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Florida State Mount Rushmore: Staff picks for top four FSU cornerbacks

Tomahawk Nation contributors give their versions of the Mount Rushmore of FSU greats, position by position.

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Who are the top four all-time Florida State cornerbacks?

Yesterday, we posted a poll for the Tomahawk Nation community to kick off the debate, with the final poll results coming Wednesday to reveal the Mount Rushmore of FSU corners.

Today, we present to you the choices from some of our staff personalities below. These guys have delved into their considerable knowledge about Florida State Seminoles football, or quite possibly just threw darts at a board with Perry’s face on it* (we may never know).

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts on their picks in the comments and if you haven’t voted yet, hop into the poll below.

*Editor’s note: this board was not created for voodoo-related activities — rather, it was this year’s staff Christmas gift.

Who are the top four cornerbacks in FSU history?


Deion Sanders, Terrell Buckley, J.T. Thomas, Lee Corso

The first three choices were easy for me. Deion Sanders is the best cornerback the game has ever seen. Terrell Buckley personified the Mickey Andrews Dynasty Era defense with his talent and persona. JT Thomas broke the color barrier for the program and still had one hell of a career with 10 interceptions and six blocked kicks. After those three…. wow, it got difficult.

It came down to Corey Sawyer and Lee Corso for me. Sawyer was a bad dude and would be the top corner in school history at many other schools, but Corso’s impact on the program and career interception totals are too great to leave off. The Sunshine Scooter rides again!

Matt Minnick:

Terrell Buckley, Deion Sanders, J.T. Thomas, Bobby Butler

For many positions I was able to choose three pretty easily and then have to debate myself on the fourth. But for cornerbacks it was a 2 and 2 deal. Sanders and Buckley are a clear notch above the rest for me. Primetime is probably the best cornerback the game has ever seen, while Buckley arguably had a single-season that topped anything Sanders ever put together. Both guys are in the College Football Hall of Fame, both guys were unanimous All-American’s (with Sanders unthinkably doing it twice), both guys were electric punt returners, and despite playing just 34 games Buckley is still the NCAA record holder for interception return yards with 501.

I’ll add just a bit more about Buckley since he and LeRoy Butler are the reason I became a Green Bay fan. The pick-6 that immediately comes to mind for nearly everyone when T-Buck’s name is mentioned is his (big) house call to open up the 1991 Michigan game, where he unknowingly did his own version of the Lambeau Leap before Butler officially invented it. And to be clear, that is an all-time favorite FSU play of mine as well, jump starting what might be one of the most impressive FSU performances ever. However, there’s a lesser known interception that always epitomized everything exciting about Buckley as a player, and that’s his zig-zagging, high-stepping, field-generaling, crowd roaring return against Virginia Tech in 1990. Not only did it come at a crucial moment in the game with FSU trailing deep into the third quarter, it showcases all the defensive and return talents he had. Check out that return and more on a great episode of the Bobby Bowden show:

After those top two, things got real difficult, real fast. I kid you not I typed out 6 different names into the final two spots. Corey Sawyer, Clifton Abraham, Tay Cody, and Lee Corso all had drafts made for etching onto the mountainside. But in the end it was J.T. Thomas and Bobby Butler who got the nod.

Thomas, who was turned down by UGA after legendary coach Vince Dooley told him they were not ready for a black player, literally changed FSU football history under coach Bill Peterson by being one of four players to break the color barrier at FSU as a sophomore in 1970 (the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play until 1972). He was also a hell of a defensive back, earning 1st team All-American honors back when FSU was mainly known for being a former girls school with a high-flying passing attack.

Bobby Butler came along about a decade after Thomas and helped young coach Bobby Bowden show what was possible in Tallahassee. He anchored the secondary in 1979 and 1980, the latter being arguably the best defense in school history.

Perry Kostidakis:

Terrell Buckley, Deion Sanders, JT Thomas, Corey Sawyer

Buckley and Sanders were no-brainers — two of the best to ever do it, each helped elevate the Florida State to previously inconvincible heights and laid the platform for the program to be where it is today.

JT Thomas, in his first game in a Florida State uniform, managed two blocked kicks — not exactly a cornerback stat, but just another example of how much he made an impact in Tallahassee, in so many different ways. For him to have accomplished all that he did, knowing the weight on his shoulders and expectations, is even more impressive to me.

On the final entry, I went back and forth between Sawyer and Lee Corso — the fact that the Sunshine Sccoter managed to rack up 14 interceptions in an era where offenses looked like modern-day Iowa is pretty remarkable, and his impact on the college game is undeniable, though that came after his time in an FSU uniform.

Sawyer’s role in securing Florida State’s first title can’t be overlooked, though, combined with his play and production from start to finish during his Seminoles’ career. He was electric as a returner, punt or interception, and carries the honor of being one of just eight FSU defensive backs to be a consensus All-American.

