What four quarterbacks have had the biggest impact on Florida State Seminoles football?
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.
We determined the poll options based on both statistics and impact, using our Top 100 players series as a baseline and adding additional names after debate and discussion.
This week, we’re talking gunslingers — and the Tomahawk staff breaks down their personal top four below.
Who are the top four quarterbacks in FSU history?
Steve Tensi, Gary Huff, Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke
Since this is the first quartet of the series, allow me a brief sidebar. The way I orient to discussions about Mount Rushmores of any subject is not the same as a ranking of the top four. Mount Rushmore, as a monument, brings with it a connotation of the “founders.” No, it’s not exclusive to Presidents from the 1780s and 90s, but it doesn’t have anyone alive in the last 100 years either. It’s less of an absolute ranking and more of a recognition of leaders who are the shoulders that future leaders stood on.
Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke are quintessential “Dynasty” players. Charlie is not just a Mount Rushmore player for FSU, one could argue he’s on the Mount Rushmore of modern day offenses, eviscerating opponents with a fast break attack long before the words “spread” and “tempo” entered everyday lexicon for college football fans.
But what about the other two? Many people younger than 50 might not even know who Steve Tensi and Gary Huff are. But if you want to be more than just a dilettante when it comes to FSU football, or even southern college football, you’d better learn the names.
Steve Tensi came to FSU in 1961, when the Seminoles had won more than 5 games just once in the previous six seasons. All he did between 1962 and 1964 (freshmen couldn’t play back then) was set new FSU career records for completions, yards, and touchdowns. Want more? He helped lead FSU to an 18-0 victory over UGA in Athens, which is commemorated as the very first victory in the sod cemetery. He led FSU to its first 9-win season, something that wouldn’t be accomplished again until 1977. His teams were the first in school history to beat Miami in back-to-back seasons, with Tensi throwing for two TDs in both games. His 5 touchdown passes in the 1965 Gator Bowl win over Oklahoma still stand today as the Gator Bowl record. Oh, and there’s that little bit about leading the ‘Noles to their first victory ever over UF.
Playing just before the bottom fell out in the early-to-mid seventies, Gary Huff sometimes gets overlooked as his teams were sandwiched between the Bill Peterson and Bobby Bowden eras. It’s a shame because the Tampa native re-wrote the FSU record book. Despite being a full-time starter for just two seasons (in an 11-game era where bowl game stats aren’t included), Huff’s career passing yard record stood until Weinke broke it in 2000. That’s nearly 30 years for you non-math majors. The same can be said for his 52 career passing TDs, which still ranks 5th all time. Known for his rifle arm, in 1972 Huff was named Football Writers Association 1st team All-American and UPI second team All-American, leading to him becoming the 33rd overall pick in the 1973 draft.
Steve Tensi, Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Jameis Winston
Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke are easy choices for me, both men earning Heisman trophies and National Championship trophies, among numerous other accolades. Steve Tensi was the first true star QB for the Noles, notching FSU’s first victory over the Florida Gators as well as a Gator Bowl win over the Oklahoma Sooners.
I struggled a bit with the last spot, ultimately choosing Jameis Winston over Casey Weldon and Gary Huff. Winston had one of the greatest single seasons in college football history but struggled on and off the field in his second season (the off-field distractions in particular made me consider others). Weldon was in the running to become FSU’s first Heisman “W” and beat the man to whom he finished second head-to-head, while Huff was FSU’s first Academic All-American as well as an All-American on the gridiron.
Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Gary Huff, Steve Tensi
If you’re reading this website you know why Ward & Weinke deserve 100% of the possible votes.
Huff and Tensi represent the pinnacle of the position during FSU’s early years. Tensi lead the 1964 squad that got a rare victory over the Gators and only pre-Bowden major bowl game win. Huff is still ranked in the Top 5 of passing yards & passing touchdowns in FSU history despite playing in an era where running out of the wishbone was the de facto offense of college football.
Charlie Ward, Jameis Winston, Chris Weinke, Casey Weldon
I decided to go with a more dispassionate, quantitative approach, and I still ended up with a similar four as the others here, except I of course had to go Ward over Travis. It’s kinda wild how well Jordan Travis’ 2022 campaign stacks up with Weldon and Ward’s best seasons. In fact, statistically, Travis is in the top 4 FSU quarterbacks in terms of career efficiency and stats (min. 300 attempts). He just doesn’t have the high-quality wins the others do. That’s not really through any fault of his own, but those wins (and trophies) matter. Even Weldon finished as a runner-up for the Heisman.
Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Jameis Winston, Steve Tensi
Three Heisman winners and national champions, plus the quarterback who first delivered a win vs. Florida. It’s pretty self-explanatory, no?
Side note — I almost went full millennial and put EJ Manuel on here just because of the work he did in helping elevate the program to where it ended up in 2013, but then I remembered 2012 NC State.
Double side note — If I wouldn’t be absolutely besmirching the legacy of one of the above, I would’ve put Sean Maguire on here in a heartbeat. There is a small part of me that thinks he really might’ve gotten FSU into the playoffs in 2015 if he started the whole season, and his performance in the 2014 Clemson game is what makes college football so beautiful.
Third, and maybe definitely final, side note — Jordan Travis has a huge shot at playing his way into the four in 2023. He’s already found himself in rarefied air statistically, and if FSU can meet (and possibly exceed) expectations this season, those accolades should only continue to rack up.
So there you have it, folks. What do you think about these choices? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to vote for your top four choices: