Only two more position groups to go.
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 safeties. While some of these names played at multiple positions, we’re categorizing guys at corner or safety based on where they spent the most time and made their greatest contributions at FSU.
A reminder of the process — 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. If you feel so inclined, you’ll have the opportunity to throw in any 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!
Francis Joseph Bonasorte was born in Pittsburgh in 1957. He walked on to FSU as a tight end in 1977 in head coach Bobby Bowden’s second year on the job.
He was 6’1 and just 177 pounds. He wasn’t the biggest, or the strongest, or the fastest. But he was smart. Bowden promptly moved Bonasorte to defensive back.
Slowly but surely Monk worked his way up the depth chart. He was awarded a scholarship and a starting spot as a safety in 1978. He didn’t disappoint, recording 72 tackles, three forced fumbles, and three interceptions.
Then, as a junior in 1979, Monk racked up an incredible eight interceptions to go with another 64 tackles. He set a new single-season school record for interceptions and led the country in picks for most of the season, ultimately finishing fourth. His efforts helped create one of the best defenses ever at FSU and the Seminoles went undefeated in the regular season. He was named a third team All-American by the Associated Press as FSU finished 11-1 and ranked 6th in the country.
Monk followed that up with another 55 tackles and four interceptions in his senior season in 1980, as FSU went 10-2 and ranked 5th in the country. He was named a second team All-American by Football News and an honorable mention All-American by the AP, making him a two-time All-American. His 15 career interceptions also set a new school record.
Both of those records stood until Terrell Buckley came along, but Bonasorte is still second all-time at FSU in both categories.
“He wasn’t the fastest guy out there but he knew where that damn ball was going to be,” said Sam Childers, a Tallahassee resident and former Seminole teammate of Bonasorte’s.
Bonasorte dedicated his life to Florida State, later spending thirteen years as president and executive director of the school’s Varsity Club. He was inducted into FSU’s Hall of Fame in 1995 and also named to FSU’s All-Time football team by Athlon Sports. In 2008 Bonasorte joined FSU’s athletics department, where he was senior associate athletics director for eight years, often being described as the glue that held the department together.
Monk Bonasorte embodied not just the FSU football program, but all of FSU and what it strives to stand for. In doing so, he became a legend.
For many, Terrence Brooks was a bit of an afterthought in the 2010 recruiting class. After all, it featured top names like Lamarcus Joyner, Christian Jones, Christian Green, Bjoern Werner, Telvin Smith, Jeff Luc, and Kenny Shaw. Few would’ve guessed that Brooks would be among the most important signees from that class, which set the foundation for FSU’s third National Championship.
Brooks was a two-way standout for Dunnellon High, playing running back, wide receiver, and numerous spots along the defensive backfield. He chose FSU over Miami and proved too valuable on special teams to redshirt, gaining valuable reps as FSU acclimated to new head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Brooks worked his way into the rotation in 2011, often as a dime when FSU went with six in the backfield. He picked up steam as the year went along and snagged a crucial interception, the first of his career, to seal FSU’s victory over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Brooks became a full-time starter at free safety in all 14 games during his junior campaign, again shining brightest under the biggest spotlights. He notched 12 tackles (11 unassisted) against Clemson and another eight against Florida, while also grabbing another interception in FSU’s bowl victory over Northern Illinois. Brooks led the Seminole secondary in tackles and established himself as a leader on a team heading into 2013 with high ambitions.
Brooks’ senior season saw him set career-bests in tackles (56), TFLs (eight, an outstanding number for a safety), and forced fumbles (two) while grabbing another two interceptions. His versatility allowed FSU to move him around to get other talented players on the field in various packages. Brooks started every game yet again but the starts were split between free safety and strong safety. Brooks was among the unsung heroes of FSU’s run to the championship trophy, and for his efforts was awarded with a first-team All-American nod from CBS Sports and an all-conference second-team spot in the ACC.
Growing up in Jacksonville, few could have imagined that LeRoy Butler would one day be a football legend. In fact, at times there was uncertainty around whether Butler would even be able to run. Born with brittle bones in his feet, Butler spent a good portion of his childhood in leg braces, casts, and a wheel chair.
Those inauspicious beginnings did not ultimately define Butler—he refused to let them—but they make his legacy all the more remarkable.
Butler arrived at Florida State in the fall of 1986, as he and his high school rival Ronald Lewis both made the decision to move a couple hours west. While he was a heralded high school prospect, named to several All-American teams, he was also joining an absolutely loaded Florida State secondary that included future NFL standouts like Martin Mayhew, Dedrick Dodge, and Deion Sanders. Playing time was predictably scarce.
However, by 1987 Butler began making his presence felt. Playing in what is still arguably FSU’s best defensive backfield of all time, on what is arguably FSU’s best team of all time, Butler saw action in 10 games as a Swiss Army knife, capable lining up at both safety spots and corner. Despite not starting a game, Butler finished 10th on the team in tackles and helped the 1987 Seminoles defense limit opponents to a 41.6% completion percentage and barely 140 passing yards per game.
Then came September 17th, 1988. On a soggy South Carolina afternoon, Butler and Bobby Bowden both became immortalized in college football history (incredibly, Butler would leave an equal—if not greater—legacy in the NFL, but more on that in a bit). You can check out a full breakdown of the Puntrooskie here, but I’ll never miss an opportunity to watch what Beano Cook referred to as “The greatest play since My Fair Lady.”
The very next week, FSU welcomed their first ever Big 10 opponent to Tallahassee in the form of defending Rose Bowl champ Michigan State. For the second consecutive game, Butler came up big in the 4th quarter, this time effectively ending any real threat of a loss with a pick-6.
After the 1988 season concluded, FSU witnessed the exodus of many of the names who started the Dynasty Era. Many worried the Seminoles would take a step back after two straight top-four finishes, and these concerns appeared well-founded after the ‘Noles started the season 0-2. However, Butler, who moved over to the starting cornerback role for his senior year, made sure everyone in the nation knew that FSU was here to stay.
Having evened up their record at 2-2, the Seminoles ventured north to take on a top 20 Syracuse team. Butler put the exclamation point on FSU’s 41-10 demolition with this 87-yard interception return for a touchdown, his second INT of the day:
Butler picked off another pass the following week in Blacksburg, Virginia, leading the ‘Noles to another blowout victory. Two weeks later he jump-started what is fondly remembered as one of the greatest—and loudest—games ever in Doak Campbell Stadium with this opening play interception.
Butler would cap his senior season in Tempe, Arizona with yet another interception, as Florida State destroyed sixth-ranked Nebraska 41-17 in the Fiesta Bowl. His seven interceptions (eight including the Fiesta Bowl) still rank 5th all-time for a single season in FSU history and, along with 94 tackles and nine more pass break-ups, would earn him consensus first-team All-American status.
Following the 1989 season, Butler was selected 48th overall in the 1990 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers, where he’d soon be joined by Edgar Bennett and Terrell Buckley. Playing primarily as a safety, Butler enjoyed a stellar career in Green Bay where he was a stalwart against the pass and the run for more than a decade. In fact, he became the first defensive back in NFL history to join the career 20 sack/20 interception club.
Butler’s 721 solo tackles are the most in the history of the Packers franchise, while his 38 interceptions are tied for 4th most in Green Bay history with Charles Woodson. A four-time first team All-Pro selection, Butler was an integral part of turning the Packers from one of the league’s worst teams in 1990 to Super Bowl 31 champs in 1996. In recognition of his accomplishments, not only has Butler been inducted into the Green Bay Hall of Fame, he was also named one of the starting safeties on the 1990s NFL All-Decade team.
In 2022, Leroy Butler was finally elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a (far too) long wait. But despite all of his honors and accolades, perhaps his most recognizable pro legacy is being the originator of the famous Lambeau Leap in Green Bay.
Ever have those moments when you see a name from a past team and think, I totally forgot about that guy. Then you look up his stats and think, damn, he was better than I thought? Jerome Carter has entered the chat.
Hailing from Lake City, Jerome Carter joined the Tribe in the 2001 season and found playing time in four games, notching 11 tackles. In FSU’s season opener against Duke, he even blocked a punt, recovered it, and scored a touchdown. He showed the coaching staff he could be trusted, rarely missing tackles on the practice fields.
Over the next three seasons, Carter would quietly remake FSU’s rover position in his image. #23 became a consistent and familiar presence despite his unassuming demeanor, starting all 38 games between his sophomore and senior seasons. He was the model of consistency for a team struggling to find itself following the Dynasty run.
