TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Although it doesn’t require anything resembling the same skill or strategy, there are a few things about an old-fashioned game of tug-of-war that can translate to the football field: Raw strength, the ability to work as a team and a deep-rooted competitive spirit.
The Florida State football team flashed those traits in abundance on Tuesday during two marathon tug-of-war matches that put an emphatic exclamation point on FSU’s annual Lift For Life fundraiser.
And if the Seminoles compete on the gridiron this fall the way they did on Tuesday, then coach Jimbo Fisher likes their chances this season
“(It shows) that hopefully we’ve got the right DNA. And compete the right way,” Fisher said afterward. “It was fierce. But at the same time, they moved on to the next thing, it wasn’t personal and (it was) knowing how to compete. And that’s another thing that made me proud.”
As for that tug-of-war duel, let the official record reflect that the offense got the best of the defense in Round 1, while the defense claimed the rematch.
Each match lasted nearly 20 seconds and both sides had moments where they appeared to have the upper hand.
“That’s the two best tug-of-wars (I’ve ever seen),” Fisher said. “…They were all straining, now. They didn’t want to give it up.”
“Everybody was getting dragged around, everyone was jumping in,” added Alec Eberle, the fourth-year junior center who organized the event. “No one wants to lose. It’s bragging rights.”
Those rights were claimed in several other strongman competitions, including tire-flipping, farmer’s carry relays and medicine-ball tossing.
But the most difficult event, Eberle said, was the one in which the Seminoles paired off to push oversized golf carts – one weighed down by director of football operations Mark Robinson, the other by associate director of sports medicine Jake Pfeil – across the practice field.
“Everyone was dying after that,” Eberle said with a laugh.
While the Seminoles sparred with each other throughout the afternoon, they never lost sight of the reason they were there.
Lift For Life is the signature event of the Florida State chapter of Uplifting Athletes, an organization that works with student-athletes to raise funds toward research for rare diseases.
At Florida State, Uplifting Athletes supports the fight against Fanconi anemia through Kidz1stFund, the foundation established by the Fisher family in 2011.
Fisher’s youngest son, Ethan, is one of thousands affected by Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disorder that often requires a bone marrow transplant.
The Seminoles raised a final total of $6,512 at this year’s Lift For Life, easily surpassing their goal of $5,000.
“I think they’re realizing how they can impact lives, not only on that football field,” Fisher said. “They’re giving other people hope in life,” Fisher said. “And I think that’s the greatest thing you can ever do as a human being.”
For Eberle, Tuesday’s event was the culmination of months of planning, organizing and strategizing. Eberle took over as chapter president for founder Kevin Haplea following Haplea’s graduation in 2015, and he’s already begun grooming fellow lineman Josh Ball to one day be his successor.
“It was awesome just being out here, having my guys support me and see it fall into pace,” Eberle said.
The Seminoles got plenty out of Tuesday’s event for themselves, too. With fall camp set to begin in about two weeks and the season-opener against Alabama now less than 50 days away, the players used their friendly competition to draw together as a team and enjoy each other’s company before things get more heated next month.
It’s those moments and memories, Fisher said, that will prove to be the most valuable as years go by.
“At the end of the day, they’re going to remember the ball and the wins,” Fisher said. “But what they’re going to (really) remember is the friendships and the impact that they had on each other’s lives. Fifteen, 20 years from now, that’s going to be the big deal.”