Best foot forward.
Florida State served as the opener for the 2022 ACC Kickoff today, with head coach Mike Norvell, defensive tackle Fabien Lovett, defensive back Jammie Robinson and quarterback Jordan Travis taking the podium in Charlotte.
The four talked about expectations for FSU this upcoming season, while Robinson, Lovett, and Travis all spoke on further growing into their roles as leaders for the entire team.
Head Coach Mike Norvell
Q. Last year was a tough season. You started 0-3, and then everything was going well. What did you learn in that process of going to winning four in a row to almost got to a bowl game?
MIKE NORVELL: Last year was a year of great opportunities for us, and it didn’t start the way that we wanted, but as a football team, being able to show a response, show an identity. There were a lot of lessons that were learned, and it builds to a lot of excitement for what’s ahead.
As we went through this last season and you see the growth, the development really setting a foundation and the relationships that were built throughout those experiences and the great number of guys that we have coming back for this season and some of the new additions that we’ve been able to bring in our program, it’s been an incredible offseason.
To see the growth and development of our players, just the confidence that they’ve shown because you build confidence through work. You build confidence through experience. Even last year in times of maybe some disappointing results, the belief and the buy-in of where we’re going is something that has our players, has our coaches, has our entire program excited for what the future holds.
I think this offseason has been incredible. Guys are done a great job. You see the physical development, the mental development, just the confidence that they’re approaching every day just to improve and to go be their best. We talk about that a lot within our program. I think our football team and the players that we have are doing a great job of showing that on a consistent basis.
Now we have an opportunity ahead. Definitely excited about being able to kick off in Week 0 and just to be able to get on the field and to start this journey for this 2022 Florida State football team and being able to showcase the identity of who we are and what we’re all about.
Q. We know that after this season divisions are gone and we’re going to a 3-5-5 model. Just what you can say about the discussions of that, and if you were for working towards a model that’s going to be maybe more advantageous for the future of the college football playoff?
MIKE NORVELL: First off, I want to thank the ACC. I know Michael Strickland, Commissioner Phillips, just the involvement, the communication with the coaches, the involvement of all — trying to find the best model, trying to be able to put together a structure and a system that allows a great experience for our student-athletes and what they’re going to be able to accomplish through the 3-5-5 model is something that I truly think is special. To be able to go and play in every venue throughout the four-year period of time is unique, and it makes sure — it ensures them the complete collegiate experience here in the ACC and then being able to pair up the best two teams within each — within each season to be able to play in a championship game. I do think it’s a special opportunity.
I do appreciate the ACC. I appreciate all the things that went into that and just the collaborative approach that they took in being able to find the best model for the ACC moving forward.
Q. Coach, with you playing a Week 0 game, when will you get started in camp, and how does that change preparation in any way?
MIKE NORVELL: We actually report next Tuesday, so we’ll be on the practice field Wednesday. It is an accelerated process. It’s been something that it adds to that sense of urgency from back in May when we were able to report to every day that’s led up throughout our summer program.
Our guys, they’ve done an incredible job. They’ve done an incredible job with their approach, but we know that being able to start off in Week 0 is something I’m excited about. It does present some logistical challenges with guys finishing up summer school and different things like that, but to be able to start the season there at Doak Campbell Stadium it’s going to be a great experience, great opportunity for our football team. Definitely looking forward to being able to get on the field here this next week and starting that process.
Q. You think about the storied history of Florida State, Coach, you think about kickoffs taken back to the house or dynamic punt returns. You were 10th in kick returns last year and 12th in punt returns. What’s the potential to improve in those areas this year, and how important is it?
MIKE NORVELL: It’s critically important. The growth of our special teams units is something that we have emphasized throughout this offseason. I’m excited about the playmakers that we have within our program that I believe will help elevate that performance, and the opportunity to go out there and execute and put guys in the best position to make those incredible plays because that’s what we want to be known for.