Carter was a tackling machine in 2002, racking up 94 of them (60 unassisted) from his rover position, good for third on the team. He earned the respect of his teammates on and off the field, quietly taking on a leadership role in the secondary while punishing opponents on game days.
His junior campaign resulted in 78 tackles (including 6.5 TFLs, as Mickey Andrews trusted him closer to the line of scrimmage than any other DB) and two interceptions, the first against Clemson and the second in the bowl game rematch with Miami. Largely overlooked during awards season, Carter was named Honorable Mention for all-conference by the ACC that year.
Carter’s senior season saw him accumulate 74 more tackles (5.5 TFLs), a career-best five pass deflections, and another interception in FSU’s romp over Virginia. Carter saved his best for last, going off for 16 tackles and a forced fumble against Florida and racking up another 10 stops in the bowl victory over West Virginia.
All told, Jerome Carter finished his FSU career with 257 tackles (246 of which came over his last three seasons), 13 TFLs, 11 pass breakups, three interceptions, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and a blocked punt for a touchdown. Though teammates Bryant McFadden and Antonio Cromartie often dominated the headlines, it was Carter’s reliability and quiet productivity that was the glue of the Seminole defensive backfield in the first half of the 2000’s.
Carter was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft and played three seasons in the NFL.
Dedrick Dodge came to Florida State from Mulberry, Florida, becoming a multi-year starter including eight of 12 games at free safety as part of vaunted 1987 FSU defense.
In his first season, he returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown against Southern Mississippi — the second of his career, with eight more still to come in his time in garnet and gold.
In 1987, he racked up two more interceptions, logging 25 tackles on the year.
He terrorized defenses to an even higher degree the following season, snagging five interceptions in 1988, two of which came against Tulane. He had an interception in three straight games later in the season, including a pick-six against Louisiana Tech and picked off another pass against Auburn in the bowl game.
Dodge started all 12 games in 1989, with 171 tackles, 12 pass breakups, 10 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), and a blocked kick.
A 6’2” defender from Miami, Florida, Gibson saw spot duty and special teams action as a freshman in 1997. He took over starting role halfway through the 1998 season as a sophomore and started every game thereafter.
During the Seminoles’ championship run in 1999, Gibson intercepted two passes against UNC, one against Miami, and one against Maryland.
He started at rover in three consecutive national championship games between 1998-2000 seasons, snagging an interception against Tennessee that he returned 43 yards. He notched six tackles and a key forced fumble against Virginia Tech.
Throughout his career, he logged 213 tackles, 16 pass breakups, seven interceptions, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.
Gibson was drafted 28th overall in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, playing six seasons in the silver and black.
Chris Hope is one of the few ’Noles ever to have been first-team Academic All-Americans twice, as well as four-time ACC All-Academic team honorees. It’s a remarkable feat that demonstrates consistency and discipline over four-year careers— and those traits were quite evident on the field as well.
Hope hit Tallahassee by way of Rock Hill, South Carolina as a highly-touted high school All-American known for his ability to stick receivers and running backs alike. After working his way onto the field for the better part of 1998 and 1999 as a reserve, Hope began getting the starting nod at free safety late in the Seminoles’ national title campaign of 1999. He would finish that season tied for the team lead with four interceptions— one of which came in a crucial moment against the Florida Gators:
In helping Florida State to its third consecutive national championship game appearance in 2000, Hope began receiving more individual acknowledgements. He was a second-team All-ACC selection and a second-team All-American, per The Sporting News. He set career highs in tackles (83) and TFLs (five), as well as breaking up nine passes, hauling in two more interceptions, and returning a fumble for a touchdown against North Carolina.
While the 2001 season marked the end of FSU’s championship game run, Hope still maintained a leadership role for Mickey Andrews’ defense and racked up 76 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and three more interceptions. After Hope’s final season with FSU in 2001, he was named to the All-ACC’s first team. He finished his time in Tallahassee with 234 tackles, 21 PBUs, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. His nine career interceptions remain tied for 19th all-time for the ’Noles.
That helped launch Hope’s very successful 10-year pro career. He was a third-round choice of Pittsburgh in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft. Four years later, he was part of a Steelers squad that won Super Bowl XL, and in 2008, Hope was a Pro Bowl selection while with the Tennessee Titans.
