Let’s get in the trenches.
To help the offseason pass a bit faster Tomahawk Nation has been putting together a position-by-position Mount Rushmore, chosen by our readers, to determine the top four Seminoles by weighing everything from stats to accomplishments to historical significance.
This week, we’re continuing the series by looking at interior defensive linemen, meaning defensive tackles and nose guards.
Today, we’ll post a poll for the Tomahawk Nation community to choose their top four Seminoles for that week’s position group from our group of nominees — or write-ins that didn’t make the initial cut. On Tuesday, various TN contributors will make their cases in a roundtable format and then finally, we’ll share the final poll results on Wednesday to determine that position’s Mount Rushmore.
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!
A defensive tackle and noseguard from Tampa, Brodrick Bunkley was a four-year letterman and a starter for more than half of his Seminole career. Bunkley dealt with injuries in his freshman and junior seasons but sandwiched between those two years was a nice sophomore campaign, in which “Bunk” tallied 38 tackles (including eight TFL), five QB hits, one and a half sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in 13 games as a rotational player.
He had a breakout year in 2005 as a senior, when he earned First-Team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated, the Football Writers Association, and College & Pro Football Weekly. He racked up 66 tackles (including 25 TFL), 15 QB hits, nine sacks, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble in 2005, helping lead FSU to an ACC title and Orange Bowl appearance.
By the time he was done, Bunkley had career totals of 119 tackles (37 TFL), 24 QB hits, 11.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles for his career. Bunkley was drafted in the 1st round by the Philadelphia Eagles and enjoyed an eight-year career with the Eagles, Broncos and Saints.
In 1980, Florida State went into Ohio State’s backyard to poach defensive tackle Alphonso Carreker from Columbus. Four years later, he became the Seminoles’ first NFL All-Rookie selection. In between, he authored an impressive career in Tallahassee.
A four-year leader for the ’Noles, “Chub” Carreker registered 252 tackles, 21 sacks, and 19 tackles for loss. He was a first-team All-South Independent honoree in both 1982 and 1983, as well as an AP All-American honorable mention in both of those years. Carreker was a third-team Football News All-American in ’83.
Former assistant head coach Chuck Amato spoke glowingly of Carreker, who was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame in 1990: “Not only may he be as good as there is in America, but he may be the best tackle to have ever played at Florida State.”
Known for his exemplary work ethic, Carreker was so disruptive that he commanded double and every triple teams from opposing offensive lines. He was chosen by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 1984 NFL Draft.
Darnell Dockett ended his football career in 2016 after spending ten years with the Arizona Cardinals. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a second team All-Pro in 2009. He also tied the immortal Reggie White for most sacks in a single Super Bowl. He recorded more than 40 sacks in his career, good for seventh all-time with the Cardinals.
His pro career was remarkable. Not just because it was so good, but because of what Dockett went through to get there. Before everything, before all the tackles and the sacks at the pinnacle of his profession, Dockett walked through unimaginable pain and tragedy. When he was just thirteen years old his mother was murdered. Her killer has never been found. Four months later, his father passed away from cancer, leaving him to be raised by his uncle. Despite this, Dockett was once quoted as saying he doesn’t have any down days, and that he’s always cheerful.
Dockett eventually became one of the best in a long line of elite defensive tackles to don the Garnet and Gold. He was certainly one of the most imposing and ferocious.
But Dockett was imposing and ferocious long before he made it to FSU. As a senior high school prospect from Burtonsville, Maryland, Dockett was named Maryland’s Player of the Year. He was also named a high school All-American by Parade and USA Today. The Sporting News ranked him the No. 17 overall recruit in the country. And for good reason.
He arrived at Florida State in 1999 to play for Bobby Bowden, choosing the ’Noles over Ohio State and North Carolina. He ended up redshirting his true freshman season as FSU went wire-to-wire No. 1 and undefeated national champs.
Most defensive tackles take years to fully develop and hit their stride in big-time college ball, almost always as upperclassmen. But not so for Dockett. As a redshirt freshman in 2000 on another loaded FSU team just fresh off a national title, Dockett won a starting job. He started the last ten games of the season, racking up 66 tackles including 19 for loss (tied for team lead), along with seven sacks (third on team). He also led the team in quarterback hurries with 18. He was named a 1st team freshman All-American by both Football News and The Sporting News. Football News also named him the Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.