When you look at the history of Florida State, like you mentioned, I mean, this is a program that’s built for playmakers, and it’s one that that standard has been established, and it’s — we’re working tirelessly to make sure that we get back to that standard of performance in our special teams units. I know our players are excited about the investment we put into it and the opportunity that’s ahead.
Q. Throughout your career what have you found in terms of experience level from your quarterback and how it dictates maybe how quickly you progress through fall camp?
MIKE NORVELL: I think that as you watch quarterback growth, it’s the driver of any offense. I’ll tell you that with Jordan being here and just seeing his growth and the ownership of this position and the opportunity that he has you look at the growth from this last season as he went through the year and just the confidence that started to show up within all of the experiences that he had on the field, the continued growth in the meeting room and now he is making it his. I’m so excited about that room and the future that Jordan has because that definitely pushes everything within our offense forward at an accelerated rate.
We had a great spring seeing the guys out there this summer and being able to get in the meeting room and just hearing the ownership and the understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish, but then still being able to tailor it to the playmakers that we have.
I think we have a great foundation that’s been built, but I do believe the sky is the limit for what these guys can accomplish because of the work that they put in and the great talents that they have.
Q. Mike, to take a look at name, image, and likeness, we’re a season through it, but obviously, there’s not a lot of regulation and no central kind of ruling body on how to handle it. So what can you say the message has been to the student-athletes at Florida State and how are you handling it?
MIKE NORVELL: I’m excited for the NIL opportunities for all student-athletes. For them to be able to have those experiences, to be able to benefit on the work that they’ve put in and the name and the brand that they’ve built throughout their high school and college careers, it is special for them.
Ultimately, those opportunities are unique to each individual. They’re being able to do something that nobody before them has in being able to benefit upon that. There are things that we want to make sure we help educate as much as possible, to be able to provide those resources and platforms for our student-athletes to be able to dig into and to make sure that they’re making the most well-educated decisions on their future on how they’re building their brand, how they’re being able to share the message from their platform that they’ve been able to create and then being at a place like Florida State. It’s a special opportunity.
For them to be showcased the way that they are, and obviously, the tremendous support that we have. We’re excited about the opportunity for the student-athletes, and excited for where the future of college football is going and what that path is going to look like as we continue to work down through all the new additions within college athletics.
Q. You spoke on the kind of logistic issues that you are going to face heading into Week 0. What are those, and kind of can you elaborate on that as well as simultaneously what are you focusing on with your guys?
MIKE NORVELL: It’s about that constant daily improvement. Some of the logistical challenges, just the earlier start, having to work through finishing summer school classes and some of the things that kind of present themselves with just the daily schedule, but one of the great things that has been adjusted and adapted with the NCAA this year is we got a couple of extra days to be able to work with. So now we have 25 practices in a 31-day period of time, which allows a couple more off days, allows us to give more rest and recovery for our players throughout that fall camp schedule. I’m excited about being able to transition to that new schedule and honestly, just building to being the best that we can possibly be with every opportunity that we have during fall camp.
It’s going to be a great kickoff for us. There’s a lot of excitement around the program, but then it also does provide, playing Week 0, provides a couple of where we’ll have two bye weeks this upcoming fall, and I kind of like how that schedule presents for our football team throughout the season.
Q. A lot of people talk about expectations right now. For you how would you describe what a successful season or what your expectations are for success at Florida State this year?
MIKE NORVELL: We have great expectations. The daily expectation with the season expectation is for us to go out there and be our best to improve daily, to go out there and not only be competitive, but to push to new limits of where we are and also where we’re going.
To see this team come together and to play as one. Those are the things that we’ve seen in laying that foundation this last year and to be able to see the growth, to see the confidence that our players have. I’m going to put no limits to what these guys can accomplish.
I’ve got an unbelievable amount of confidence in them, but ultimately, for us it’s about us showing up every single day and going to perform and to execute at that level with an incredible level of consistency throughout that process. We have great expectations as a program.
