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The top 100 FSU football plays: No. 51— Amp Lee makes Michigan D look silly

This young man from Chipley was amply talented.

“Not trying to tackle you, I just want to shake your hand and thank you for coming today, Mr. Lee”
Getty Images - Bernstein Associates

Date: September 28th, 1991

Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Opponent: Michigan Wolverines

Play #51 represents the final play of the First Half of our Top 100 list, hope you’ve enjoyed it so far. In an effort to whisk the reader back in time and feel every emotion of the moment, let’s set the stage properly from now on.

Top-ranked Florida State traveled to play the #3 Michigan Wolverines in front of 106,145 fortunate college football fans in Ann Arbor. Who was #2 on 9/28/1991? Well, if we’re talking about the Billboard Charts, that team was the Funky Bunch lead by head coach Marky Mark.

Now that the mood is properly set, let’s talk some football.

The Seminoles & Wolverines’ faced off for only the 2nd time ever, the first being an exciting home game victory for quarterback Jim Harbaugh over a sophomore Deion Sanders. The 1991 edition had even more hype with #1 versus #3, and a prime time ABC matchup hosted by Keith Jackson and Bob Griese. Looking back 27 years later, it’s not difficult to call that 1st quarter action one of the most electric and star-studded first 15 minutes in college football history.

As our own Matt Minnick described in greater detail during Play #60, the late 80’s/early 90’s Noles often came out of the gates like Mike Tyson in his prime. Fortunate for viewers around the country, Michigan counter punched with uppercuts of their own.

Getty Images - John Biever
Howard & Buckley traded punches all afternoon

Let’s quickly recap the Who, What, & Whens of that 1st quarter:

-Thorpe Award winner Terrell Buckley picked off the 2nd play from scrimmage and scored

-Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard burned Thorpe Award winner Terrell Buckley on the subsequent drive to tie the game

-Future Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward lined up at receiver threw a trick “Crocodile Pass” back to Johnny Unitas Award winner(and Heisman runner-up) QB Casey Weldon for 29 yards, setting up...

-Holder and future Super Bowl winning QB Brad Johnson tossed a fake field goal TD pass to future Super Bowl winning(and last Fullback ever drafted in NFL 1st Round)William Floyd

With the Noles leading 13-10 and driving near midfield, a hand-off to junior running back Amp Lee quickly turned into the final haymaker of quarter #1. There’s an old adage about southeastern athletes(especially Florida) being significantly faster than their midwest counterparts up north. But when it came to Amp Lee, his 40 yard dash time was closer to a 5.0 than a 4.2 ala Deion Sanders. Speed wasn’t #42’s game, it was balance, vision, and butter-smooth moves that were patently unfair to open field defenders.

Amp Lee set up the Wolverine linebacker in the hole and faked him into turning a couple teammates into bowling pins. Darting towards the far sideline, Lee then pulled the E-brake and left a pair of Michigan defensive backs slipping and sliding towards air where Amp once occupied. Then he cut back to middle of field and galloped towards the end zone as the home crowd absorbed yet another suffocating blow.

The maize and blue pulled close in the 2nd quarter, but FSU had more ammo all afternoon and eventually pulled away for a historic 51-31 triumph in the Big House. The win was perhaps one of the higher peaks among many in the prime of Bobby Bowden’s glory years, and is still greatly revered by Seminole fans despite how that promising 1991 season later fell apart(foreshadowed by 3 missed PAT’s in Ann Arbor).

Amp Lee is also held in the highest esteem among Nole aficionados. His rushing 122 yards, 2 TD’s, and 79 receiving yards was just another notch in his big game belt. Leading the team in both rushing and receiving output in the same game was commonplace for the versatile Lee, as he pulled that feat against Miami in ‘90 and ‘91 most notably. Big Stage = Big Results.

Waiting for a long completion to fall inside brickless Doak Campbell Stadium.
Getty Images - Damian Strohmeyer

Amp was a hard worker from humble roots in Chipley, Florida, a tiny town 85 miles west of Tallahassee along interstate 10. In the pre-internet days, Lee was a panhandle sensation in multiple high school sports, and credits his elite pass catching abilities to hand-eye coordination developed as a point guard at Chipley High School.

Lee skipped his senior season for greener pastures and a 9 year NFL career, but he only needed 3 years to leave an unforgettable mark at FSU. Scoring 38 total touchdowns from 1989 to 1991, his 30 rushing TD’s match Devonta Freeman’s prolific output in the garnet & gold.

In a Memento anachronistic fashion, we’ll end this piece talking about Lee’s debut at Florida State 2 years before the Wolverine shakedown. Amp’s first taste of action came in FSU’s 4th game of the 1989 season, as the disappointing 2-loss & unranked Seminoles hosted an over matched Tulane Green Wave.

Lee’s first career touch was a 6-yard touchdown run where he broke through 4 tacklers.

In the 2nd half, his first career catch was an 88-yard catch and run TD from backup QB Weldon that sent mind-numbing jolts through the Doak erector set.

Although it missed the Top 100 cut, this play and Amp Lee were too electric to ignore.

2-for-1 special as first half of 100 comes to a close.