“I came to college to accomplish more than going to the NFL.”
“Now I get to be a leader for this team,” Joyner said. “The weight really falls on my shoulders, and guys like (linebackers) Christian Jones and Telvin Smith. It’s a special feeling because you had guys like EJ (Manuel), (Bjoern) Werner, Xavier Rhodes, guys who you looked up to yourself, but now you have a bunch of young guys looking up to you.”
Lamarcus Joyner, the No. 1 prospect in all of Florida in 2010, came to Florida State as part of Jimbo Fisher’s first official recruiting class as head coach. The group, which included Telvin Smith, Kenny Shaw, Christian Jones, Chad Abram and Bjoern Werner, helped set the foundation for the program’s run to a title in 2013 and reestablish the Seminoles in the hierarchy of modern college football, but few embodied the desire to define a new culture at Florida State as much as Joyner.
He was considered undersized as a prospect, but his talent was undenied as a five-star recruit and the No. 14 overall in the country.
Joyner would make an impact instantly, appearing in all 14 games for the Seminoles his freshman season either in the secondary or as a return specialist.
As a sophomore, he’d start at safety, registering 54 tackles and four interceptions as part of a 2011 squad that showcased FSU’s potential as a college football power once more. Against Notre Dame in the Champs Bowl, he’d take a kickoff back 77 yards, the third-longest in FSU bowl history.
His junior season, though, is when he became an undeniable fixture of Florida State football. 2012 would see his streak of starts at safety rise to 27, continuing an additional feat of having appeared in every possible game since his freshman year. Joyner lead FSU in kick returns and return yardage and played a huge role on a defense that led the country in yards per play.
Joyner, eligible to leave for the NFL, opted to stay in Tallahassee for the 2013 season, feeling that he still had more to accomplish in the garnet and gold. He’d switch from safety to cornerback in an effort to not just replace departed corner Xavier Rhodes, but display Joyner’s versatility to the NFL and allow other talented players to see the field.
It was a move that paid off well, as explained in 2013 by SB Nation:
“In each of the last two seasons, Florida State has finished first in the nation in pass defense -- one with Joyner at strong safety, one with Joyner at his new cornerback position. That tidbit alone would appear to indicate that he has had no effect, but a closer examination of the statistics will suggests otherwise.
This year’s secondary is even better, slightly superior in nearly every major category, whether that is yards allowed, opponent YPA or rating.”
Joyner would lead all defensive backs in the country in sacks, and after not forcing a fumble his entire FSU career, force three his senior season, two of which came against Clemson (and one of which was our No. 53 play in FSU history).
His game vs. the Tigers is one of the more impressive performances in Florida State history, with Joyner being a one-man wrecking ball that has to still haunt Tahj Boyd’s dreams. One sack, eight tackles, one interception and two forced fumbles was Joyner’s statline for the night, and he and the 2013 Seminoles never looked back.
En route to delivering the national championship he’d signed up for in 2010, Joyner would register career bests for tackles (69), tackles for loss (7.0), sacks (5.5) and forced fumbles (3), enough to be named a Jim Thorpe Award finalist. He’d be drafted by the then-St. Louis Rams, quickly becoming a fan favorite and a force to be reckoned with in the NFL (to the point where he was getting Super Bowl MVP odds this February).
Lamarcus Joyner played a special role at Florida State, embodying a leadership position while also being really, really damn good at football. His impact resulted in the Seminoles’ third national championship, and his legacy is no better summed up than in this one play, where he misses a sack on a screen and then chases the player 80 yards to rectify his mistake: