have a chance to see me play.”
As one of the top players in the area, Napier had plenty of opportunities to play football after high school. But a severe turf toe injury kept him out of most of his senior year and the offers went away. A good student with solid test scores, Napier planned on going away for college. An engineering major, he actually had his sights set on this week’s opponent Georgia Tech and it’s renowned program. But as luck would have it, Napier was able to stay in his hometown.
“I was planning on going out of state and really liked Georgia Tech, but then I learned how good the program is here,” Napier added. “Things started opened up and Florida State accepted me and I got some partial scholarships for academics and it was better for my family so I decided to come out here. Coach (Billy) Sexton remembered me from playing against son at Leon and he told me to come out they would give me shot.
“Being a walk-on has made me work a lot harder. It lets myself know that I can do this and lets everybody know that, despite my size, I can play at this level. I’m flip-flopping back and fourth between the top two teams and the scout team because just one of those guys that stays fired up. At running back you never know when it’s going to be your time so it’s better to be ready than not be ready at all.”
While the Yellow Jackets have no idea what they might have gained in the form of Napier, if he continues his hard work this week he might have a chance to don the garnet and gold on Saturday. Even if he doesn’t make the dress for Georgia Tech, or for any of the games this season, Napier will make himself and Florida State better.