July 22, 2021 - by
ACC Kickoff Press Conference

Coach Mike Norvell

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We’ll introduce head coach Mike Norvell. We will have coach offer an opening statement.

MIKE NORVELL: Good morning, everyone. Just wanted to start off, our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Bowden, Miss Ann. The news came out yesterday about the condition with Coach Bowden. I just want to reference his words. As he’s at home, as he’s resting, he talked about being at peace. I think that even speaks to the legacy of who he is and what he’s all about. That’s what life is about. To be able to go through a journey, be in a challenging place, a challenging moment, be able to be at peace.

Because of the impact that he’s made, because of the man that he is, the coach that forever changed a university and a place, but just a tremendous example. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and the relationship I’ve had and have been able to form with Coach Bowden, just for who he is, the impact he’s made.

To Coach Bowden, we love you. We thank you. As he’s resting at home, just know we’re thinking about you, the impact you’ve made, that you continue to make by who you are. Wanted to open up with that from all of the Seminole family to Coach Bowden, Miss Ann and the entire family. We’re thinking about you and love you.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with questions.

  1. Your first year at Florida State, a pandemic year. What can you say about navigating through that first year and what you can take from it, at the same time trying to establish some culture there for yourself.

MIKE NORVELL: Absolutely. I think ‘unique’ is an understatement to the year we just experienced. I’m grateful for this year. People can easily point to the challenges of what we experienced and the things we had to go through.

I’m grateful to be able to have been a part of it with this team, with the guys I get to coach. As we come in, there’s been a lot of change at Florida State over the last few years. To be able to be with my players, with our coaches, it provided an opportunity through each challenge to be an example of how you respond.

That was something that we talked about throughout the course of this last year, something we still talk about today, is how you respond to all those situations. There are moments in this last year we saw great highs. We had a big win, a top five win. Then there were moments of great lows. There were things we had to adapt, adjust. We were able to do it together. I believe that really helped set the foundation and build the trust throughout our team of who we are, what we’re aspiring to do, where we’re aspiring to go.

I’m grateful for the challenges that we got to experience, and I’m grateful for the relations that have been built through those challenges and what that really sets up to do moving forward.

We’re extremely excited about the year that’s ahead, excited about the personnel we have, the guys we get to coach, the opportunity that’s in front of us to help get Florida State back to where it deserves to be.

  1. Talk about the two quarterbacks in Milton and Travis. What do they bring to the table for the offense?

MIKE NORVELL: Two incredible players, also incredible young men. Who they are on the field, I mean, they’re play-makers. I think you’ve seen that throughout the course of their careers. Jordan this past season did some remarkable things through some extreme challenges, dealing with injuries, missed time, continuing to grow and respond throughout that year.

With McKenzie and his story. Somebody that I have great familiarity with, having to compete against him, now getting a chance to coach him day in and day out.

They’re two young men that they bring it every day. The appreciation for the opportunity, the appreciation for what it takes in the process to grow and develop.

But then also an appreciation for who they get to do it with. There’s a lot of guys that go through college football with a sole focus on themselves. Those two young men, they care about who they get to be with and who they get to represent on their journey.

They’re a joy to coach every single day. To see them compete with each other, the quarterback position is unique, and those guys are both battling, bringing out the best of themselves and bringing out the best of each other in how they grow and how they develop and what they do on the field, off the field, in the weight room, on the practice field.

Tremendous leaders for our program.

  1. Florida State had barely one sack a game last year. Talk about the impact of Jermaine Johnson on your pass-rush, getting the heat on the quarterback?

MIKE NORVELL: That was something that was a big focus for our staff as we were going into this year. We know we need to have that impact there on our defensive front. Jermaine is a young man that has shown the ability to do that at a very high level during the course of his collegiate career. An opportunity to come to Florida State, be a guy that can truly help be the face of the defense.

The embrace that he’s had, much like we just talked about with the quarterbacks, it’s easy to point to the opportunity that he’s looking for, but a thing that’s been most impressive to me is from day one he’s poured into the guys on the defensive front, talking about the expectation, about the challenge, talking about the investment in being able to make an impact in everything they do from the practice field to the weight room.