He now runs the Chris Hope Foundation, which helps families with children suffering from chronic illnesses.
Recruited as a quarterback out of Shanks High School in Quincy, Florida, it didn’t take long for Dexter Jackson to show his prowess as a defensive back on the FSU practice fields. Mickey Andrews switched him to safety as a freshman and the position change paid off for the Seminoles, as Jackson became one of the most well-rounded players on the dominant Florida State teams of the mid-to-late ‘90s.
Jackson was a two-sport athlete, running track for the Seminoles from 1996-1998, and began showcasing his athleticism as an underclassman on special teams with his propensity for blocking kicks. In just eight games played, Jackson had already gotten his hand on the end of three kicks, all against North Carolina. (Take that, Mack Brown.)
By his junior year, Jackson was a full-time starter at the safety position and had developed into a ball hawk with a habit of turning it up a notch in big games, something that would continue into his NFL career (more on that later). Jackson recorded interceptions in both the 1997 Sugar Bowl against Ohio State and the 1998 National Championship game against Tennessee. He hauled in eight of his nine career interceptions in his final two years, earning him second team All-ACC honors both years.
Despite coming up short in the National Championship in his final game as a Seminole, Jackson would have his shot at redemption in another championship game, and he took full advantage.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jackson would start in Super Bowl XXXVII just three years later. He was named the MVP of that game after intercepting Raiders’ quarterback Rich Gannon twice and helping lead the Bucs to their first Super Bowl victory. Jackson joined FSU legend Fred Biletnikoff as the only former ’Noles to be named Super Bowl MVP.
Before he even stepped foot on Florida State’s campus, Derwin James was being hailed as the real deal. That tends to happen when you’re a multi-position athletic freak who’s been committed to the same school for three years, even sporting a tattoo of the logo on one arm.
Hailed as a prospect with “all the makings of an NFL player,” James had hype surrounding him from the day that he committed to the Seminoles, during his freshman year while attending a junior day event, For three years he stayed committed to Florida State, even as he rose in rankings, got scholarships from just about every program in the nation, and became the No. 1 safety and No. 5 player in the 2015 recruiting class. This is a testament both to his love of FSU growing up and the loyalty he felt towards it for being the first school to offer him a scholarship.
The hype paid off, with James making an instant impact his freshman year. He logged only two tackles in the Seminoles’ first game in 2015 but then finished the season with 85, along with two forced fumbles, two sacks, and five tackles for loss.
Entering 2016, James was being looked at as a Thorpe Award contender, with Tomahawk Nation saying then that he was FSU’s best shot at the award since Terrell Buckley. Unfortunately, that hype was sidelined after two games when he went down with a knee injury, taking away one of the greatest weapons from a Florida State team that would ultimately go on to win the Orange Bowl with a 10-3 (5-3 ACC) record.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so as 2017 approached, James was labeled the “new prototype” for defenders moving forward, possessing enough intelligence, talent, and athletic ability to play any position on the field.
Though Florida State’s struggles on the field dampened those high hopes pretty quickly, James still made a name for himself throughout the year, lining up at multiple spots (even including kick returner) to register 84 tackles, six tackles for loss, two interceptions, and a blocked kick vs. Syracuse that ensured a Seminoles’ victory.
He entered the 2017 NFL Draft as one of the most highly-regarded prospects but slipped just outside of the top 15, going No. 17 to the Los Angeles Chargers. In his rookie year, he registered 75 tackles, four sacks, and three interceptions en route to a Pro Bowl appearance, of which he now has three.
Due to a variety of factors, Derwin James never received the All-American accolades many of his peers on this list have, or got the chance to truly compete for a national championship. But based on his talent, his output, and his status as somebody who truly embodied Florida State, James’ consideration for this Mount Rushmore is well deserved.
Bobby Bowden’s return to Tallahassee in 1976 produced immediate improvement on the field, with the Seminoles winning more games in his first season (five) than they had in the previous three seasons combined. However, his prowess on the recruiting trail didn’t begin to shine until the early months of 1977. With his southern charm and obvious coaching acumen, Bowden’s 1977 class has become known for laying the foundation for FSU’s rise to the mountain top of college football.
A couple of members of the 1977 class have already secured spots on past FSU Mount Rushmores in this series. Now, it’s time for Keith Jones to get his due.
