For most of the “the Dynasty,” FSU quarterbacks followed a predictable pattern. Sit your first two or three years (depending if you took a redshirt) and then play your junior and senior year. This blueprint proved effective, resulting in reloading, not rebuilding.
But in 1989 that was not the case.
With the exception of a four touchdown, no interception performance against South Carolina in 1988, Peter Tom Willis spent his first three years performing mop-up duty for Danny McManus and Chip Ferguson. After patiently waiting his turn, Peter Tom finally took over the starting role for his senior season in 1989, and oh what a season it was.
After an 0-2 start (in which the senior QB threw for more than 240 yards in both games), Willis led FSU to 10 consecutive wins, culminating in a Fiesta Bowl demolition of Nebraska. Indeed, by the end of the year, many suspected that FSU might be the best team in all the land.
Beginning with a road victory over LSU, Willis would throw for 300+ yards in three of the next four games following the season-opening two losses. Then, one week after helping FSU defeat number 11 Auburn—becoming the first team ever to defeat Auburn twice in one calendar year—Willis led FSU to a stunning upset of number 2 Miami, punctuated by this legendary pass out of his own endzone.
A few weeks later Willis, known for his impeccable touch on deep balls, connected with Terry Anthony for this 62 yard bomb to open the game against the Florida Gators, in what would ultimately be a 24-17 road win.
When the dust settled on the 1989 season, Willis had re-written the Seminole record book. Though these marks have since been bettered in eras more conducive to the passing game, Willis left FSU with the most completions in a single season (211), most yards in a single season (3,124), second most yards in a single game (482), and most touchdown passes in a single game (six)—which still stands as the record to this day. Additionally, Willis remains one of only two quarterbacks in FSU history to lead the Seminoles to a victory over the eventual national champion.
After his prolific senior season, Willis was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, where he’s spend four years. Some time later, Willis returned to FSU as the color commentator alongside Gene Deckerhoff, developing a signature tag line of “I see ya, (player x)” after big plays and touchdowns.