That has to be a strength for us. When you look through the years of our program, the great history that we have, that has always been a staple. It needs to return to that. I think Jermaine is a guy, the sky’s the limit for what he can accomplish. People look through his career, there at his last institution, you saw the pass-rush ability, you saw the impact that he can make.

The thing I’ve been most pleased with is his commitment in the run game, how hard he’s practiced, the physicality he’s shown. He’s truly looking to be the complete player and helping bring guys around him that are going to help elevate that, like Keir Thomas, like Fabien Lovett, the guys on the defensive front that have great talent and have an opportunity to get us back to where we need to be.

  1. Going into your second year, how important is it to get full spring practice, summer camp, fall camp? How important is that for your team and yourself?

MIKE NORVELL: It’s been great to kind of get into that rhythm, the daily expectation of what’s to come. This summer was really just a joy to be a part of, to see our guys going through that eight-week program, getting that time with Coach Storms, our director of strength and conditioning.

The work they’re putting in together, it’s something that’s necessary because each of those experiences, the opportunity to invest the work, that’s how you build a continuity, how you build relationships.

We have a handful of transfers and freshmen that have come in and joined this program, they’re building their way, being able to invest and go through the challenges of the workouts, go through the spring practice, really put on display their identity and the impact they’re going to be able to make within our program.

I’m grateful for the spring and all that we were able to accomplish. Leading that into summer, really excited about fall camp that’s ahead.

  1. To go back to McKenzie, going up against him in the American, what can you say about what really fit in that conversation you had to bring him into Florida State, why it worked for you, why you feel like it’s going to work for him?

MIKE NORVELL: McKenzie is the ultimate competitor. We had some of the greatest games in college football history going against each other. Just seeing the way he would respond. Getting to see the impact he made, not only on the field with his physical ability, but also making guys around him better.

The person that he is is what truly makes him special, kind of how he helped change a culture there at a place, the success that followed that. When McKenzie and I got a chance to connect and talk about this opportunity, that’s what I promised him. I promised him an opportunity to come and compete. That’s what he was looking for, that’s what we were looking for, is somebody that could come in, the leadership that he provides, the way that he embraces that process. I think it makes everybody around him better.

Last year we were the youngest football team in all of college football. To be able to bring in guys like McKenzie, like Jermaine, that have come in and played a tremendous amount of football and have had that success, but also the way that they embrace the process of growth and preparation. I think it’s really provided a great example for our young guys and what they can expect, what they can do in that locker room when coaches aren’t around.

We’re all excited about that opportunity. I definitely believe McKenzie is going to make the most of it each and every day.

  1. Just want to get your thoughts on the opportunities via NIL and some of the things you’ve emphasized to the players, their approach to these opportunities.

MIKE NORVELL: I’m grateful these guys have an opportunity now to benefit off their name, image and likeness. We’ve tried to be very proactive at Florida State with our Apex program. We were on the forefront of that, pushing that program, helping provide the education for our student-athletes. I’m grateful for the state of Florida and the proactive approach that we’ve had as a state in being able to push this and really change the entire dynamic of college sports.

For these guys, they are now their own business. Building that brand, understanding what they want that to represent beyond just the collegiate opportunity that they have, being able to manage and make the decisions of where they want to invest that time, what they’re looking to do that might benefit in the short-term but also the things they’re still continuing to invest for what they want to do in the long-term as college football players, as student-athletes, as the men they’re growing and developing to be.

For us, it’s all about the educational aspect of it. I’m excited about the opportunities that have been provided for our guys, some of the things they’re already getting to benefit from here in a short period of time.

I think it’s exceptional for them, it’s exciting for what the future holds.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.

 

Jermaine Johnson

Press Conference

 

THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for Jermaine.

  1. You leave a program in Georgia that has a rich history of pass-rushers. You come to Florida State that has also a rich history of pass-rushers. What do you feel like as an edge rusher you bring to this defense?

JERMAINE JOHNSON: I feel with my experience, multiple levels, just my experience playing the game for this length of time, I feel like I just bring experience to the table.

