Seven years into what has already become a legendary head coaching career, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher has established the Seminoles as one of the nation’s premier college football programs and himself as one of the elite coaches of the current era.
Heading into his eighth season, Fisher has won five bowl games, including the 2013 National Championship and two Orange Bowl titles. He has the highest winning percentage in ACC history (.821) and his 78 total wins are the most by a Power Five coach through their first seven seasons in modern history. Fisher leads all active coaches in wins per season (11.1) and guided the Seminoles to three consecutive ACC Championships from 2012-2014, winning a school- and ACC-record 29 straight games in the process.
Fisher continues to develop NFL players at a higher rate than any head coach in the country. Since taking over in 2010, 38 of Fisher’s protégés have been selected by NFL teams and 44 FSU players were on NFL rosters in 2016, giving Florida State the most alumni in the league.
Fisher’s goal when he succeeded iconic head coach Bobby Bowden was to foster a program that sustained success by graduating student-athletes, turning out elite players and winning consistently. The Clarksburg, West Virginia, native has done just that while developing a family atmosphere. Fisher treats his players like his own sons, challenging and praising when necessary to develop relentless competitors who thrive under adversity and have all the tools to become responsible young adults.
The results speak for themselves.
In his fourth year as head coach in 2013, Fisher planted the Seminoles back at the top of the college football world, leading Florida State to a 14-0 record en route to the final national championship of the BCS era. FSU has built on that success in the three seasons since. Fisher followed up the historic campaign — which included an NCAA record 723 points and the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense (12.1) — by leading Florida State to the first-ever College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Rose Bowl and capturing the Noles’ third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in 2014.
Despite losing 11 draft picks to the NFL the following year, Fisher led the Seminoles to a 10-3 mark and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl behind running back Dalvin Cook and All-Americans Jalen Ramsey and Roberto Aguayo.
The Seminoles returned to the Orange Bowl in 2016, joining Alabama as the nation’s only programs to appear in five consecutive BCS/New Year’s Six Bowls. Fisher’s Noles rebounded from a 3-2 start in 2016 to go 7-1 down the stretch and finish with 10 wins for the sixth time in seven seasons. Led by ACC Rookie of the Year quarterback Deondre Francois and consensus All-Americans Cook and DeMarcus Walker, the Noles capped the season with a thrilling 33-32 victory over No. 6 Michigan in Miami.
Fisher enters his seventh season with a 78-17 record, including five bowl wins and three ACC Championships. His winning percentage is the highest in ACC history, while FSU’s 78 victories since 2010 are the second-most in the nation during that span.
Fisher and the Seminoles show no signs of slowing down, either. FSU returns 17 starters in 2017, and signed another top five recruiting class in February.
After 22 seasons as a college assistant, including three as FSU’s offensive coordinator, Fisher in 2010 took over for Bowden – the second-winningest coach in major college football. The Seminoles’ first new coach in 35 years, and just the ninth in program history, Fisher hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back. He led the Noles to a 10-4 mark in 2010 – the most wins by a first-year coach in FSU history – and the first of four ACC Atlantic Division titles. He followed with a 9-4 season in 2011 and improved to 12-2 in year three before the perfect 14-0 2013 campaign. The Seminoles finished 13-1 in 2014 before back-to-back 10-3 campaigns in 2015 and 2016.
Known for his success in developing quarterbacks, Fisher has tutored three first-round NFL draft picks at the position while at FSU. That includes Jameis Winston, who became the first Seminole selected first overall in the NFL Draft, going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015. Christian Ponder (12th overall pick, 2011) and current Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (16th overall, 2013) also developed under Fisher. Fisher guided Winston to one of the greatest seasons ever by a collegiate quarterback in 2013. Winston became the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, while collecting several other awards in addition to consensus All-America honors.
Overall, Fisher has seen 38 Seminoles drafted into the NFL, including 17 first- or second-rounders. In 2016, Ramsey was selected with the No. 5 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Aguayo was picked in the second round (59th overall) to become the highest drafted kicker in over a decade.
Florida State has been just as dominant on the recruiting trail under Fisher, putting together six top-five classes in the last seven years. In addition to the No. 1-ranked 2016 class Fisher’s 2011 class was ranked No. 1 or 2 by every major recruiting service. In 2017, the Seminoles’ class was ranked in the top five as FSU became the first program in history to sign three of Rivals’ top five overall prospects.