Dockett followed that up with a sophomore campaign that saw him set multiple school records. Despite receiving far more attention from opposing offensive coordinators in the form of double teams, Dockett would not be denied. He added another 68 tackles and 19 quarterback hurries. His 22 tackles for loss set a new single-season school record. He also recorded five tackles for loss against Georgia Tech that year, setting a then single-game school record. He was rewarded with a first team All-ACC selection.
Now one of the premier defensive tackles in all of college football as a junior in 2002, Dockett continued his run of dominance. He added another 57 tackles, seven for loss, two sacks, and 17 quarterback hurries. Despite lower numbers due to even more double teams, it was enough to break Ron Simmons’ career record of 44 tackles for loss; a record that had stood for 22 years.
Dockett chose to return for his senior season in 2003. He put up another impressive pain distribution chart: 55 tackles with 17 for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 16 more quarterback hurries. The national recognition returned — Dockett was again named first team All-ACC, but also a first team All-American by College Football News, second team All-American by The Sporting News, and third team All-American by the Associated Press.
In all, Dockett recorded 248 total tackles, half unassisted, with 10.5 sacks, and a staggering 65 tackles for loss (which, again, set a new school career record) and a remarkable 70 quarterback hurries. His sacks and tackles for loss accounted for more than two-and-a-half football fields of lost yardage for opposing offenses. Dockett made his mark at FSU and rightfully took his place in the history books among the best players in Florida State history.
One of the most decorated recruiting victories in the Jimbo Fisher era, Goldman was a huge addition to the FSU program out of Washington, D.C. The coveted lineman from the DMV area was a consensus 5-star prospect and wasted no time making his presence felt, appearing in 10 games as a freshman on a stacked 2012 roster.
In 2013 as a sophomore, Goldman announced himself to the college football world. Starting in 13 games, he accumulated 19 tackles (including three TFL) and two sacks. He tallied three tackles and half a TFL in the BCS Championship game victory over Auburn, ending the season as an important piece of the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense (12.1 ppg), third-ranked total defense (281.4 ypg) and 18th-best run defense (124.8).
Then came his junior campaign in 2014. Goldman led the ‘Noles with four sacks and ranked third with eight tackles for loss, finishing with 35 total stops. However, he had arguably the top play of the season for the Seminoles, forcing a fumble with 1:36 remaining against Clemson in a tie game with the Tigers in FSU territory at the 18-yard line. The fumble was recovered by Nate Andrews and the Seminoles forced overtime. Goldman dominated the extra period, recording a sack for a four-yard loss and blowing up a 4th-and-1 play that went for no gain, helping lead FSU to a crucial victory.
Following that outstanding 2014 campaign, Goldman earned All-ACC First Team (Media/Coaches), Sports Illustrated All-America First Team, and Associated Press All-America First Team honors.
Goldman ended his time in Tallahassee as a two-year starter who finished his career with 62 tackles (including 12 TFLs) and six sacks over 36 games (27 starts). He improved markedly every season and by the end of his junior year, he was among the top echelon of defensive linemen in the nation. He was drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bears in 2015 and in 81 games over six seasons, Goldman has accumulated 174 tackles, 13 sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one blocked kick.
Recruited as a linebacker out of Bartow, FL, Odell Haggins arrived in Tallahassee in 1985 and would redshirt his first year on campus. As a redshirt-freshman, Haggins saw his first playing time at inside linebacker, but It wouldn’t take long for him to develop into the monster in the trenches that he is remembered as.
Coaches soon realized Haggins’ skill set might be utilized better elsewhere, and the redshirt sophomore made the transition to nose guard where he would tally 73 tackles and 8 sacks, earning an honorable mention in the All-American vote. Not bad for his first year at the position.
Coming off the success of the previous year, FSU was ranked no. 1 in the country heading into the 1988 season and confidence was at an all-time high. So much so, that prior to the season, the world was gifted with “Seminole Rap.” Haggins was not only one of the best defensive linemen in the country, but a hip hop icon:
The first game of the season wouldn’t bode well for FSU, but following that mishap, they wouldn’t drop a game the rest of the year. Putting his rap career permanently behind him, Haggins was a force to be reckoned with in the trenches. The junior finished the year with 68 tackles, 3 sacks, 2, force fumbles, and a pick-six in FSU’s largest ever win over the Florida Gators, helping him to a second-team All-American nod.