Like Coach said, we have a lot of young guys, the youngest team last year, I feel like a lot of experience and also technique. I like to value myself as a technician because first thing I learned getting on this level is a lot of guys will match your skill set and your talent level. The thing that sets you apart is your technique, how serious you approach that can determine how far you go in the game.

I think I bring a technician aspect, experience aspect, just a leadership role overall.

  1. Coming from Georgia, why was Florida State the right fit for you? Why did this one make the most sense?

JERMAINE JOHNSON: That guy right there, Coach Norvell, he called me. Everything he said just made sense. He believed in who I was as a man. He believed in who I was as a player. He believed in who I could be. I feel like we share those values. I couldn’t wait to get here and give everything I had to him and this program.

Every day I wake up happy and I feel blessed that I’m able to give all I have to this program. It just feels like it’s right, feels like it was made for me. I’m just blessed to be in the position I am.

  1. You’ve had kind of a crazy, unique journey in college starting at Independence. Are you ready to be the guy on the Florida State defense after being a contributor?

JERMAINE JOHNSON: Of course. I mean, like I said, I’m just looking to give everything I can to this team, be available in any way I can, and whatever Coach or whatever my teammates ask of me, I just hope I can do and deliver for them.

  1. You have seen a great deal of change over your last three years. What is it about yourself that you have learned through all of this change?

JERMAINE JOHNSON: What you believe is what you believe. Your thoughts are very powerful. What you choose to think, that’s what will become a reality for you.

So just tuning out the outside noise, good or bad. Having a strong foundation and a sense of who you are as a person, and in my case as a man. I feel like that has carried me through all of my triumphs and everything else.

  1. How much have you enjoyed this opportunity to lead younger players? Probably a unique position for you to be one of the elder statesmen on the team.

JERMAINE JOHNSON: I love it. I love it. I wake up every day, like I said, I feel blessed. Coach Norvell told me what I was walking into in terms of a role that I had to step and be that guy and influence and lead other guys.

I don’t take that lightly. He’s trusting me with an incredible role. My teammates trust me with an incredible role every day.

I can’t have a bad day. I can’t come in and be flat. I have to come in, like I said, give my all to this team on and off the field. Tons of things nobody sees. Just have to do the right thing and push the right things forward for your team. So I’m just glad that I am in this position, and I’m blessed, truly blessed. That’s all I can say.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

McKenzie Milton

Press Conference

 

THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for McKenzie.

  1. I know you’ve talked about the road coming back. Can you share with us maybe some trials and some triumphs that you’ve had along the way in this journey leading you ultimately to Florida State.

MCKENZIE MILTON: Yeah, it’s been a long time since November 2018. Just a number of surgeries, infection in the leg, just a lot of ups and downs, a lot of ups and downs.

But I’m grateful that back at UCF I had a great medical staff. I feel like the biggest moment for me where I saw, like, light at the end of the tunnel was being able to go out there and practice again last year. That was probably the most fun I had in college football. Yeah, just getting back out there with the guys. Something I won’t take for granted again.

Just having this opportunity to come to Florida State, play for Coach Norvell, everything that he’s about, everything this program’s about. Man, it’s something you couldn’t write up. So I’m definitely grateful for this opportunity.

  1. Yesterday we had your business partner, D’Eriq King, up. You guys have been spearheading the Dreamfield corporation with the NIL. Can you talk about your impact, what you think on your side that you bring to that and the outreach to college athletes?

MCKENZIE MILTON: Yeah, D’Eriq and I, we’re older heads in this college football game. I think just being part of Dreamfield has just given us the opportunity to think about life after football and at the same time help educate these college athletes on filing taxes, setting their market rate for what they feel their value is, getting in contact with local businesses, whether it’s an autograph signing, to get connected to fans, get some free food, things like that.

Just little things that we weren’t able to capitalize off of before, just being able to see that has been pretty cool the past couple weeks.

I’m excited to see what these college athletes, what they run and do it, whether it’s making podcasts, YouTube podcasts, channels, whatever their own merchandise. It’s something that’s pretty cool.