When you are at Florida State, that’s part of it. You don’t choose to come play at Florida State, you don’t choose to coach at Florida State unless you embrace that opportunity and embrace those expectations to go out there and play at an extremely high level on a day in and day out basis.
Quarterback Jordan Travis
Q. Hey, Jordan. You might have heard me ask Coach, experience level at your position, how does that kind of factor into what you can do both as a leader and maybe giving input back to the coaching staff?
JORDAN TRAVIS: I would say I’ve been through a lot, so I’ve had a lot of ups and downs throughout my career. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been around a lot of different coaches. I’ve been around a lot of different leaders. James Blackman, McKenzie Milton they showed me the way.
At the end of the day I look up to them. I still call them every single day just to get that feedback that I need whenever I have a question about leading the guys. Just trying to be more vocal. I’m a reserved guy, so I’m just trying to speak a little bit more and get the guys behind me.
Q. Last year you went up to Winston-Salem against Wake Forest, you guys had your biggest loss of the season. How do you flip the script this time around?
JORDAN TRAVIS: Honestly, man, I don’t think much of last year. It’s in the past. We’re going to keep growing and come to work every single day and get better. That’s all that matters. Being better than you were yesterday.
It’s all in the confidence for this football team. We have all the talent in the world. Like Coach Norvell said, the confidence comes from the work, and we’ve been working really hard this summer.
Q. Earlier this week you got added to the Maxwell Preseason Award watch list. Is that something that you think about, and how much does that impact how you go into this season?
JORDAN TRAVIS: I try not to get caught up in that. It really matters what’s at the end of the season. It’s a blessing from the man upstairs, and I’m very grateful for that.
I just try to focus on this football team and getting wins for this football team and just coming to work every single day and being a leader that I need to be.
Q. With 8% more of your passes completed this season, what goals do you have set to improve upon that?
JORDAN TRAVIS: We got some new weapons. I’ve been working really hard on just technique. All the little parts of the game. Sitting in the pocket and not trying to scramble every single time. I’ve been working really hard.
The offensive line has been working really hard to give me some time. I can’t wait. It’s going to be a great year.
Q. The ACC is very quarterback-heavy. A lot of great talent at the quarterback position. I’m sure Coach Norvell would say you’re just going to focus on what you do and leave it there, but honestly, just among us here, do you ever catch yourself looking at the game from any Sam Hartman or anyone else in the conference and take a look at what they did compared to how you’re doing?
JORDAN TRAVIS: I try not to compare myself with anybody, but I do watch those guys. There’s a bunch of great quarterbacks across all college football. I used to play with Malik Cunningham. He is a great player. I still talk to him today.
I watch them. I try not to compare, but they’re all great players.
Q. You return three starting wide receivers. What does that extra time with those guys do for your comfort level this year as you stay in the pocket behind the improved offensive line?
JORDAN TRAVIS: It means a lot. It means a lot. We have a lot of competition now. We have competition at every single position. We have guys that push each other. So, yeah, obviously, that means a lot, where I’m very comfortable with all those guys. We work very hard. We have a little player-ran practices that we throw routes on there. We did that a lot this spring, this summer.
We’re just going to keep growing and get better every day.
Q. You spoke about the guys you keep in touch with. Being with McKenzie Milton last year and you guys both having to lead this offense, just what you can say you took away from having to share that space and what it’s like now to move forward yourself?
JORDAN TRAVIS: McKenzie is my guy. It’s like one of my best friends. I used to watch him and look up to him when I was in high school and he was at UCF. McKenzie taught me a lot. He has had a rough journey, but it made him who he is today.
I learned a lot. The way he led as soon as he got into the room, he is a really respectable guy. Never stepped on anybody’s toes. He just is a really special person. Moving forward now I can just bring all that stuff together and try to just keep picking his mind, picking his mind. I was on the phone with him last night. Just trying to grow every day.
