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Mount Rushmore Mondays: Which four FSU quarterbacks belong?

Determining the Mount Rushmore of FSU greats, position by position.

Let’s get the choosin’ underway.

To help the offseason pass a bit faster Tomahawk Nation is introducing our new Mount Rushmore series, where we’ll be determining the top four Seminoles at each position by weighing everything from stats to accomplishments to historical significance.

Each Monday, we’ll post a poll for the Tomahawk Nation community to choose their top four Seminoles for that week’s position group. On Tuesday, various TN contributors will make their cases in a roundtable format and then finally, we’ll share final poll results each Wednesday to determine that position’s Mount Rushmore.

Naturally, we’re kicking the series off with the quarterbacks. Check out a brief description under each player to read more about their accomplishments (alongside selections from our previous series revolving around the top 100 players in FSU history and the top 100 plays), then vote for your top four at the bottom and let us know the reasoning behind your choices in the comments.

Let the debate begin!

Thad Busby (1994-1997)

Busby went 21-2 over two seasons as a starter, racking up 5,916 yards and 46 touchdowns.

He led the Seminoles to a pair of 11-1 seasons and #3 finishes in the AP in 1996 and 1997, including a 10-2 record against ranked teams. Busby was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and a Davey O’Brien Award Semifinalist in 1997, and 2nd Team All-ACC in 1996.

Bill Cappleman (1967-1969)

In 1968 Cappleman threw for a then FSU record 25 touchdown passes en route to being named an AP All-American Honorable Mention and leading FSU to the Peach Bowl. Cappleman followed that season with a legendary performance vs. Memphis State in 1969 throwing for 508 yards, setting a single-game record that wouldn’t be broken until Chris Weinke in 2000.

Gary Huff (1970-1972)

Gary Huff lead the NCAA in passing touchdowns in 1971 and 1972. His 52 career touchdowns rank 5th all-time in FSU history despite playing in an era that rewarded running out of the wishbone more than throwing the football. He has the distinction of being FSU’s Academic-All American along with being named to the FWAA and UPI All-America teams in 1972.

Danny Kanell (1992-1995)

Danny Kanell was a backup for two years at Florida State before being tasked with something many considered impossible: following Charlie Ward.

In the end, he’d finish his career with 6,372 yards, 57 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions, with 421 of those yards and one of those touchdowns (alongside a rushing one) playing a part in one of the greatest moments in Florida State football history — the Choke at Doak.

Danny Kanell would lead a furious comeback that would see FSU score 28 fourth quarter points and just when it looked like FSU would secure the winning field goal time ran out. A tie. That’s right Gen Z’ers; college football games used to end in a tie. It went down as a tie in the record books but everyone knows Florida lost that game. Danny ended up completing 75% of his passes that game throwing for 421 yards and a TD. When FSU needed it most he couldn’t miss.

In the Sugar Bowl, “Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter” if you’re fancy, FSU would finish off the job by beating the Gators 23-17. Kanell went 23 of 40 for 252 yards and one touchdown, though his coolest moment was arguably being involved in a passing touchdown he did not throw or catch:

He was drafted by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL Draft after being drafted by the New York Yankees in the 25th round of the MLB Draft the year before (he was also drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 19th round out of high school), ultimately chosing professional football.

Serving primarily as a backup in the NFL for eight years, playing minor league baseball during a lay-off from football in 2001, he eventually transitioned to broadcasting where he’s more commonly known today.

In 2012, he was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame.

EJ Manuel (2009-2012)

Manuel made strides each season as Jimbo Fisher ascended to head coach, finishing his Seminole career as FSU’s most accurate quarterback of all time with a 66.9 career completion percentage. He tallied 25 total victories and also ranked top five all-time for passing yards, total offense, completions, and attempts, despite only two seasons as the full-time starter. Manuel had an outstanding final season, directing a record-setting offense and setting the table for FSU’s third national championship the next season, with one of his major games being Florida State’s win over Clemson at home.

After FSU’s victory over Northern Illinois in the 2013 Orange Bowl, Manuel became just the second FBS quarterback in college football history to win four bowl games.

Danny McManus (1984-1987)

McManus lettered at FSU from 1985 through 1987, starting at quarterback in his final two seasons, which included bowl victories in the All American Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. It was the McManus-led 1987 season that began FSU’s record-setting streak of fourteen consecutive finishes ranked in the top five.

In 1987, the Seminoles lost only one game and completed the season with their eleventh victory, a 31-28 Fiesta Bowl win over Nebraska. McManus earned the MVP award after throwing for a then-record 375 yards and rallying Florida State to victory on a 4th-and-15 touchdown pass to Ronald Lewis. FSU was ranked second in the final Associated Press poll of the season, the highest finish that the team had achieved to date.