Like Coach said, you’re becoming your own business and your own brand. That’s something to take into consideration when you’re 18 years old, now I’m 23, going to be 24 here in a few months. But, yeah, it’s an exciting time in college football, for sure.

  1. For you, everything that you’ve been through, what were maybe some of those turning-point moments that you can go back to, those pillars to get back to standing here today and playing college football again? Some of those people along the way that you want to credit for helping you?

MCKENZIE MILTON: Oh, man. I mean, there’s so many people that helped me through this process. The first one that comes to mind, Mary Vander Heiden, the head AT at UCF, Dr. Bruce Levy, my surgeon, out at Rochester and Mayo. There’s so many people, assistant trainers, student trainers. Darn near everybody got their hands on my leg at every point at UCF, even at FSU.

Jordan Travis

Press Conference

 

THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for Jordan.

  1. Offensive line has been something of a question mark at Florida State for several years. Here in 2021 the Seminoles have 73 aggregate starts in the offensive line. As a play-maker like yourself, how will that translate into helping you make plays?

JORDAN TRAVIS: Offensive line, I give a shout-out to them because they’ve been working very hard this off-season. Every single day they go out 100%. We do player practices. They’re out there every single day going full speed. I’m blessed to have them.

Yeah, of course, offensive line, it starts there in the trenches. We can’t do anything without the offensive line. So I’m thankful for them boys.

  1. For you to come into this season having McKenzie come in, how have you kind of played off of one another? What can you say about the competition? How do you improve McKenzie and how does McKenzie improve you?

JORDAN TRAVIS: First off, I have to give a shout-out to McKenzie also. That boy, he works hard every day. He’s been through a lot. I’ve been looking up to him for many years now. I’m just seeing where he came from. I’m blessed to have him here.

I’m ready to get ready to work with him. If I’m next to him, if I’m behind him, I’m thankful for every opportunity I have. I’m thankful to be at Florida State.

  1. Looking back at last year, you guys were 111th in red zone efficiency. How do you kind of take the reins and improve that? What’s going to be the key this year?

JORDAN TRAVIS: We just got to keep getting better. There’s nothing else to it. We just got to get better. Last year was last year. It was a tough year. We went through a lot.

This year we’ve been working hard. Every day we go out there, we’re working hard, we’re getting better. This year is our year, for sure.

  1. You’re a Seminole scholar. What is the balance in keeping academic and football straight, level, on a high level?

JORDAN TRAVIS: My parents did a great job with that, just forcing me every single day. Even in elementary school, middle school, just go home, school is first. We’re student-athletes. So school’s important to me.

My brother went to Florida State. He had all As and Bs. I’m not there yet. He’s been pushing me to get better every day.

  1. Can you detail some of the struggles you had switching from Coach Taggart’s system to Coach Norvell’s system, especially without spring practice?

JORDAN TRAVIS: I’m just thankful to have Coach Norvell here and Coach Dillingham.

The transformation, it wasn’t tough. I transferred from Louisville first. My brother has always taught me just to be ready for change. Change is good sometimes.

I’m thankful I have the coaches here now because they’ve helped me a ton. A year ago today I didn’t know if I even wanted to play football anymore. These coaches came in and I love the game again. I can’t wait to get back on the field.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

I would say the big thing for me was getting the range of motion back in my knee, feeling comfortable enough to go out. If I were to get bent on the football field, I would be comfortable taking a hit or something like that.

Being able to get out there and run scout team last year at UCF, being able to practice, get my feet wet, feel comfortable running, cutting, throwing, getting them live bullets at me, the defense rushing me and whatnot. Just being able to do that. Those are big pillars for me, those are big steps for me.

Obviously going through spring ball, competing at a high level, just doing that, just going through summer workouts, feeling good this past year, not missing days, not feeling like, Oh, man, I can’t do this today because my leg’s too sore.

I feel like I’m right where I need to be in terms of health. Shout-out to my mom, too. She’s been here every step of the way since I got hurt, every day she’s been living with me. There’s days I couldn’t bathe myself and stuff like that. That’s something I’ll never be able to repay her for.

Yeah, shout-out to Mom.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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