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The top 100 FSU football players: No. 78— receiver & kick returner Tamarick Vanover

A show-stopping spark-plug of the Seminoles’ success in the 90s.

Tamarick Vanover
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Conducting countdowns like the ones we’ve run the last few seasons are always interesting. We look at them as a great way to foster offseason discussion, but also as a means of educating fans of all ages— as well as ourselves, as writers.

More often then not, when I claim a piece, I’m taken aback by just how often an older Seminole appears in the Florida State record books. But in drafting this morning’s entry, marking just 78 days until the kickoff of FSU’s 2019 season, I’m somewhat astounded at how rarely a player the caliber of Tamarick Vanover appears in the ’Nole record books. After all, he was such a prominent figure in developing the Seminoles of the 1990s.

After the great Lawrence Dawsey concluded his collegiate career in Tallahassee, Vanover was really the guy who took the torch and helped to usher in the fast-break offense around which the Seminoles would build their 90s dynasty. He was a massive part of an FSU squad that made the garnet and gold primary colors within the college football spectrum. But perhaps that’s the key term here: squad. Vanover was no outlier, but rather one of a number of great ’Nole receivers in the mid-90s— and there are only so many places in the record books.

After Dawsey’s All-America accolades ceased in 1990 and he went pro, no Seminole WR revitalized his role until Vanover stepped up in 1992. And he wasted little time in doing so, leading FSU receivers with 42 catches for 581 yards and four scores that season.

But Vanover was a revelation as a kick returner. After staying home, the Tallahassee native and Leon High graduate authored an astounding freshman return campaign: 8 returns for 413 yards— an average of 51.6 yards per return. Now that’s not included in the FSU record books as the highest single-season average in program history, because a minimum of 10 carries are required. So Kermit Whitfield gets the nod, at 36.4. But come on. Fifty. One. Point. Six.

Vanover is included in the record books for his two return TDs in ’92, which remain tied with Whitfield for the season and career high among Seminoles. His 96-yard return score against Wake Forest is tied for the ninth longest in Florida State history, and his 94-yard TD return at Miami, which opened the game and was the Seminoles’ lone touchdown, is tied for the 13th longest return. That came in as No. 78 in our countdown last summer of the greatest plays in FSU history (Vanover’s exact same rank in this countdown— and no, we didn’t plan that). Check it out:

But Vanover didn’t just show up for that game against a rival. The same year, he helped the ’Noles to a 45-24 trouncing of UF by returning three kicks for 181 yards, including an 80-yarder. So if any of your Gator buddies ever try to convince you that they’re of superior intelligence because they chose Gainesville, just remind them that Florida elected to kick to Vanover thrice, while he averaged over 60 yards per return in that game. Here’s a taste:

For his explosive freshman performance, Vanover was named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News and College & Pro Football Weekly, as well as a freshman All-American by Football News. And he was a second-team All-ACC selection in Florida State’s first football season in the conference.

Not surprisingly, opponents didn’t afford Vanover many attempts to return kicks in 1993, but his career return numbers are staggering: 13 returns for 523 yards, an average of 40.2 YPR. And again, that’s not in the FSU record books, due to a lack of attempts. But seriously— Vanover’s return skill is an exercise in quality over quantity. I mean, talk about flipping the field.

In 1993, Vanover continued to share the football with Kez McCorvey at the receiver position, and the latter took over the leading receiver role. Still, Vanover’s 43 receptions for 519 yards and three scores factored largely into the Seminoles’ first national title. He was honored as a second-team All-American by The Sporting News and a second-team sophomore All-American per Football News. He also earned a third-team All-ACC nod.

And overlapping with Vanover and McCorvey was Andre Cooper. And then E.G. Green. And then Peter Warrick. And then Snoop Minnis. Programs are built from the inside out— but exciting a fan base often originates on the outside, and Vanover played a big role in initiating the fervor.

In the FSU record books, Vanover is among the top 20 in neither season or career receptions, nor season or career receiving yards. However, he is sixth, all-time, in catches per game at Florida State, with 3.96 RPG. But again— the record books tend to diminish just how electric Vanover was as a Seminole, and the part he played in a blossoming dynasty.

After the ’93 title run, Vanover tried to become eligible for the NFL Draft, but was denied, since he’d finished only his true sophomore season. Instead, he went to the Las Vegas Posse of the CFL for a season before the Kansas City Chiefs made him a third-round selection in the 1995 NFL Draft. He was a consensus NFL All-Rookie selection that year.