Defensive back Jamie Robinson
Q. Jammie, you bring that dog. Your teammate Fabien just talked about it. You are a dog or you’re not, right? You bring that dog to the game and to this defense. You had four games last year where you had ten-plus tackles as a DB. Is that something you go out and you look to do, or is that something that just comes as a part of your game?
JAMMIE ROBINSON: Well, me personally, I just — that’s just how I was brought up. My mom raised me like that. You feel me?
It’s just in me. It’s just in me. That’s how I was born. Honestly, I just take the blueprint that the coaches lay out and I just go in and attack every day. That’s how I am. I just got that dog. That’s it really.
Q. To go off of that, describe not only yours, but overall how would you define Florida State swagger?
JAMMIE ROBINSON: I mean, I grew up watching Florida State, but that wasn’t my first home. Florida State is my second home. You know, just the atmosphere and just Florida State is Florida State. When Florida State wins, everybody loves Florida State. It’s just our main focus is just to get us back on that wave, you know, just to get us winning and getting Florida State back to where it’s supposed to be. That’s our main thing. Just working and getting us back to where we’re supposed to be at.
Q. If you look at your guys back end of the defense from Week 1 to Week 12 and the starting line-up was completely different. What have you guys been able to accomplish chemistry-wise with you, Akeem, Amari, and everybody on the back end that’s made you guys confident this upcoming season, and do you think you guys will be maybe strengthen the defense, the back end?
JAMMIE ROBINSON: That’s our main thing. Last year, like you just said, each week it was different. We had a different line-up.
Me going in just trying to be a leader because I’m not just that vocal leader. I always just try to be the guy to lead by example. Just going in just to attack every day and just be consistent with everything because that’s the main thing. We play DB, so one mistake, and it’s a touchdown, and everybody in the stadium is going to see it. It’s like we all got to be on the same accord, and we all got to be locked in together. That’s what we’re trying to create, that oneness together as a team.
Q. Only three teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference had more interceptions than Florida State last year. You’ve got your entire secondary back. How dangerous is it going to be to throw against you guys this year?
JAMMIE ROBINSON: It’s going to be real dangerous. We’re just going to follow the blueprint that the coaches got for us, and we’re going to execute every play.
Q. I’m curious as to how you’ve seen the differences between the SEC and ACC as you started your career at South Carolina? What are the differences between the level of competition, and how teams play?
JAMMIE ROBINSON: It really ain’t no difference. It’s all football. Like Fabien said earlier, it don’t matter where you play at. It don’t matter who you are playing against, who you line up in front of. It’s football. I’ve been playing football since I was 3 or 4 years old, so it’s always a confidence thing. You always have to be confident. That’s you how I look at it. Ain’t no difference.
Probably the speed of the game. A lot of passing games. That’s the main difference I can see just from the SEC, they’re going to ground and pound and run the ball down your throat. In the ACC it’s kind of different. They’re going to more spread and more RPO and stuff like that. When I got to the ACC, that’s how I was trying to better my man coverage skills. That’s another thing. The ACC, they’re throwing the ball. I’m just trying to get better at that.
Q. How fun was that spring game this year? It seemed like you had a great time with all the alumni coming back. I guess it was an exciting spring for you?
JAMMIE ROBINSON: For sure. Like you said earlier, our whole group came back. Pretty much our whole team. During the spring, 90% of our team was already here. We hit the ground rolling pretty fast and ahead of most teams and stuff as far as just the guys coming in early and stuff like that.
It was a plus for us all just to get that brotherhood and create that brotherhood. We live by commitment, little things, mental toughness and brotherhood. We all just try to go throughout every day and get better every day, 100% better.
Q. You’re animated both on the field and on the sidelines. Where does this animation come from?
JAMMIE ROBINSON: Animated?
Q. You seem to be all over the map, big smiles.
JAMMIE ROBINSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just like you all say, NIL, you’re trying to get that image. I’m trying to get my image up. That’s it.
