WATCH: Marvin Wilson, Oct. 16
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State had just finished its usual spell of Sunday-afternoon running, and most of the sweat-drenched Seminoles figured they’d be headed to the locker room soon.
Marvin Wilson, though, had other ideas.
Because as he and his teammates went through their paces, Wilson’s mind flashed back to the day before – to the Seminoles’ 45-14 loss at No. 2 Clemson, and to a scene on the sideline later described by coach Willie Taggart as “pouting.”
It was then that Wilson decided that the Seminoles needed to do more.
And so Wilson, a junior defensive tackle voted as a captain by his teammates, told those teammates that they weren’t finished. That they needed to get back to the touchline and run their laps again. And again. And again.
“Marvin made the team run for pouting, for having their head down on the sideline,” FSU head coach Willie Taggart said. “Because that’s what we said we weren’t going to do.”
Wilson’s demand was met with a little bit of a resistance, as well as some “Can-he-really-do-that” surprise.
But within a few seconds, the Seminoles could see that the 6-foot-5, 311-pounder meant business.
And that the FSU coaching staff had his back.
“I’m like, ‘Yes, hell, I’ll run with you,” Taggart said. “… And guys, they did what he asked them to do.”
Wilson had good reason to ask.
In his third year at Florida State, Wilson has been a part of two teams that tended to fall apart when faced with adversity.
In 2017, Wilson’s freshman year, the Seminoles got off to an encouraging start in their season opener, but couldn’t overcome the loss of their starting quarterback and an unorthodox schedule shaken up by Hurricane Irma. They sported a 2-5 record midway through the season, and, although they rallied to reach a bowl game and finish 7-6, the program also underwent an upheaval that led to Taggart’s hiring in December.
A year later, Florida State stumbled out of the gate, could never sustain the positive momentum it generated, and ended the season by losing four of its last five games.
Since then, Wilson, now FSU’s top defender, has seen the Seminoles take some clear steps forward. The Seminoles rallied back after losing their opener, won back-to-back ACC games for the first time in three years, and generally showed some improvement in all three phases of the game.
But during the Seminoles’ setback at Clemson, Wilson saw hints of those same things he’d seen in the previous two seasons. And he wasn’t about to let them slide.
“We just came too far as a team,” Wilson said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the results we wanted when we went to Clemson. But, at the same time, as a program we’ve made some big strides this year. …
“I can’t let us fall back to what we used to do. It was a tough loss, I know. But we’ve got to get better. Keep improving the culture.”
Wilson’s actions might be the latest sign that the culture is, in fact, improving.
Since Day 1, Taggart has insisted that, while the coaches have a role, a truly great program is one that’s led from within by its players.
One that doesn’t need its coaches to ride them every day in practice, or mete out discipline.
Florida State fans can think back to the days when Telvin Smith and Lamarcus Joyner patrolled the locker room as seniors for an example of what that looks like.
“It’s very important,” Taggart said. “It goes back to what I said before – that we’re not going to be the team that we want to be until we become a player-led football team. … And to see a guy like Marvin Wilson, who we all see go out and give 100 percent every single game, stand up and challenge his teammates to play for the Seminole (symbol) on their chest, that was great to see.”
Demanding more sweat from his teammates might not win Wilson many popularity contests. But it’s what he signed up for before the season, when he decided to assume the role of a defensive leader after the Seminoles lost two key defenders from last year’s team to the NFL draft.
And, after seeing the standard that Wilson holds himself to, both on and off the field, and then realizing that his demands come only out of a desire for the team to succeed, Wilson’s teammates had no choice but to follow.
“He sets a good example. He’s a good leader,” redshirt freshman linebacker Amari Gainer said. “He just embodies the logo. Just be your brother’s keeper.”