Haggins’ senior year would be his best yet, notching 100 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 4 TFLs, finally earning him first-team All-American recognition. That would be his last year as a player, but his story in the garnet and gold doesn’t end there.
After being taken in the 9th round of the NFL draft, Haggins spent three years in the NFL before returning to Tallahassee as a coach on Bobby Bowden’s staff. Spending the better part of three decades coaching FSU’s defensive line, Haggins has become one of the most highly regarded defensive line coaches in the nation, sending many lineman to the NFL, including multiple first round draft picks.
From 2011 to 2013, the cropped number eight jersey of Timmy Jernigan was at the forefront of opposing offense’s minds as he controlled the line of scrimmage and leaked into the backfields of FSU’s opponents. I mean…
The 5-star talent out of Lake City was a major recruiting win for Jimbo Fisher that also came at the expense of the long-favored Florida Gators. After Jernigan spurned Gainesville for Tallahassee, he made an instant impact along FSU’s defensive line, playing in 13 games as a true freshman. Jernigan’s 30 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 6 tackles for a loss that year were good enough to earn him First-Team Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association.
Jernigan’s role would increase in 2012 and the sophomore would help the Seminoles to the ACC Championship game, where he put up his best performance of the season. Many will remember James Wilder Jr.’s two touchdowns and Karlos Williams’ game sealing interception against the Yellow Jackets, but Jernigan was disruptive throughout the night. Recording FSU’s only sack and finishing the evening with 9 total tackles (1.5 for a loss) and an ACC Championship, Jernigan proved indispensable in the contest.
2013 was a career year for Jernigan. There wasn’t an offensive lineman he met that could handle him for 60 minutes. Racking up 63 tackles, 11 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks, Jernigan was named a first-team All-American by ESPN and a second-team All-American by the AP and USA Today, among others.
After getting his National Championship ring, Jernigan opted to forgo his senior year in favor of the NFL Draft. He was taken in the second round by the Baltimore Ravens and would go on to be named to the All-Rookie team next to some guy named Aaron Donald.
Jernigan would play three years in Baltimore, becoming an important piece of the Raven’s defense. Despite this, Jernigan was traded to the Eagles in 2017, which turned out pretty well for the defensive tackle, as he won a Super Bowl his first year with the birds.
A noseguard and defensive tackle from Sherman Oaks, California, Travis Johnson was four-year letterman and two-year starter. The dominating interior defensive lineman earned First-Team All-American honors in 2004 from CBS Sports, ESPN and Rivals.
He had 18 TFL in 2004 and 13.5 in 2002, both highlights among the 175 tackles, 53.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 31 QB hits, and six forced fumbles for his career. Johnson was drafted in the first round by the Houston Texans and played in the NFL for six years for the Texans and Chargers.
Among his honors:
2001 The Sporting News - 1st Team Freshman All-American
2004 CBS Sports - 1st Team All-American, ESPN - 1st Team All-American, Rivals.Com - 1st Team All-American, College Football News - 2nd Team All-American, Associated Press - 3rd Team All-American, Sports Illustrated - All-American - Honorable Mention
2004 Atlantic Coast Conference - All-Conference - 1st Team
Here’s a fun trivia question: Who was the first Seminole to capture consensus All-America honors twice? That would be nose guard Ron Simmons.
Yet another talent harvested from Georgia, Simmons was a huge commitment for the ’Noles to land out of Warner Robins, where he played linebacker. Here’s Bobby Bowden discussing Simmons as the toughest recruit he ever had to sign— as well as Simmons’ incredible impact for the Seminoles.
Bowden would also credit Simmons with turning the program around— when the latter was merely a freshman.
And that’s because Simmons had an immediate impact in Tallahassee. In his very first game, at Southern Miss, he was already starting, and for good reason: he registered 10 tackles, one for loss, and blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown just before halftime that resulted in Florida State’s first score en route to a 35-6 thrashing of the Golden Eagles. He was named the national lineman of the week.
Wreaking havoc in the middle, Simmons hit double-digit tackles in the first six games of the season, as well as 14 TFL, punctuated by 5 tackles for loss against North Texas State. That total has only been bettered once in a Florida State game. Simmons finished the 1977 season with a career-high 12 sacks, tied for ninth in FSU history. He also set the program’s single-season record by causing a phenomenal 13 fumbles. Teams just couldn’t handle Simmons, who was a physical specimen, one-on-one and sometimes even two-on-one.
