TAMPA – As an afternoon thunderstorm pounded the Old Memorial Golf Course in Northwest Tampa, Willie Taggart stood under an oversized tent and delivered a message to more than 100 golfers participating in the Seminole Boosters’ annual Quarterback Classic, many of them former Florida State football players.
Taggart relayed the story of how he connected with legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden this spring, how he reveres Florida State’s football legacy and how he wants every former Seminole – the ones crowded inside the tent and beyond – to feel like Taggart’s program is their program, too.
It was then that Eric Hayes (1985-89), a Tampa native and two-time All-America defensive tackle at FSU in the late 1980s, just had to speak up.
“Coach,” Hayes interjected, “That’s why we have respect for you. You understand where it came from.”
That much has never been in doubt since Taggart took over in December, but, just in case, his day at Old Memorial served as a healthy reminder.
Surrounded by nearly two dozen former players – dubbed “Seminole Legends” for the event – spanning six generations of FSU football, as well as several boosters, fans and supporters, Taggart made a triumphant return trip to the Tampa Bay area and spent much of the day sharing stories, connecting with football alums and taking pictures.
He played a little golf, too.
A golf enthusiast who visited Augusta National for the Masters last month, Taggart played in a foursome that included former FSU cornerback Tony Carter (2005-08), and the two had plenty of time to get to know each other as they navigated the 7,389-yard course.
“We talked a little golf, talked a little more about football,” Taggart said of his time with Carter.
“It was fun, man,” Carter said. “He’s a great guy. A lot of sense of humor. We had fun out there today … a little frustrated about how the balls went.”
Indeed, when asked how they shot on Old Memorial, Taggart and Carter separately offered the same answer:
Kenny Shaw (2010-13), however, had a bit more to say about his round.
Shaw, the All-ACC receiver who was a key member of FSU’s 2013 national title team, made his third consecutive appearance at the Quarterback Classic, and said he believes he gets better with each year.
A look at his scorecard suggests he’s right. Shaw went birdie, birdie, eagle on holes 16, 17 and 18 to win the Seminole Legends challenge – a three-hole derby open only to former players, coaches, play-by-play man Gene Deckerhoff and Seminole Boosters president Andy Miller – and he was part of a foursome that shot a third-place 105.
“It’s always good to come back and show support to your alums,” Shaw said. “You don’t want to just be an athlete or football player and stick to the past. You want to get out here and mingle and show people that you really care about their support.”
For the record, the foursome led by former FSU quarterback Marcus Outzen (1996-2000) took home the tournament title with a collective 101.
And just a few moments after they finished their round, the rain that had been threatening for much of the day finally let loose as the golfers rushed under the tent for a barbecue lunch and a program featuring Taggart and Deckerhoff
After delivering his remarks, Taggart then offered Bob Basham, the club’s founder and tournament host, an honorary captaincy for Florida State’s home game against North Illinois on Sept. 22.
The game ought to hold extra significance for Basham: It’s set to be held on Parents’ Weekend and Basham’s son, Andrew Basham, is a walk-on lineman at Florida State.
“It means a lot,” Taggart said of the tournament and its supporters. “It tells me how much passion everyone has for Florida State and how much they believe in our program and believe in what we’re doing. It just shows you that everyone is behind you.
“It makes you want to do everything you can to go out and make everyone proud.”
— Tim Linafelt / FSU (@Tim_Linafelt) May 21, 2018
The day concluded with a question-and-answer session during which Taggart fielded queries about blocking schemes, quarterbacks and freshmen receivers.
(He expects to see plenty of freshmen contributing this fall, by the way. Yes, even the receivers.)
More than the football chat, though, players from seemingly every era said that they appreciated Taggart’s honest, genuine personality as he sought to rebuild their relationships with their alma mater.
That held particularly true for Walter Carter (1976-79), a defensive lineman who was a part of Bowden’s first signing class at FSU.
“It was absolutely incredible,” said Carter, who also joined the more than 300 former players that attended the Garnet and Gold Game in April. “To be honest with you, I haven’t felt this way or seen this type of commitment since (Bowden’s) last game in the Gator Bowl.
“I’m not saying that they didn’t appreciate the older guys (before) or that (Jimbo) Fisher didn’t invite us in. But you haven’t seen that type of camaraderie. You haven’t seen the 300-plus players. You haven’t felt that way. It took me back to the Gator Bowl.”
Speaking of Bowden, several players have drawn similarities between Florida State’s newest coach and its most famous.
They both have a way of making people feel at ease, they both have innovated on the offensive side of the ball, and they both are among the best at closing the deal on the recruiting trail.
“I think he’s a lot like Coach Bowden,” said Thad Busby (1993-97), FSU’s starting quarterback in 1996 and 97. “What he’s done at the spring game, bringing everybody back … it’s something that should’ve been done a long time ago. I saw guys I hadn’t seen in 20 years. And for him to want to do that, that’s pretty special.”
For more recent players, like defensive end Everette Brown (2006-08), the event also provided an opportunity to connect and learn from previous generations as they transition to life after football.
Brown, who along with his wife, Tenisha, is a partner in the Definitive Sports Group in Charlotte, N.C., spent time with fullback William Floyd (1990-93) and defensive lineman Kamerion Wimbley (2002-05), who each have enjoyed successful ventures away from the field.
“We all had a part in building the program,” Brown said. “So, to be able to have access to those guys, (like) Derrick Brooks, guys that Coach Bowden talked about when I was here, it’s priceless.
“We just had a really good time today, golfing and being around family. Because FSU is family.”
Seminole Boosters Quarterback Classic Participants
LB Derrick Brooks (1991-94)
DE Everette Brown (2005-08)
QB Thad Busby (1993-97)
CB Tony Carter (2004-08)
DL Walter Carter (1976-79)
LS Phil Doumar (2009-13)
QB Chip Ferguson (1985-88)
FB William Floyd (1990-93)
WR Robert Hallback (2003-06)
DL Eric Hayes (1985-89)
TE Reggie Johnson (1986-90)
QB Jimmy Jordan (1976-79)
WR Kevin Knox (1989-93)
QB Adrian McPherson (2001-02)
QB Marcus Outzen (1996-2000)
LB Paul Piurowski (1977-80)
WR Kenny Shaw (2010-13)
WR Barry Smith (1970-72)
OL Robert Stevenson (1987-92)
QB Drew Weatherford (2004-08)
QB Peter Tom Willis (1985-89)