Christian Ponder (2007-2010)

The first Seminole signal caller to develop entirely under OC Jimbo Fisher, Ponder finished his career in Tallahassee with 22 victories, ranking among the top five at FSU for career passing yards, career completions, career total offense, career TD passes, and career completion percentage. He shepherded the offensive scheme overhaul under Fisher and became the highest-drafted FSU quarterback at the time, going 12th to the Minnesota Vikings.

Chris Rix (2001-2004)

Rix’s tenure at Florida State was a myriad of contradictions. He ranks second in FSU career touchdowns and passing yards, was the only four year starter in Seminole history, won ACC Freshman of the Year in 2001, and lead Florida State to three ACC titles.

But for many Rix was the face of FSU’s early 2000s downturn. He was highly inconsistent leading to getting benched on and off during his career. The Seminoles never beat Miami during his time at QB. Rix is the only college QB to go 0-5 versus a single team.

But if you want the one and only reason Rix belongs on this list, click the link below

Rick Stockstill (1979-1981)

Stockstill took over the FSU offense in 1980. He started every game for the Seminoles over the 1980 season, leading Florida State to a 10-1 regular-season record and ranking of No. 2 in the country. Stockstill led the Seminoles to an upset of 4th-ranked Nebraska on the road, allowing the program to emerge on the national stage. Stockstill was named an All-American following the season.

Stockstill was again at the helm in 1981 for arguably the toughest schedule in college football history. Stockstill led FSU in consecutive road games at Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pitt and LSU, as well as against traditional rivals Miami and Florida. The wins notched at Ohio State, Notre Dame, and LSU earned Florida State the reputation for toughness that still exists today.

Steve Tensi (1962-1964)

Tensi lead the most decorated Florida State team prior to the arrival of Bobby Bowden. His 19 touchdowns helped lead the 1964 squad to a 9-1-1 record and accomplish three significant firsts for the program. The 16-7 win over Florida in the regular season finale was FSU’s first win over the Gators, a 14-0 win over Miami earlier in the season allowed FSU to claim its first instate sweep, and a victory over Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl gave FSU it’s first major bowl game victory. FSU would only beat Florida one more time and never accomplish the other feats until the Bowden Era.

Jordan Travis (2019-present)

Jordan Travis, who is the only player in Florida State history to appear in both the top 10 career passing and rushing touchdowns ranks, is expected to be a top contender for the Heisman trophy next season after putting together an impressive 2022 campaign (226-of-353, 3,214 yards, 24 touchdowns, five interceptions, 417 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and a two-yard touchdown reception) where he directed an FSU offense that ranked 7th nationally in yards per play (6.96) and 10th in yards per game (484.2).

Travis is one of only four active players with at least 5,500 passing yards and 1,700 rushing yards and set a Florida State school record by logging six straight games with at least three touchdowns.

From FSU Sports Info:

He is the only active player in the country to score at least seven rushing touchdowns in three straight seasons and ranks fourth in program history with 70 touchdowns accounted for in his career. He also is sixth in program history with 7,622 yards of total offense, tied for ninth with 45 passing touchdowns, ranks 11th with 5,888 passing yards and is 12th with 426 completions. His 1,734 rushing yards and 24 rushing scores are both school records by a quarterback, and he is the only player in program history ranked in the top-10 on FSU’s career passing touchdowns and career rushing touchdowns lists.

Travis is the only player in program history to pass for at least 20 touchdowns and rush for at least seven touchdowns in the same season, and his 32 touchdowns accounted for are tied for the third-highest single-season total in FSU history.

Travis became only the fourth Florida State quarterback to produce at least 3,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns in a season in 2022, joining FSU’s three Heisman Trophy winners – Charlie Ward in 1993, Chris Weinke in 2000 and Jameis Winston in 2013. His 3,631 yards of total offense rank fifth on FSU’s single-season list, while his passing yards total is seventh and his passing touchdowns tied for 10th.

With 11 more touchdowns, Travis (70) will move into first all-time at Florida State for touchdowns responsible for, passing Jameis Winston (72), Chris Rix (75) and Chris Weinke (81).

Charlie Ward (1989-1993)

Charlie Ward originally signed with FSU in the spring of 1988. The Thomasville, Georgia native was a well known product in the south, making Super Prep Magazine’s All-Dixie team in football and second team all-state in basketball, however he wasn’t an elite national recruit. However, the recently enacted (and controversial) NCAA rule known as Proposition 48 forced Ward to spend a year taking courses at TCC before officially enrolling at FSU in the summer of 1989.