How much of an immediate impact did Simmons have? The Seminoles improved from a 5-6 team in 1976 to a 10-2 squad in 1977, finishing with their first ever AP rank: 14th. The AP recognized Simmons with an All-America honorable mention, and he was a first-team freshman All-American per Football News, which also conferred upon him freshman lineman of the year honors.
Simmons continued his legacy in 1978, replicating his 128 tackles from the year before while posting a career high of 17 against Houston. The season that saw Osceloa and Renegade lead the Seminoles onto the field for the first time included Simmons leading the way by creating a new ceiling for defensive line play. He also raised the floor at Florida State— the ’78 squad had the worst record of any of his four FSU teams, and that was at a respectable 8-3. Remember, prior to Simmons’ arrival, the ’Noles hadn’t had a winning record since 1972. Simmons repeated as an AP All-America honorable mention in 1978, while also earning third-team honors and a first-team Sophomore All-America nod from Football News.
In 1979, Simmons helped author the greatest FSU season to date, turning in a career-high 17 tackles for loss, tied for 15th in the Florida State record book. More than doubling-up their opponents in aggregate scoring (326-160), the Seminoles went undefeated in the regular season before dropping a 24-7 Orange Bowl result to Oklahoma. Still, their No. 6 final ranking was a program best at the time.
Simmons dominated All-America voting, earning consensus All-America honors after being named a first-teamer by the AP, the UPI, Walter Camp, Football News, Kodak, and the American Football Coaches Association. The Sporting News must have taken the football season off, as it named Simmons just an honorable mention.
In his senior season of 1980, Simmons was a key cog on perhaps the best defense in FSU history. They allowed just 103 points all season, a total no Seminole squad has bettered since. Check this out—opponents scored two rushing TDs on the 1980 defense. Two. All season.
And against a brutal schedule, the D was at its best late. And I do mean its best: the 1980 FSU defense did not allow a single fourth-quarter point.
I’m gonna type that again.
The 1980 FSU defense did not allow a single fourth-quarter point.
And that was against a ridiculous schedule. Here are some of the teams they shut out in the fourth quarter, with their end-of-year ranks:
- No. 18 Miami
- No. 7 Nebraska (this was the game in Lincoln when Husker fans gave the Seminoles a standing ovation after the game)
- No. 2 Pitt
- No. 19 Florida (Simmons went 4-0 against UF)
The defense allowed just 21 second-half points all season. But a 10-9 loss to the Hurricanes and another Orange Bowl defeat to the Sooners saw the ’Noles finish at 10-2. Still, FSU’s No. 5 final ranking was another program high.
Simmons again collected consensus All-America honors, securing first-team recognition from the UPI, Walter Camp, The Sporting News, Kodak, and the American Football Coaches Association, as well as a third-team acknowledgment from Football News. He was also a finalist for the Lombardi Trophy. The crazy thing about Simmons is that his most productive statistical seasons were his first two, when he wasn’t a consensus All-American, as he battled lower-body injuries later in his career.
Simmons is still fourth at FSU with 25 career sacks, and tied for fourth with 44 tackles for loss. He’s caused more fumbles (17) than any ’Nole ever and is also tied for the program lead in career recoveries (8).
The Cleveland Browns took Simmons in the sixth round of the 1981 NFL Draft, but he really made his name in pro wrestling. He wrestled under both his real name and Faarooq Asaad and is recognized as the first African-American world champion.
In 1986, Simmons was inducted into the Florida State Hall of Fame, and two years later he became the first Seminole defender to have his number retired. In 2009, Simmons was also enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Just enjoy some of the highlights of Simmons:
And yes, everyone at the time knew Ron Simmons was special. There was even a tribute song about him playing on local Tallahassee radio at the time.
The first half of Corey Simon’s Seminole career was marked by little more than expectations. A product of Boynton Beach, Florida, Simon attended Ely High School in Pompano Beach. He was the Miami Herald’s defensive player of the year in Florida as a high school senior, and named to USA Today’s All-USA high school squad. If you’re growing up in Florida during the greatest dynasty run in college football history, where else would you go but Florida State?
