Let’s get back to our roots, Seminoles. Of all the consensus All-Americans in Florida State football’s illustrious history, only one could be the first— and that honor belongs to receiver Fred Biletnikoff.
A ’Nole from 1962-1964. Biletnikoff made his way to Tallahassee from Erie, Pennsylvania. He led FSU in receiving in ’63, which back then, and on a 4-5-1 team, only took 24 catches for 358 yards and four touchdowns. If that seems rather pedestrian, it’s for good reason— especially considering what Biletnikoff did to top it in 1964.
A year after snagging a pair of scores to top Miami 24-0, Biletnikoff opened ’64 with another two TDs, accounting for all the FSU scoring as Florida State again shutout the Hurricanes, 14-0. Bookending the regular season in style, Biletnikoff also scored against Florida, as the ’Noles beat UF for the first time ever, 16-7.
But he wasn’t even close to being finished, as Oklahoma found out in the Gator Bowl, when Biletnikoff posted career highs in catches, yards, and scores. His 13 receptions are still tied for fifth in a single FSU game, and his 192 yards through the air remain 16th. He also made four TD grabs, a total only bettered once at Florida State, as the Seminoles topped the Sooners 36-19.
Biletnikoff’s season helped FSU improve to 9-1-1 in 1964, and his 5.7 catches per game that year are still 10th in Florida State history. He compiled 987 yards through the air, 15th most in a lone ’Nole campaign, but his real impact came on the scoreboard. Including his phenomenal bowl game vs. OU, he accounted for 15 receiving TDs, tied for the most in one FSU season with Kelvin Benjamin in 2013 and Andre Cooper in 1995.
Deservedly, Biletnikoff was named Florida State’s first consensus All-American after earning first-team honors from the AP, the Football Writers Association of America, the Newspaper Enterprises Association, Football News, the New York Daily News, and second-team nods from the UPI and the American Football Coaches Association.
Across his career in garnet and gold, Biletnikoff caught 20 TD passes, tied for 10th as a ’Nole with Lawrence Dawsey, and his seven 100-yard games are tied for ninth.
Biletnikoff was drafted twice in 1965: by Oakland in the second round of the AFL Draft, and by Detroit in the NFL Draft’s third round. Ever the thinker on the field, he made the insightful decision not to play for the Lions.
It paid off. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 1971, 1972, 1974, and 1975; in 1977 he led the Raiders to a Super Bowl XI win and was named the game’s MVP. ’77 was a good year for him, as he was also part of the inaugural Florida State Hall of Fame class that year; fittingly, he went in with another stellar ’Nole WR: Ron Sellers. 1988 saw Biletnikoff enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first of four Seminoles to make it to Canton.
In 1991, Biletnikoff joined the College Football Hall of Fame. Three years later, the prize bestowed upon college football’s top receiver was christened as the Fred Biletnikoff Award. His No. 25 is one of 11 retired FSU numbers.
Included below are some of Biletnikoff’s collegiate highlights, as well as a poll question for you to consider.
As you might guess, the margin in our voting between No. 10 Sellers and No. 9 Biletnikoff was quite thin, as both starred at the same position in the same decade. So review the above-linked piece on the former— and then it’s your turn to vote:
Who deserves to be ranked higher in our countdown of the greatest FSU players?
This poll is closed