We’re breaking into the top dozen Florida State football players in our countdown with a Seminole great whose career took a decade to play out after he initially arrived at FSU. But it sure was worth the wait.
To say the least, Chris Weinke had options coming out of high school in St. Paul, Minnesota. The captain of his hockey team, a highly touted baseball prospect, and the top quarterback in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Weinke committed to the ’Noles in 1990. He was then selected with a second-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays and went pro, playing minor-league ball before heading back to Tallahassee in 1997 to return to football.
Weinke played just one game that season, sitting behind Thad Busby, but he earned the starting role in 1998. His first start came in a high-profile opener against Texas A&M. The No. 2 Seminoles triumphed 23-14 over the No. 15 Aggies, and it didn’t take long for Weinke to find his favorite receiver— you may have heard of him:
In the second game of the season, however, Weinke hit a major speed bump, as he was intercepted six times at NC State, the most picks ever tossed by an FSU QB, while the Seminoles were bettered 24-7 in Raleigh.
But Weinke learned from the experience— he didn’t throw another interception that season, and led the ’Noles back into title contention by running the table and authoring 300-yard games against Miami, Clemson, and North Carolina. Then disaster struck, when a devastating neck injury ended his season against Virginia in the campaign’s 10th game.
Still, Weinke had served notice of his immense potential, averaging 17.1 yards per completion, the highest season total in Florida State history (with a minimum of 100 attempts). And in that injury-shortened year, he still completed 19 touchdown passes, tied for 19th in the ’Nole record book.
With the future of Weinke’s football career very much in doubt, Marcus Outzen helped get the Seminoles to the national title game against Tennessee, but FSU fell in Arizona. Also down but not out, Weinke returned in 1999 as a man on a mission, and Florida State installed as the preseason’s No. 1 team.
And that’s exactly where the ’Noles remained, throughout the ’99 season, as Weinke’s star really began to rise. He upped his TD-pass total to 25, tied for fifth in a lone Seminole season, while connecting with receivers 232 times, 10th in an FSU campaign. In the regular season, Weinke went north of the 300-yard mark thrice, against Miami, Wake Forest, and Maryland. Against the Terps, his six touchdown passes equaled the school record set by Peter Tom Willis a decade previous.
But Weinke had one more 300-yard performance in him for that season, and he saved it for Virginia Tech in the national title game, when he connected on four TD passes as Florida State secured its second national championship by topping the Hokies 46-29 in New Orleans.
Here’s how Weinke commenced the scoring in that one— check out how well he sells the pump fake:
And here’s how he ended the scoring to ice the game, in what we voted last year as the greatest play in FSU football history:
I’ve always found Gary Danielson’s criticism of Weinke’s above throw to be too harsh. Weinke was smart enough to know just how incredible Peter Warrick was, and that he just needed to get the ball up and let him make a play. His acumen helped him to 3,103 yards in ’99 (tied for 10th in an FSU season) and 25 scoring passes (tied for fifth most in one year).
That kind of intelligence was a hallmark of Weinke’s at Florida State. When he audibled at the line, you weren’t worried like you can be with some QBs. It was just the opposite. Weinke adjusting at the line made you lean forward a little in your seat— because you knew he’d seen something he could exploit in the defense, and that fireworks were likely imminent. It’s no surprise that he was an ACC All-Academic Team selection from 1998-2000, and the recipient of an NCAA post-graduate fellowship in 2000. Weinke also gained a Football News All-America honorable mention after the ’99 wire-to-wire No. 1 run, along with a second-team All-ACC nod.
But 2000 is when Weinke, who had ascended to the roll of a Florida State captain, really torched the competition. So sit down. This is gonna take a minute.
Opening at No. 2 in the AP Poll, FSU began the season against BYU in Jacksonville, and Weinke got to work immediately, completing 32 passes against the Cougars, tied for 10th most in a single game as a ’Nole. Behind a stellar defensive effort and Weinke’s first of seven 300-yard games in the 2000 season, Florida State beat BYU 29-3.
In the next game at Georgia Tech, Weinke upped the ante, stinging the Yellow Jackets for 443 yards through the air, the 10th highest single-game total among Seminole QBs. The regular season’s only loss came at Miami halfway through the season, but Weinke still went nuts for 496 passing yards, fourth on FSU’s all-time list, on 29 completions, tied for 19th in program history. He also went 4-1 against the Gators and Hurricanes as a starter.
A consummate bounce-back artist, a week later, Weinke produced the most passing yards ever for an FSU QB: a ridiculous 536 vs. Duke. Those yards came on 37 completions, Weinke’s career high and a tie for fourth in Florida State history.
To open November’s schedule, Weinke was back at it, this time against Clemson. He pummeled the Tigers for 521 yards, the second highest Seminole total to his own earlier effort against the Blue Devils. The real gem of that contest came on a 98-yard TD lob to Snoop Minnis, one still tied for the longest scoring pass in FSU history. Witness one of the greatest play-action fakes in football history:
Seriously, the only fake better may have been from Johnny Utah in Point Break:
As an encore to the Clemson drubbing, Weinke hit for 324 yards and 5 TDs against Wake Forest, followed by 353 yards and a trio of scores vs. UF.
Weinke’s 2000 season culminated in 4,167 passing yards, the most in program history and tops nationally that year, his 266 completions are third, and his 33 TD connections are second. Translation: Florida State’s second Heisman Trophy.
Along with the country’s top individual honor, Weinke also took home the 2000 Davey O’Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Additionally, he was a first-team All-American per the AP, CNNSI.com, and Football News, as well as a second-team choice of The Sporting News. The ACC made Weinke a first-teamer, too, and he was the conference’s Player of the Year.
Weinke led the ’Noles to yet another national title game, but the Florida State offense couldn’t find enough footing with consensus All-American Snoop Minnis academically ineligible and offensive coordinator Mark Richt headed for UGA. The Seminoles came up short against the Sooners, 13-2.
But there's no shortage of records attached to Weinke’s name in the annals of FSU history, beginning with the 32-3 record he compiled as a starter, which led to an ACC championship in each year he helmed the ’Nole offense— and not a single conference loss after that early stumble at NC State.
Weinke’s career placements with the Seminoles are so numerous that they’re best catalogued in list format:
- Yards per completion: 15.14 (first)
- Touchdown passes: 79 (first)
- 300-yard games: 14 (tied for first with Jameis Winston)
- Interception percentage: .0289 (first)
- Passing yards: 9,839 (first)
- Completions: 650 (first)
Weinke was a fourth-round selection of the Panthers in the 2001 NFL Draft, the same year that his number was retired at FSU. and he was inducted into the Florida State Hall of Fame in 2011.
Here’s a video of his career highlights: