There have been plenty of words written and spoken about playoff committees, the ESPN-SEC industrial complex and the December Screw Job - so I won’t get into that. Let’s talk about the 2023 Florida State Seminoles football team.
This is without question the FSU team I have loved and enjoyed watching the most. This group of 85 scholarship players, dozens of walk-ons, and staff of dozens competed on and off the field for thirteen games in a way is made Seminoles everywhere proud.
Jordan Travis was the second excellent and beloved Seminole athlete in his family, Braden Fiske came in and excited everyone, Jarrian Jones became one of the fans’ favorites with his turnaround, and Mike Norvell instilled a culture that valued strong values. Simply put, they did everything right and in the right way.
To give some background, I didn’t grow up a Seminole. My first college football game was at The Swamp, my second at the old Orange Bowl. Both my parents went to small colleges and had no football affiliations. Growing up in Florida, I was largely agnostic on the “Big Three”. Save for being with my FSU-fan uncle as he was arguing with Gators’ fans at a sports bar for the 2003 PK Sam game, I didn’t become an FSU fan until I enrolled in 2006.
I enjoyed the 2013 team greatly. Watching Jameis Winston’s near-perfect debut from the top row of Heinz Field was a special evening with my closest friends from college. I was lucky enough to see the Clemson blowout and the national title win over Auburn in person with my brother and friends. Beyond some key moments (Christian Ponder chomping into the locker room at half in 2010 comes to mind) in 2010, 2012, and during the Dalvin Cook era, there were fun teams who I was proud to support.
However, this year’s team easily takes the cake for the most lovable, special group of Seminole football players I’ve been fortunate to watch. A lot of coaches talk a big game on culture and values. Jimbo Fisher won big by compromising on his public words about culture. The man hired Bobby Petrino a few short years later. We all know how Jimbo’s commitment to culture was just more fast, high-pitched Appalachian coach-speak.
Mike Norvell walks the walk. This is a program with accountability. With a real commitment to academics, and the grades and APR to prove it. With a group of young men who recognize that his words are his values, not merely coach-speak. They simply bought into acting as a team, showed clearly by a multi-year pattern of simply never giving up in the face of adversity.
The College Football Playoff committee’s debacle won’t change that. This was and still is a fantastic team. They captivated the hearts of Seminole fans and most of the college football world. They bookended the season with multiple-score wins over SEC teams away from home, with different quarterbacks. They won in Death Valley (North). They lost their Heisman-caliber quarterback, Jordan Travis, the beating heart of the body Seminole. Simply put, they made us proud to be a part of this team by supporting them. The secret ballots of 13 don’t change the impact of FSU’s 13 wins nor their leader who wore 13 on offense every Saturday.
This is a team we can be proud of, regardless of what happened at the start and the end of December. They earned a chance to play for it all, and they earned the hearts of all Seminoles.