In 1992, Ward’s patience and hard work paid off and he was named the ‘Noles’ starting QB. Through six games of the 1992 season, Ward was literally averaging more turnovers per game on the football field than he did as starting point guard the previous year, tossing 13 INTs and just 10 TDs. It was against Georgia Tech, facing near certain defeat in Atlanta against a program FSU had never beaten, that the magic of “Chollie” was born.

Needing to score and score quickly, Bobby Bowden put Ward in the shot gun and let him run what would later become known as the “Fastbreak Offense.” This shift away from FSU’s classic I-Formation allowed Ward to operate more in space and make use of his basketball-honed vision, not only resulting in an epic FSU comeback but also revolutionizing college football offenses almost overnight. Florida State averaged nearly 53 points per game over its final four contests of 1992, including a 45-24 thrashing of the 6th ranked Gators. The following season would be the long awaited year for Seminole faithful and Coach Bowden, as FSU would go 12-1 and win its first ever college football national title.

A second-team All-American in 1992, the senior signal caller used his devastating dual-threat ability (rare in those days) to become one of the most decorated football players of all time in 1993. In fact, Ward won every single athletic award he was eligible for, including the Heisman, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas, and Walter Camp awards. His Heisman victory is still the third largest in history and he even won the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award given to the nation’s top amateur athlete, becoming the first college football player earning that honor since Doc Blanchard and Arnold Tucker won it in 1945 and 1946 while starring at Army.

Chris Weinke (1997-2000)

Chris Weinke, the first three-year starting quarterback under Bobby Bowden’s leadership at Florida State University, guided the Seminoles to their second national championship in 1999, earning recognition on Football News’ All-America team as an honorable mention and securing a second-team All-ACC nod. The subsequent year, although the team fell short of another national title, Weinke solidified his legacy in Tallahassee.

During the 2000 season, while leading the Seminoles to a loss in the national title game against Oklahoma, Weinke had an exceptional performance, amassing 4,167 passing yards, which remains an FSU record, and throwing 33 touchdowns, the second-highest tally in program history for a single season. His outstanding achievements were duly rewarded, as he claimed the 2000 Heisman Trophy, becoming the second recipient in the school’s history. Additionally, Weinke received the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards. He was recognized as the College Football News Player of the Year, the Chevrolet Player of the Year, the ESPY winner for College Player of the Year, and the ACC Player of the Year. Furthermore, he garnered multiple selections to All-America teams and the All-ACC first team. Weinke’s dedication extended beyond the field, as he excelled academically, earning the Academic All-ACC distinction in 1998, 1999, and 2000. In 2000, he was granted an NCAA post-graduate scholarship, a feat achieved by only nine Seminoles. The impact Weinke had at Florida State is evident through the retirement of his jersey in 2001, the year following his departure, and his induction into the FSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. In the 2001 NFL Draft, Weinke was selected in the fourth round by the Carolina Panthers.

Casey Weldon (1988-1991)

Casey Weldon was a homegrown product, playing high school right in Tallahassee’s backyard at North Florida Christian. He committed to the hometown ’Noles and redshirted his freshman season in 1987.

Weldon bided his time, playing only sparingly in mop-up duty in 1988 and ‘89 behind Chip Ferguson and Peter Tom Willis.

But as a redshirt junior in 1990, Weldon finally got his chance late in a mid-season loss to the Miami Hurricanes. After starting quarterback Brad Johnson fumbled a snap late in the fourth quarter with FSU trailing 31-16, head coach Bobby Bowden called Weldon’s number. Weldon promptly went six for eleven for 67 yards and a touchdown. The following week the Seminoles faced off against an undefeated Auburn team. Johnson again got the start, but after an early first-quarter interception Bowden again called on Weldon. Weldon would go 20 for 30 for 244 yards and a touchdown, but FSU fell just short to the Tigers, 20-17.

However, Bowden had liked what he had seen from the young quarterback, and Weldon started every game the rest of the season over the future Super Bowl winning Johnson. And FSU didn’t lose another game, finishing the regular season on a five-game winning streak, including thrashing the Florida Gators with 325 yards passing.

When the 1991 season rolled around Weldon was firmly entrenched as the starter, and he did not disappoint. FSU was the No. 1 ranked team in the country, and they started a red hot 10-0. Weldon was often brilliant during that stretch, throwing for 250 or more yards five times and throwing three touchdowns four times. Weldon was right in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race.

Unfortunately, not even Weldon was able to overcome the forces of fate. Injuries piled up, and Florida State lost to the rival Hurricanes 16-17 in what is now colloquially known as Wide Right I. The ’Noles dropped their next game too, the regular season finale against the hated rival Gators.