Unfortunately, injuries derailed Simon’s early career. He redshirted his freshman year in 1995. In 1996 he appeared in just one game, against Duke, recording three tackles, again largely sidelined due to injury. In 1997, as a redshirt sophomore, Simon began to contribute. He played in nine games, but did not start any. For a recruit of his caliber, even at a school like Florida State, one would be forgiven for believing there was a chance that Simon would not live up to his potential. But the flashes were there. Even though he only recorded twelve total tackles in ‘97, he had seven for a loss, along with two sacks.
As it turned out, it would just be foreshadowing.
It’s hard to describe Simon’s redshirt junior season in 1998 as anything other than it all clicking together. He collected 65 tackles, most importantly hoarding a whopping 16 tackles for a loss, along with five sacks. Football News named Simon a 2nd team All-American, while he was named a 1st team All-American by no less than the Associated Press. He was also awarded the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award, given annually to the conference’s “most courageous” player.
Oh, and he played nose tackle, not three-tech. As in, his main responsibility was to eat up blocks.
It’s weird, but strangely enough being a 1st team All-American isn’t how Simon cemented his legacy at FSU. To be fair, you have to do a little bit better than that. And he did, in 1999, building on top of his foundational 1998 campaign.
As a redshirt senior, Simon was the leader of a defense that would go on to help secure an undefeated season and the country’s first wire-to-wire team, culminating in FSU’s second national championship. Such an accomplishment would require Simon to be one of the best defensive tackles in all of college football. Simon was up to the challenge.
I feel compelled to point out that in the clip above Simon is the second defensive lineman from the top of the screen. Yet he still makes a crucial play all the way in the middle of the field back in the end zone. In a hold-your-breath moment. In the national championship.
On the season Simon racked up 84 tackles, including an absolutely extraterrestrial 21 for a loss that lead the ACC, with another four sacks. He was also a finalist for both the Lombardi and Outland Trophies.
Simon was predictably named a consensus All-American, a 1st teamer by no less than seven different publications. He finished with 193 total tackles, including 44 for a loss, with eleven total sacks and three forced fumbles. The 44 tackles for loss tied the school career record set by the legendary Ron Simmons.
But it wasn’t just the tackles that makes Simon reach such lofty status as a Seminole legend. It was everything he did that didn’t count on the score sheet. Things like eating up blockers, allowing guys like Tommy Polley and Jamal Reynolds to feast.
With nothing left to accomplish at the collegiate level — it being just a coincidence that his college eligibility was exhausted — Simon entered the NFL’s 2000 Draft. He was selected sixth overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. He would go on to have a lengthy and productive eight-year professional career spanning 256 tackles, 32 sacks, nine forced fumbles, and All-Rookie and Pro Bowl nods before injuries ended his career.
Carl Simpson arrived in Tallahassee as a 6’3”, 235 pound tight end recruit. By the time he left five years later, the Bailey, Georgia native had transformed himself into a 280 pound lineman who played a key role in some outstanding defensive units, making impacts as both an interior defensive lineman and as a defensive end.
Finally finding the field in his redshirt-sophomore season, Simpson recorded 30 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and four fumble recoveries, showing a knack for being around the ball. In his redshirt-junior season, he posted 53 tackles, 11 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. A year later in 1992, he collected 65 tackles and nine more sacks in his final season in Tallahassee.
As a junior in 1991, he was named to the All-South Independent First Team. As a senior, he was a first-team All-ACC selection. He would be a second round selection by the Chicago Bears (sound familiar) in the 1993 NFL Draft, going on to play six seasons as a pro.
Who are the top four interior defensive linemen in FSU history?
Quarterbacks: Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Jameis Winston, Jordan Travis
Running Backs: Warrick Dunn, Dalvin Cook, Greg Allen, Amp Lee
Wide Receivers: Peter Warrick, Fred Biletnikoff, Rashad Greene, Ron Sellers
Tight Ends: Nick O’Leary, Pat Carter, Lonnie Johnson, Melvin Pearsall
Offensive Tackles: Walter Jones, Alex Barron, Pat Tomberlin, Cam Erving
Interior Offensive Linemen: Rodney Hudson, Jamie Dukes, Bryan Stork, Clay Shiver
Defensive Ends: Peter Boulware, Andre Wadsworth, Reinard Wilson, Derrick Alexander