Off the field, Fisher has been arguably even more impressive. Since becoming head coach in 2010, Fisher has been very active in several efforts to raise funds and awareness for children with diseases, including his foundation, Kidz1stFund.
Kidz1stFund was founded in 2011 and is a national fund to raise awareness and research funds to find a cure for Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disease that affects many, including Fisher’s youngest son Ethan. Kidz1stFund has already donated more than $4.5 million to FA research at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, the largest FA treatment center in the country.
In May 2015, Fisher helped Dick Vitale and the V Foundation raise $2.38 million in one night for pediatric cancer research at the longtime ESPN basketball analyst’s 10th annual gala event. Fisher was honored at the event for his philanthropic efforts.
YOUNG NOLES CONTINUE SUCCESS
The 2015 season saw Fisher guide the Seminoles into the nation’s Top 10 for the majority of the season despite returning only eight full-time starters and having no four-year seniors. Behind Cook, who set school records with 1,691 rushing yards and 1,935 yards of total offense, Florida State won its first six games and was able to extend the nation’s longest-active home winning streak to 21 games. Cook rushed for 266 yards and three TDs against USF and finished with 269 all-purpose yards against Miami. The Noles defeated the Hurricanes and their other in-state rival, Florida, for the third straight season to secure the “State Championship.” The performance against the Gators in “The Swamp” was particularly impressive as Fisher’s Noles dominated the ninth-ranked Florida team to the tune of 27-2 and earned FSU’s first-ever three-game winning streak in Gainesville.
The season culminated with a fourth consecutive BCS or “New Years Six” Bowl appearance for the Seminoles at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – an unprecedented feat matched only by Alabama. It continued the nation’s longest active bowl streak to 34. The ACC honored 17 Noles for the third straight season with all-conference selections following the regular season led by Cook, Ramsey, Aguayo and left tackle Roderick Johnson, who all garnered first team accolades. Johnson also received the Jacobs Blocky Trophy, which is presented annually to the ACC’s top offensive lineman. Cook was tabbed the winner of the Jim Brown Award given by the Touchdown Club of Columbus to the nation’s top running back. FSU finished the season at No. 9 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and No. 14 in both the AP and Coaches polls.
TWENTY-NINE IN A ROW & FIRST-EVER COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF
Florida State continued its historic run under Fisher in 2014, winning its first 13 games before falling to Oregon in the first-ever College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl.
The Seminoles capped a 29-game win streak by winning their third consecutive ACC Championship, defeating Georgia Tech, 37-35, on Dec. 6, 2014. The 29-game win streak shattered both the ACC and FSU records and was the nation’s second-longest streak over the last 20 years. FSU became just the 14th team in college football history to win 29 straight games.
While the 2013 FSU team was historically dominant, the 2014 Seminoles showed the most resilience of arguably any team in the country. As the defending national champion, FSU had a significant bulls-eye on its back and received every team’s best shot. And yet for 13 straight weeks, FSU refused to be knocked out. The Noles led the nation with five come-from-behind victories, including a school-record 21-point, come-from-behind win at Louisville and a 16-point rally at Miami.
A host of Seminoles collected awards at the end of the season. Nick O’Leary won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s best tight end. O’Leary joined senior right guard Tre’ Jackson, redshirt sophomore kicker Roberto Aguayo, redshirt senior offensive lineman Cameron Erving and sophomore safety Jalen Ramsey as First Team All-Americans. Senior receiver Rashad Greene wrapped up his career by setting the FSU record for career receptions and the FSU and ACC record for career receiving yardage. Fisher was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson and Paul Bear Bryant Coach of the Year awards for the second year in a row.
THE NATIONAL CHAMPION
Considered to have one of the best offensive minds in the college ranks, Fisher’s early success has come in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams.
The 2013 season personified that balance with one of the all-around most prolific years in college football history.
The Seminoles set the national record for points in a season (723), while leading the nation in scoring defense (12.1). Aguayo, then a redshirt freshman, set the national record for points by a kicker (157) and won the Lou Groza Award.
The Seminoles captured their third national championship in school history in the final Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game, completing the largest comeback (18 points) in the game’s 16-year history to defeat Auburn 34-31. Winston engineered an 80-yard, game-winning drive and threw the winning two-yard score to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left.
