We’ve officially reached the top 25 Florida State Seminoles of all-time, and on a list littered with excellent defensive backs it should surprise no one to see another shutdown corner.
Hailing from the southernmost city in the continental U.S. (that’s Key West for those of you who played paper football in geography class), Corey Sawyer arrived at FSU in 1990, a member of the same recruiting class as the number 30 player on our countdown, Clifton Abraham. Like his classmate, Sawyer would redshirt his first year, before seeing limited action the following year, while learning from FSU legend Terrell Buckley
However, when Buckley turned pro early, the Seminoles sought another brash, ball hawking corner to shut-down half the field. Enter Mr. Sawyer.
In the third game of the 1992 season, a roadie in Raleigh against an NC State team that finished the year in the top 15, Sawyer—now a redshirt sophomore—earned his first start at LCB. Late in the 1st half, with the Seminoles trailing 3-0, and the Wolfpack looking to go up 10, Sawyer made an acrobatic play for his first career interception:
(If that catch looks familiar, you’re probably thinking of another FSU great playing against a state university hailing from a bit farther north):
Anyhow, Sawyer apparently liked the taste of picking off QBs because once he started he couldn’t stop. Sawyer nabbed two more INTs that day, both coming in the 4th quarter to ice a 34-13 win. The three interceptions are tied for second most in FSU history during a single game. And did somebody mention resemblance to “Prime Time”? Apparently Sawyer studied the Sanders tape:
Following his breakout performance, Sawyer added interceptions in each of the next two games, against Wake Forest and Miami, respectively. And, of course, in typical Seminole fashion, Sawyer wasn’t solely turning into a lock-down corner; he was a special teams weapon, as well, totaling 165 yards on nine punt returns during that two game stretch. Little did fans know, he was just getting warmed up.
The very next week, Sawyer broke open a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels and the ACC’s leading punter when he housed one 74 yards:
By the end of the season, Sawyer totaled seven interceptions—still tied for 5th most in a single FSU campaign—and 488 yards on punt returns at nearly 15 yards per pop. But perhaps what he was becoming most known for was his propensity for making the spectacular INT look routine. In fact, he had so many diving interceptions that season that despite snatching seven, he had a grand total of zero return yards! That’s right, zero. Despite that, or perhaps because of his unique ability, Sawyer earned second team All-American status following the 1992 season.
In 1993, Sawyer picked up where he left off—shutting down his side of the field, while continuing to make diving interceptions. As crazy as it sounds, he wouldn’t get his first interception return yard until November, in what would be his third to last game as a Seminole. Of course, it’s hard to return the ball when you’re making plays like this:
At the conclusion of the 1993 season, Sawyer was both a national champion and a consensus first team All-American. He grabbed six more interceptions when QBs were foolish enough to throw his way, giving him 13 in his career. That puts him in 5th place at Florida State, despite playing just 26 games. During his final two seasons, Sawyer led a Seminoles secondary allowing fewer than 190 yards/game through the air, while holding opposing QBs to under 48% completion percentage.
Sawyer went on to be selected in the 4th round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he spent the next five seasons playing cornerback and returning kicks. Sawyer would play his final season with the Jets in 1999 before ending his NFL career.