Those were the only games Weldon lost as a starting quarterback.

Weldon finished his 1991 season with 2,527 passing yards and 22 touchdowns. For his efforts, Weldon was bestowed with the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation’s best quarterback. He came up just short in the Heisman race, placing as the runner up behind Desmond Howard of Michigan. He was also named a first team All-American by Walter Camp and Football News, and a second team All-American by the Associated Press and Sporting News.

He finished his Seminole career with 4,628 yards on 545 attempts, and his 41 touchdown passes were the second-most in school history. His 4,643 career yards of total offense were also at the time the second-most in school history. He also ranked in the top four in several other statistical categories. He is remembered not only for the quality of his play, but for leading thrilling wins against Florida, Penn State, LSU, and Michigan.

Weldon was drafted with the 102nd overall pick in the fourth round of the 1992 NFL Draft. He had a long career in the NFL, playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Washington Redskins. He was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame in 1999 while playing for Washington. He also briefly played in the World League in Europe for the Barcelona Dragons. He finished his career in 2001 with the XFL Birmingham Thunderbolts.

Peter Tom Willis (1986-1989)

With the exception of a four touchdown, no interception performance against South Carolina in 1988, Peter Tom Willis spent his first three years performing mop-up duty for Danny McManus and Chip Ferguson. After patiently waiting his turn, Peter Tom finally took over the starting role for his senior season in 1989, and oh what a season it was.

After an 0-2 start (in which the senior QB threw for more than 240 yards in both games), Willis led FSU to 10 consecutive wins, culminating in a Fiesta Bowl demolition of Nebraska. Indeed, by the end of the year, many suspected that FSU might be the best team in all the land.

Beginning with a road victory over LSU, Willis would throw for 300+ yards in three of the next four games following the season-opening two losses. Then, one week after helping FSU defeat number 11 Auburn—becoming the first team ever to defeat Auburn twice in one calendar year—Willis led FSU to a stunning upset of number 2 Miami, punctuated by this legendary pass out of his own endzone.

A few weeks later Willis, known for his impeccable touch on deep balls, connected with Terry Anthony for this 62 yard bomb to open the game against the Florida Gators, in what would ultimately be a 24-17 road win:

When the dust settled on the 1989 season, Willis had re-written the Seminole record book. Though these marks have since been bettered in eras more conducive to the passing game, Willis left FSU with the most completions in a single season (211), most yards in a single season (3,124), second most yards in a single game (482), and most touchdown passes in a single game (six)—which still stands as the record to this day. Additionally, Willis remains one of only two quarterbacks in FSU history to lead the Seminoles to a victory over the eventual national champion.

After his prolific senior season, Willis was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, where he’s spend four years. Some time later, Willis returned to FSU as the color commentator alongside Gene Deckerhoff, developing a signature tag line of “I see ya, (player x)” after big plays and touchdowns.

Jameis Winston (2013-2014)

In two seasons Jameis Winston went undefeated against Florida State’s rivals, undefeated at home, undefeated on the road, won two ACC championships, became the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, quarterbacked the highest-scoring offense of all time and won a national championship, breaking a streak of seven straight titles by SEC teams. He had the best statistical season for any FSU quarterback ever, helped engineer one of the longest winning streaks in college football history, is the first and only FSU No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick, and he did all of it while also playing baseball (and pitching an ERA of 1.94) and only losing one final game on the gridiron.

Despite playing in just 27 games and in an offense arguably more complex than some NFL teams, Winston passed for 65 touchdowns and nearly 8,000 yards, and rushed for another 284 yards and seven touchdowns. His 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2013 set ACC and NCAA FBS freshman records and earned him a consensus All-American nod.

All of the other accolades followed: a two-time ACC first team selection; the ACC Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Athlete of the Year; the Associated Press and Sporting News’ Player of the Year; and winner of the Walter Camp, Manning, Davey O’Brien, and Archie Griffin Awards.

At the Rose Bowl against Auburn, Winston helped engineer a second-half comeback for the ages. Down four with just 71 seconds left and nearly 70 yards from goal, Winston found Greene again for 49-yards, our 12th best play ever. Then, with just thirteen seconds left, Winston found Benjamin in the end zone and secured FSU’s third national championship.

The following season Winston had his share of struggles, but FSU again went undefeated in the regular season where the ’Noles would eventually fall in the playoffs, bringing their streak of 29 straight wins to an end.

Winston would forego his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft, where he would be selected No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he has set numerous NFL and franchise records. He currently is a backup with the New Orleans Saints.

Who are the top four quarterbacks in FSU history?