Jones was a two-way star at Wildwood High School in central Florida and carried scholarship offers from Alabama, Georgia Tech, and the University of Florida. Each of those schools wanted him to play quarterback—after all, he was a two-time first team all-state signal caller. But Jones had other ideas. Preferring to be the one delivering blows instead of taking them, Jones wanted to play defensive back in college. That was just fine with Coach Bowden and one of his legendary assistants, Jim Gladden.
After not seeing action in FSU’s breakout 1977 campaign, Jones debuted as the starter at strong safety at the start of the 1978 season. Opponents going across the middle would feel his wrath for the next three years. Jones arrived at the football with cruel intentions to knock the opponent out cold. Jones’ 4th quarter interception against UF in 1980 was beautiful teamwork with the aforementioned Monk Bonasorte.
Over his three years roaming the Seminole secondary, Jones racked up 12 interceptions. During those three seasons, FSU had a remarkable 29-6 record, including 5-1 against UF and Miami. And while they ultimately lost both, Jones’ teams also became the first in FSU history to play in a major bowl game when they faced off against the mighty Oklahoma Sooners after the 1979 and 1980 seasons. Listen to Jones talk about those games and what it meant for the program here:
Jones was—and remains—every bit as successful off the field as he was on, earning Academic All-American distinctions in 1979 and 1980 before graduating magna cum laude. Of course, most Seminole fans still recognize Jones’ voice from his work as longtime color commentator for FSU football and basketball games. In fact, Jones won an Emmy for college football broadcasting in 2002.
Lamarcus Joyner, the No. 1 prospect in all of Florida in 2010, came to Florida State as a leader of Jimbo Fisher’s first official recruiting class as head coach. That group helped set the foundation for the program’s run to a title in 2013 and reestablish the Seminoles in the hierarchy of modern college football, but few embodied the desire to define a new culture at Florida State as much as Joyner.
He was considered undersized as a prospect, but his commitment to FSU turned a tide in recruiting circles, as suddenly it was cool for too prospects to choose the Seminoles again. Joyner’s frame may have been diminutive, but his crazy long arms and his overall talent was undeniable as a five-star recruit and the No. 14 overall in the country.
Joyner would make an impact instantly, appearing in all 14 games for the Seminoles his freshman season either in the secondary or as a return specialist. This was again crucial for recruiting, showing that Fisher would play the best players regardless of experience or seniority.
As a sophomore, he’d start at safety, registering 54 tackles and a career-high four interceptions as part of a 2011 squad that showcased FSU’s potential as a college football power once more. Against Notre Dame in the Champs Bowl, he’d take a kickoff back 77 yards, the third-longest in FSU bowl history.
His junior season, though, is when he became an undeniable fixture of Florida State football. 2012 would see his streak of starts at safety rise to 27, continuing an additional feat of having appeared in every possible game since his freshman year. Joyner led FSU in kick returns and return yardage and played a huge role on a defense that led the country in yards per play. Despite teams rarely throwing his way, he’d finish with another 51 tackles and a career-best five passes defensed.
Joyner, eligible to leave for the NFL, opted to stay in Tallahassee for the 2013 season, feeling that he still had more to accomplish in the garnet and gold. He and the coaching staff agreed that Joyner would switch from safety to cornerback in an effort not just to replace departed corner Xavier Rhodes, but to display Joyner’s versatility to the NFL and to allow other talented players to see the field at safety.
It was a move that paid off in spades, as explained in 2013 by SB Nation:
“In each of the last two seasons, Florida State has finished first in the nation in pass defense — one with Joyner at strong safety, one with Joyner at his new cornerback position. That tidbit alone would appear to indicate that he has had no effect, but a closer examination of the statistics will suggests otherwise.
This year’s secondary is even better, slightly superior in nearly every major category, whether that is yards allowed, opponent YPA or rating.”
Despite his position change, Joyner still logged some reps at safety and would lead all defensive backs in the country in sacks, and after not forcing a fumble his entire FSU career, Joyner would force three in his senior season, two of which came against Clemson in a complete annihilation in Death Valley. His game against the Tigers is one of the more impressive performances in Florida State history, with Joyner being a one-man wrecking ball that has to still haunt Tahj Boyd’s dreams. One sack, eight tackles, one interception, and two forced fumbles was Joyner’s statline for the night, and he and the 2013 Seminoles never looked back.
