Jacobbi McDaniel and Chris Thompson are proud Seminoles, but before FSU there was Madison County and the Cowboy way.
If you need directions to Boot Hill on Friday night, make sure you ask in advance because chances are there will not be anybody left in town to point you in the right direction.
Actually, you probably won't need those directions. Just follow the lights shining atop the hill. That is where you will find the entire county of Madison, cheering on their Cowboys.
Florida State sophomores Jacobbi McDaniel and Chris Thompson know all about Friday nights in Madison County. The duo starred for the Cowboys in high school and to this day still cannot remember a better feeling then being under the lights on Boot Hill.
"I would say that it is the best feeling in the world to me," Thompson said. "I would tell anybody else that, because basically on Friday nights at Boot Hill in Madison County almost every store is closed once the lights come on. Everybody's watching, no matter who we're playing and it's just a really great feeling."
"Madison, Boot Hill, Friday night, that's all I have to say," McDaniel said. "I mean it's Fridays. We might be small, but we're proud to be small."
McDaniel and Thompson look to play a major role for the Seminoles in 2010. Both have worked with the first team during fall practice; McDaniel as a defensive tackle and Thompson at running back, and both have earned praise from head coach Jimbo Fisher.
"Chris has really had a good camp. I've been pleased with Chris, he's doing a great job. He's consistent, really understanding and confident in what he is doing," Fisher said. "Jacobbi is learning to strain. When he strains and with that ability, you can't block the guy. He's got a great attitude, when you get on him he's `Yes Sir' (and) goes about his business, but he's got a lot of fire in him too. I love everything about him."
McDaniel's fire comes from years of honing his craft in Madison. Just 45 minutes from Tallahassee, Madison County is known for its football and you learn at an early age you want to play for the Cowboys.
"Probably at the age of five when they start playing Pee Wee League football," McDaniel said. "Growing up in Madison, it's small. When you play Pee Wee League football you run the same thing that the high school team runs, so that's getting you prepared for high school."
The 6'0" 287-pound defensive tackle first learned to compete in the trenches as a Cowboy. As a 2A and 2B school, Madison County often played 5A and 6A powers and more often than not came out victorious, not just because they were better, but because they were always tougher.
"The thing about it is all the players there grew up together," McDaniel said. "If you have a love for one another you're not going to go out and let the person from the opposite team hit your brother. It's just contagious in Madison."
"They'd play in the parking lot on concrete in shorts if you wanted them to," Fisher said. "They're hard-nosed, they're tough and physical. They like to play; they live to play football and it's a great environment. If you get a guy from there you know he's tough."
Playing football for Madison County earns you celebrity status, so imagine what it is like for Thompson now that he wears the Garnet and Gold. When the speedy running back heads home, there is no escaping the questions and requests from kids for autographs and teachers wanting him to speak to their classes. Yet Thompson takes it in stride, knowing it's all a part of being a Cowboy.
"It's a really great feeling to have those people looking up to you," Thompson said. "I wouldn't say that there is much pressure, but I like the pressure and it's easier for me because I know what people expect from me back home. I feel that their expectations are mine, too."
McDaniel and Thompson both have bright futures on the gridiron and would like to extend their careers past Florida State. Regardless where they end up, they will always be proud of where they came from.
"I'm very proud," McDaniel said. "The team we have now, the past, the future ,the present. I'll stick with Madison, I'm a Cowboy."
"I'm very happy," Thompson said. "I don't think I'd want to be from any other high school."
If you're looking for more proof, guess where you will find the duo on Friday nights during off weeks? On Boot Hill with the rest of Madison County cheering on their Cowboys.
By Layne Herdt, Seminoles.com