Defensive tackle Fabien Lovett
Q. Fabien, just what can you say about Jermaine Johnson, what did you learn from him and being on that defensive line together? Maybe some of those things you take into this season and, secondly, how you have grown as a leader as you step forward?
FABIEN LOVETT: I’ve learned a lot from Jermaine. He is one of the guys that helped me click and have a break-out game and understand the importance of my growth and the dominance that I can have and that I will have.
He showed me what it’s like to have somebody on the outside of you that helps some when you get double-teams, the guy that makes the plays that you can make also.
As far as me being a leader, I’ve grown tremendously with the help much Coach Norvell and Coach Odell and the guys and having better relationships with them. It’s all about being able to be respected and being able to show the same respect that you want from others.
Q. Fabien, last year you won the Bobby Bowden Leadership Award. Describe your style of leadership.
FABIEN LOVETT: I would probably say I’m a growing-to-learn leader, if that makes sense. I grow, and I watch people as I go along and just watch how they react to certain things and how they react to other teammates and coaches and players, and that’s just how I go off, how I react to them, how I respond to them or find ways that push buttons to help them be more encouraged to do things.
Q. I know this, man. You wore the No. 0 as a big man in the middle of the defense. That takes a lot of swagger, man. Can you elaborate on your approach to the game, your attitude, and does that number mean more to you that you wore an unorthodox number in the middle of the defense?
FABIEN LOVETT: My approach to the game is just to be dominant. Just when somebody else — when the next team prepares to watch my film be like, whoa, you get down in front of me, you’re scared to line up, you shake in your stance. I see that a lot when I play, but that’s what I want.
When the offensive line lines up in front of me or a guard lines up in front of me, they know I’m going to bring the power, they know I’m going to bring the dominance.
Q. I know in football momentum is a hard thing to kind of carry over from year to year, but what happened for the defense last season in had the second half of the season that maybe has you feeling optimistic about what you guys can be this coming year?
FABIEN LOVETT: Really nothing. It’s just the details. We locked in more on our details and the little things we needed to focus on more.
It wasn’t a tremendous thing that we needed to change. It was just we needed to lock in and be able to keep everything going and focus better.
Q. I’m curious as to what Jared Verse has added to the defensive line room coming from the FCS ranks and if you think that players from that level can make that jump so quickly?
FABIEN LOVETT: Honestly, I feel like all competition is the same across the board. Wherever you come from, if you are a dog, you’re a dog. Jared Verse a dog. That’s the kind of guy we need. He has the speed. He has the power. I feel like he is going to be a great help this year.
Q. I want to follow up on my leadership question. When the season opened up last year with three losses, what did you do as a leader to keep everybody focused? Whatever you did must have helped because you guys rolled off three in a row.
FABIEN LOVETT: Next game, next play, next-play mentality. We shouldn’t be focused on the three losses that we already have. We can’t do nothing about that. It’s time to focus on the next game, the next win, the next one.
Q. You returned your entire defense except for the defensive ends. Dan referred to Jermaine. You also lost Kerr. You guys were fifth in tackles for losses last year. One of the best performances in the ACC. Where does the pressure come from? Who takes their spots?
FABIEN LOVETT: We have Derrick McLendon, Jared Verse, Dennis Briggs who are also great players. It took them some time to shine. It’s a process.
You’re not going to get everything overnight. Football is a process. It’s a learning experience. But as far as our D-ends we have McLendon, Verse, Dennis Briggs, Leonard and some young guys that will play a big role for us this year.
Q. The first three games were really close, close losses. What did you learn from those close losses that might help you this year knowing you have to finish these games instead of trying to close them out?
FABIEN LOVETT: Just focus on finishing the game and not focusing on so much on the score right now. Focus on each play, everything that’s going on. Don’t just focus because we’re winning and we’re up now. It’s all about finishing the game strong. If you don’t finish the game strong, you still can lose, no matter what the score is.