The 2013 season was truly historic for Fisher and the Seminoles. On offense, Florida State set FSU and ACC records for single-season total offense (7,267 yards), points per game (51.6) and yards per play (7.67). FSU led the nation with 94 touchdowns, which also was a school and ACC record. Florida State’s 42 passing TDs was a school and conference record, while its 42 rushing scores set a new FSU mark.
On defense, FSU led the nation in scoring defense (12.1), pass defense (156.6) and interceptions (26), while ranking third in total defense (281.4). The Seminoles also led the conference in pass defense efficiency (93.8) and ranked third in rushing yards allowed per game (124.8). Only two teams scored more than 17 points against the Seminoles in 2013.
Fisher was named the 2013 Rawlings National College Football Coach of the Year and the AFCA Regional Coach of the Year for Region 1, as the Seminoles became the sixth team ever to win 14 games and the first ACC team to accomplish the feat.
Winston became the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, while also nabbing the Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year honor and consensus All-America honors. He became the first freshman to win ACC Player of the Year honors and set the conference, FSU and national freshman record for single-season touchdown passes (40). Winston also broke the national freshman record for passing yards (4,057).
In addition to Winston’s numerous accolades, center Bryan Stork won the Rimington Trophy awarded to the nation’s top center, while Aguayo nabbed the Lou Groza Award and All-America honors. Joyner collected unanimous All-America honors and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski awards.
The unprecedented success of the 2013 season came on the heels of FSU having an ACC-record 11 players selected in the NFL Draft and losing several key assistant coaches after the 2012 season. Those coaches became hot commodities themselves after FSU’s success in Fisher’s first three seasons and received coaching promotions.
EARLY SUCCESS AT THE HELM
In 2012, Florida State’s defense led the nation in yards allowed per play (3.86) and ranked second nationally in total defense (254.14 ypg), while the offense churned out a then-school record of 6,591 total yards and 40 rushing touchdowns.
The 2012 team, Fisher’s third as FSU’s head coach, had a league-leading 12 Seminoles split between All-ACC First and Second Teams, while another four ‘Noles garnered honorable mention honors. With a win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game and a win over Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl, FSU closed the year ranked No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches poll and No. 10 in the Associated Press poll.
Quarterback EJ Manuel capped off his senior year with one of the most memorable seasons in FSU history, not only finishing as the school’s most accurate passer in FSU history, but ranking among the top five Seminole quarterbacks all-time for passing yards, total offense, completions and attempts, despite only two seasons as a full-time starter.
Two-time Lou Groza Award finalist Dustin Hopkins became the ACC and FSU all-time leading scorer in 2012, and also set a new NCAA FBS record for scoring by a kicker, finishing his career with 466 points. That came one year after Shawn Powell’s departure as a consensus All-America punter.
Fisher wrapped up his second season at the helm of the FSU program in 2011 by guiding the Seminoles to a 9-4 record, capped by their 18-14 victory over Notre Dame in front of a Champs Sports Bowl record crowd. Florida State ranked No. 23 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls after rallying in its 30th consecutive bowl appearance. It was a fitting finish to a season that saw the Seminoles successfully defend their state title, sweeping both Miami and Florida for a second consecutive season – something that had not been done since the 1998 and 1999 seasons.
Florida State’s success under Fisher has not been unexpected. Fisher set the standard for expectations in his first season, delivering the Seminoles back to a place of national prominence with a 10-4 record in 2010. FSU capped the season with a 26-17 win over No. 19 South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and finished at No. 16 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. In addition to their season sweep of in-state rivals Miami and Florida, the Seminoles won the ACC Atlantic Division title en route to their first 10-win season since 2003.
Three of his players in 2010 earned All-America honors: offensive guard Rodney Hudson (consensus All-America selection), Brandon Jenkins and Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes was named the ACC Rookie of the Year and National Defensive Freshman of the Year. Fisher capped off the 2010 season with three seniors selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, led by Ponder – the No. 12 overall pick in the draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS FORGED
While maintaining the core values that legendary coach Bobby Bowden instilled over the course of his 34 seasons in Tallahassee, Fisher has a simple explanation for the sweeping changes he has brought to the program: You don’t run a business the same way today as you did 10 years ago.
