August 24, 1999 - by
Sprague Gives Blue Chippers the Spotlight

Aug. 24, 1999

Jay Miller


As the season approaches, it’s easy to appreciate that the Florida State Seminoles would be nowhere without Peter Warrick.

For that matter, FSU would be nowhere without Chris Weinke, Travis Minor, Mario Edwards or Corey Simon. They are the blue chips, the ESPN story-lines, the household names who have benefited, as much as improved upon, the legacy that is Florida State. And the football team would be nowhere without them.

Ryan Sprague looks
forward to his role
as starting tight
end for the
1999 Seminoles.

And yet, for every Warrick or Minor, there is always the kid who stands on the sideline with an irritatingly clean uniform, waiting. Just standing there. At FSU especially, talent has an incubation process.

The word “talent” is a buzzword around coaches and players and fans alike. It gets thrown around like practice footballs. It gets blessed and cursed, written about and read about, hoarded and wasted.

But sometimes, the coaching staff is genius and they don’t even know it. Sometimes the clumsy, kid from out-of-state who doesn’t matter to anyone but his mother and his landlord, makes something of a breakout. It’s not coached out, or willed out, or even pulled out. Sometimes it just rises out as naturally and as matter-of-factly as the sun rising above the horizon.

And sometimes it doesn’t even look like talent. Sometimes it looks like a 245 pound, freckled tight end from Georgia who was once a walk-on. Ryan Sprague had stood there on the sideline, mysteriously close to head coach Bobby Bowden. But not so mysterious when you consider that Bowden gets more airtime than some late-night info-mercials, and Sprague’s mom is recording the game.

Sprague has held the tackling dummies. He’s been Andre Wadsworth’s turnstile. He’s tried mightily to block the likes of Reinard Wilson and he’s failed. He’s had more numbers than last week’s Florida Lottery winner: No. 87, No. 82, No. 67, No. 65, No. 39 and (for) now No. 85. He’s filled in wherever necessary at center or fullback, and more importantly, whenever necessary. He, as an All-Central Savannah River Area Honorable Mention, has watched as All-State and All-America athletes have surrounded him on the sidelines, making it a little crowded in the picture behind Bowden.

But you know what? After three years, countless hours in the gym, countless hours in the film room, and one breakout offseason, he is waiting no longer. Now he’s the starter.

He is the one who will line up next to Warrick with some of the softest hand on the team. He’s the one who will help block for Weinke and Minor with a slimmer and stronger physique. Now each time he runs onto the field and gathers himself in the huddle, he will be staring the Florida State legacy right in the eye.

College Football is about winning national championships as much as it is about this. Taking notice of one so unnoticeable and yet so hard working, that instead of falling into a spot in the Great Book of Seminoles, he went out and earned it. Yes the Seminoles would be nowhere without the likes of Peter Warrick, but they wouldn’t be as easy to root for without players like Ryan Sprague.

Now all this tight end from Augusta, GA. needs is a touchdown catch, one that would be the first of the year, the first of in his Florida State career, and yes, the first of his life.

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