We all love statistics; but let’s face it: quantifying a player’s impact at Florida State can sometimes result in missing the forest for the trees. Case in point: Seminole legend Fred Biletnikoff. Biletnikoff’s name appears rather sparsely in the FSU record book, but that’s largely a product of the fact that he played receiver in the 1960s, when football was much more dominated by the running game. Also, he joined the ’Noles while the garnet and gold were on a run of missing out on bowl games.
Florida State hadn’t seen the postseason since 1958 and hadn’t found success there since what was then the program’s only bowl victory, a Cigar Bowl triumph over Wofford in 1949, FSU’s third football season.
But qualifying Biletnikoff’s role as a Seminole is simple— as is demonstrated by his enduring significance to the program. Simply put, it’s rather easy to show just how pivotal a player one was to not only his school, but the broader college football landscape, when he’s the namesake of the award bestowed upon the best player at his position, year in and year out.
The Biletnikoff Award is presented annually to the best receiver in college football. Why? Because Fred Biletnikoff was a pass-catching wizard for the Seminoles, and his domination out wide was certainly on display in Florida State’s Gator Bowl matchup with Oklahoma following the 1964 season.
Thanks in large part to Biletnikoff, FSU entered the game with an impressive 8-1-1 record and fresh off a 16-7 win over Florida, the Seminoles’ first ever win vs. the Gators. But Biletnikoff, unlike OU, was far from finished.
Simply put, Biletnikoff went off, scoring four TDs to lock down a 36-19 Florida State win. The topper was this catch by Biletnikoff, in which he went over the middle, secured the grab, and held on while absorbing a hit.
Perhaps my favorite part of this clip occurs after Biletnikoff’s touchdown is in the books: he casually flips the ball toward the official, like a precursor to Barry Sanders— because the greats act like they’ve been there before. And if there’s any place Biletnikoff had frequented on this date, it was the Oklahoma end zone. He wasn’t paying rent; he owned that property, outscoring the Sooners by himself.
Biletnikoff, FSU’s first consensus All-American, went on to become the Super Bowl XI MVP for the Oakland Raiders, as well as an inductee into both the College and NFL Hall of Fame. Only three other Seminoles (Deion Sanders, Derrick Brooks, and Walter Jones) have been enshrined in Canton, Ohio.