Fisher has carefully crafted his vision by borrowing from two major influences – Bowden and Nick Saban – both of who Fisher served under as an assistant. Their influence, though very different, can be seen sprinkled throughout Fisher’s own blueprint for success. Fisher wasted no time putting his stamp on the Seminoles. From assembling a staff of seasoned, ambitious assistants, to dramatically overhauling the program’s infrastructure, he has left no stone unturned. His attention to every aspect of the program – from strength & conditioning, GPS monitoring, nutrition, mental training, academic support, talent evaluation and recruiting, player development and peer mentoring among teammates – is centered on establishing an unshakeable foundation that emphasizes the whole development of each player, and it’s why Florida State was crowned national champions in just his fourth year.
Yet the greatest influences in Fisher’s life have been his parents, John James and Gloria Fisher. His late father, a coal miner and farmer who demanded accountability from sons Jimbo and Bryan, helped them understand the value of hard work from an early age. For Fisher, those lessons extended beyond the family farm and home and onto the fields and courts as a promising young football, basketball and baseball player.
By the time Fisher reached junior high school and became his team’s starting quarterback, he was calling plays in the huddle. Win or lose, the car rides home with his father always included a critique of what transpired on the field.
Fisher learned about tough love from his father, but his future was also shaped by his mother, who retired in 2011 from the West Virginia public schools system after teaching high school chemistry for 51 years. It was Gloria who made sure that her son escaped a life in the coal mines and followed his dream after an all-state career at Liberty High School.
He has done both and with a high degree of success. After a one-semester stop at Clemson, where he was going to play baseball, Fisher returned home to Salem College in West Virginia. He starred for three seasons at quarterback, establishing a school and conference record for career passing yardage. A two-time conference player of the year and an All-American in his final season at Salem, Fisher transferred to Samford College in Birmingham, Alabama, for his final season of eligibility. He enjoyed a record-setting season in 1987 with the Bulldogs, earning NCAA Division III National Player of the Year honors, which he parlayed into a season with the Chicago Bruisers of the Arena Football League.
RISING THROUGH THE COACHING RANKS
In 1993, Fisher joined the staff at Auburn and over the next 14 seasons, including stops at Cincinnati and LSU, he built a reputation as a keen play-caller whose development of quarterbacks was second to none in major college football. His list of standout pupils included record-setters Stan White, Patrick Nix and Dameyune Craig, who is the lone 3,000-yard passer in Auburn history. After guiding Cincinnati to one of its most prolific seasons in a one-year stint, Fisher joined Saban’s staff at LSU. Over the course of a seven-year run with the Tigers, quarterbacks Josh Booty, Rohan Davey, Craig Nall, Matt Mauck, JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn were selected in the NFL Draft. Russell, who was the first player selected in the 2007 NFL Draft, and Davey were the first two 3,000-yard passers in LSU history.
LSU made seven consecutive bowl appearances, won two SEC titles, posted a 70-20 record and won the 2003 BCS National Championship with Fisher as its offensive coordinator. He was a finalist for the 2001 Frank Broyles Award, presented to the nation’s top assistant coach.
Fisher accepted Bowden’s invitation to join the Florida State staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in January 2007 and by the end of his first year was tabbed as Bowden’s successor upon retirement. The quick ascent followed a similar arc to the Seminoles’ offense, which improved statistically in each of his first four seasons.
Along the way he has significantly impacted FSU’s recruiting, been instrumental in the development of quarterbacks and set the table for the inevitable transition to the seat occupied by Bowden since 1976. The time as a coach-in-waiting allowed Fisher the opportunity to closely evaluate the players and program as a whole; what changes needed to be made and how to work the proper channels to get that accomplished.
Fisher’s sons, Trey and Ethan, are regular visitors in the football office. Trey follows his dad’s same game day routine which is highlighted by running out of the tunnel on Saturdays. He and Ethan are heavily involved in community sports. Trey is a quarterback like his father and Ethan excels on the baseball diamond.
As a hands-on head coach who will continue to work with the quarterbacks and call plays, Fisher remains a vocal presence on the field, while balancing a myriad of off-the-field responsibilities, including raising funds and awareness for his foundation, Kidz1stFund.
Fisher does it all with a sense of responsibility and appreciation for Florida State’s rich past and the men – Bowden and the players who have come before those he coaches today – who have built the program. Not surprisingly, he has welcomed those players back with open arms in an effort to bridge the past with the present and future.
It’s that rich tradition that drew Fisher to Florida State and his time under Bowden. He’s built on it thus far, and delivered the program’s third national championship. The challenge now is to stay at the top of the mountain. It’s a challenge Fisher is equipped for and wholeheartedly accepts.