My other begrudging leave-offs: Bobby Butler, Clifton Abraham, and, honestly, you can make the argument Jalen Ramsey deserves a spot here and at safety.

Juan Montalvo:

Deion Sanders, Terrell Buckley, Corey Sawyer, Lee Corso

My criteria for these pieces has been trying to highlight those who helped bring national titles through their presence at FSU - primarily by their performance in National Championship seasons. Only one factors with primacy here, and that speaks to the volume of intensely successful FSU cornerbacks in history. Sawyer has the title pedigree, and the stats, but several others come to mind who were factors who didn’t have the latter: Ronald Darby, PJ Williams, Mario Edwards - Tay Cody was on this list as well, but the first title took him ahead of Sawyer for me.

Deion Sanders needs no introduction, and yesterday’s piece highlighted his FSU career better than I ever could. While his coaching career will and has tarnished his reputation among Noles fans, particularly because of Travis Hunter, Sanders’ impact on the field was simply massive for FSU.

Terrell Buckley also needs little hype. My favorite FSU highlight video has Deion, T Buck, and both Warricks, Dunn and Peter. His interception of Michigan at the Big House set the tone for the next decade of FSU Football. On the second play of the game, he took Elvis Grbac’s pass to the house. The Foolah from Pascagoula went on to an excellent NFL career and is currently coaching in XFL 3.0.

Corey Sawyer was critical to the watershed moment for FSU - Bobby Bowden taking the Seminoles to their first national championship. Six interceptions in the 1993 season cements his place in FSU lore. While safety Richard Coes nabbed the only interception for defensive backs against Nebraska in the title game, Sawyer was the exemplary cornerback of 1993.

Lee Corso has simply done so much for the sport of college football that he can’t be left off my list. Waking up and watching coach make the picks at the end of game day is a Saturday tradition - part of the pomp and circumstance that helps draw so many to this beautiful, silly game. This game doesn’t take itself as seriously as the NFL - which I personally find to be so endearing - and has been a part of the premier College Gameday panel for three decades. While Corso may be nearing his retirement, his impact on how we enjoy college football will last forever. I’m sure I’ll be showing kids videos of Corso’s best, a figure who took a buttoned up broadcast and helped turn it into a key piece of the spectacle surrounding what we all know as Gameday. Not so fast, my friends.

Jon Marchant:

Deion Sanders, Terrell Buckley, J.T. Thomas, Lee Corso

Florida State has had a ridiculous amount of talent in the secondary, and it’s near impossible to disregard pro careers or other contributions to the game, simply because so many that have come through FSU have also done so. Deion is the ‘‘Jerry Rice” of cornerbacks. Buckley’s career is legendary in its own right. Thomas’ legacy and talent is indisputable, and Lee Corso defined the entertainment of college football for generations both on and off the field. I’d agree that Corey Sawyer deserves a spot up here. I’d even agree there’s an argument for some players that are more recent. I personally also have a soft spot for the career of Tony Carter. But I suppose Mt. Rushmore is meant for those legacies worthy enough to be etched in stone, and when I think about these four I can’t help but think I’m not so much selecting them as I am simply looking up at the faces that are already there.


A) I would love to leave Deion Sanders off my list due to his recent shenanigans, but you can’t argue with his success as a Seminole and leaving him off would not be right. That said, there is not any more I can say that true Seminole fans already know.

2) LeRoy Butler because in his one year as a starting cornerback, he was named Consensus All-American, Associated Press 1st Team All-American, Walter Camp 1st Team All-American, UPI 1st Team All-American, and Sporting News All-American Honorable Mention. How can anyone leave him off with these credentials?

Also, the puntrooskie.

D) Terrell Buckley because he was a UNANIMOUS All-American, named first team All American by American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press, Walter Camp, Football News, Football Writers Association, UPI, Sporting News, Kodak, and Scripps Howard.

Most importantly, Buckley was the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award presented to the best defensive back in college football.

Lastly, during his career Buckley established a new NCAA record for career interception return yardage with 501 yards, a record that had been set in the 1970s.

Shade Tree) Corey Sawyer. It was not going to be an easy job replacing Terrell Buckley, but Sawyer did just that in his short 26 game career at FSU. He was a Consensus All-American, as well as being named 1st Team All-American by Walter Camp, Football News, Sporting News, United Press International, and Associated Press 2nd Team All-American.

Oh yeah, he was also a huge part of FSU winning their first National Championship in 1993.

Who are the top four cornerbacks in FSU history?

Previous staff picks


Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Tackles

Interior Offensive Linemen

Defensive Ends

Defensive Tackles


Previous results

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

Defensive Tackles: Ron Simmons, Darnell Dockett, Corey Simon, Timmy Jernigan

Linebackers: Derrick Brooks, Marvin Jones, Sam Cowart, Paul McGowan