During an interactive period with the crowd at Sunday’s Seminole Boosters on Tour event in Tampa, a Florida State fan raised the mic, with head coach Mike Norvell and Voice of the Seminoles Jeff Culhane ready to hear an inquiry about the team, or schedule, or uniforms, or any typical question you’d expect during these types of events.
“So mine is not a question,” she began instead. “I wanted to compliment you. When you took over, we all know what the situation and I remember I was like, ‘Who’s Mike Norvell? Let’s see what happens.”
Without missing a beat, Norvell responded: “Who’s Mike Norvell? Let’s see what happens’ is exactly what [my wife] Maria said before our first date.”
Since being hired in 2019, the 41-year-old coach has battled both internal pressures and outside forces in an effort to restore Florida State’s standing in the national dialogue of college football. From 2018 to 2021, the Seminoles made a singular bowl game appearance and logged just one win vs. an in-state rival as it seemingly fell further and further from its once-prestigious heights. From the outside looking in, it was hard to calculate the true impact that Norvell was having on bringing things back. Wins and losses, which are visible and experienced by all, take precedence when judging progress over any perceived culture-building and program-establishing that occurs in a designated environment.
In 2022, that inability to see what was being built became a moot issue as Florida State logged 10 wins in a season for just the 25th time in program history — and, as Norvell pointed out to the crowd, beat Miami and Florida in the same season for the 15th time.
If this season is set to be the first true realization of the Norvell method, then the Tampa event served as a proper celebration of how he and his staff have effectively reshaped the program to reflect their ideal structure. With a high-energy crowd hanging on the every word of Culhane, Norvell and Seminole Boosters, Inc. President Stephen Ponder, following a photo meet-and-greet opportunity with the head coach that would rival a line to meet Mickey Mouse at the Most Magical Place on Earth, it felt like a continutation of the energy left on the field in November 2022 when the Seminoles outlasted the Gators in a Black Friday thriller and in a flurry of relieved exubrance, fans flooded Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.
While in 2022 Florida State hits familiar heights on the field, it also is reaching new ones off it — from setting all-time highs when it comes to team GPAs to embracing their financial potential through NIL.
“I’d like to tell you that every player on our team just loves academics, but the challenge is when you’re willing to push to be your best in something you don’t always like, how much easier will it be to push to be your best at what you love?”
The proof of everything starting to gel, in Norvell’s eyes, is that across the board there is an understanding of expectations and a genuine player-by-player want for those around them to succeed.
“Two of our most improved players this spring were [quarterback] Jordan Travis and [defensive end] Jared Verse — they were bringing a championship level mindset, attitude and approach in all that they were doing.
“And whenever you have your best players also being your most improved players, it’s contagious. And we have a football team that is absolutely hungry for talent, that tloves to compete.”
That buy-in trickles all the way down to shaping the roster and adding talent in the transfer portal, with Norvell noting that some of the best recruiters for the program have been those already in it. While some might be hesitant to bring in additional talent capable of taking away reps or opportunities, he’s seen his team go out of its way to help secure anybody capable of elevating what the Seminoles can achieve this season.
“Do you know who hosted Keon Coleman on his visit? Johnny Wilson. And every other school out there is trying to use Johnny as negative recruiting, saying “oh, they’ve got this guy already,” and then you see our players, they want other great playmakers around, they want guys that are gonna help support them.”
With the Seminoles’ roster more or less set for 2023, the focus is now on translating lessons learned from spring into action in the fall, starting with summer work and building up to fall. On both sides of the ball, Florida State has stockpiled explosive talent — especially as of late with the addition of the aftermentioned Coleman, another weapon for FSU in the pass game to compliment an explosive rushing attack led by Trey Benson.
“With regards in what we’re going to face, we’re going to be able to attack teams in a variety of ways — force defenses to defense field sideline to sideline and you know we’re going to push the ball down the field.”
“It all starts up front — whenever you have explosive and dominant players in your defense, it really allows you to go right at things...I think we have anywhere between 10 guys that will be in the rotation to go make an impact and win the line of scrimmage.”
If the talk seems to be setting expectations high, then that’s in line with Norvell’s thinking. Having been fond of the phrase “I put no limits on what this team can accomplish” since his early days in Tallahassee, he’s been clear that his squad is being built to handle that level of projection.
“When I came to Florida State, people would say, “coach, big expectations.” Coming into this year, people are saying, “big expectations for this season!”
“If you don’t love expectations, don’t bring your butt to Florida State.”