En route to delivering the national championship he’d signed up for in 2010, Joyner would register career bests for tackles (69), tackles for loss (7.0), sacks (5.5) and forced fumbles (3), enough to be named a Jim Thorpe Award finalist. He earned All-ACC nods in each of his final three seasons, and was named a NCAA Unanimous All-American in 2013.
He’d be drafted by the then-St. Louis Rams, quickly becoming a fan favorite and a force to be reckoned with in the NFL, where he’s about to embark upon his 10th season.
Lamarcus Joyner played a special role at Florida State, leading a cultural shift within a stagnant program, commanding a leadership position amongst a roster full of leaders, and just being really damn good at football.
Brian McCray may be the best FSU safety you’ve never heard of.
At just under six feet tall and 170 pounds soaking wet, McCrary didn’t exactly strike fear into opponents as he was getting off the bus. Once the helmet and pads came on, however, he made himself known to opposing ball carriers with big hits and bad intentions. After all, the former Golden Gloves boxer had the nickname “Boom-Boom” for a reason.
“There was nobody that hit more than I did,” McCrary said. “I would give up an interception for a hit. It was the part of the game I loved. I wasn’t big and I wasn’t fast, but I had this weapon on my head that I could use to hit people.”
It didn’t even matter if the people were on his own team. One day in practice, FSU receiver Jessie Hester came across the middle.
“I knocked him out cold,” said McCrary. “It was helmet-to-helmet. My thing was, don’t come in my zone.”
Arriving to Tallahassee in 1981 from Germantown, Tennessee, McCrary saw action in four games during his freshman year. Those four opponents? Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and LSU. How’s that for an introduction to college football? Yet the coaches trusted him and gave him reps, which would pay off down the road. Those four would be the only games out of 40 that McCrary wouldn’t start at one of the safety positions during his four years.
McCrary established himself as a reliable tackler and menace to quarterbacks in 1982, collecting 79 tackles, seven pass breakups, and four interceptions (and 98 return yards). He made eight tackles and returned an interception 45 yards in a big win over Miami, then picked off two more passes in a 56-26 thumping of the South Carolina Gamecocks. In the Gator Bowl victory over West Virginia, he recorded two more interceptions, giving him seven for the season + bowl game.
1983 was McCrary’s best season in the garnet and gold despite the Seminoles finishing 8-4. He racked up 99 tackles (69 unassisted), five interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Against #13 LSU in the second game of the season, McCrary single-handed KU forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes, crucial for FSU’s thrilling 40-35 victory. Seven days later, he picked off two more passes against Tulane. McCrary was an integral part of FSU’s resounding 28-3 Peach Bowl victory over UNC.
The 1984 campaign was McCrary’s last, but he still managed 73 tackles and three more interceptions despite dealing with nagging injuries. His highlight appearance came in Tempe against an Arizona State Sun Devil squad that wouldn’t go away. McCrary was a man possessed, racking up 17 tackles as FSU held on for a 52-44 victory. He’d finish with 260 tackles for his career.
McCrary’s 12 career interceptions are still tied for sixth all-time at FSU. He was named to FSU’s All-Decade Team of the 80’s, an even more significant accomplishment considering the amount of talent rolling through Tallahassee late in the decade.
McCrary tragically passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2018, but Boom-Boom’s legacy as a leader on the field and in the locker room will never fade.
Jalen Ramsey was a significant recruiting win for Jimbo Fisher’s staff and he made good on his lofty expectations quickly, becoming the first true freshman defensive back to start his first game for FSU since Deion Sanders— and what a start it was. Ramsey would nab an interception in that first game against Pitt at Heinz Field, setting the tone for one hell of a career in Tallahassee.
Ramsey finished as one of the best young defensive backs in the country during that special 2013 season, earning first-team freshman All-American honors and playing a large role in a stingy defense that helped lead the ’Noles to their third national title. He tallied 49 tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery that he brought back for a touchdown against Wake Forest.
Ramsey was a Swiss Army knife for the Seminoles, perhaps one of the most versatile defensive backs in program history, playing at safety during his freshman year before inheriting the famous STAR position on FSU’s defense during his sophomore season. He’d set career-highs in tackles (79), TFLs (10), sacks, forced fumbles, and interceptions that campaign.
When thinking of Ramsey’s versatility, no game stands out quite like his performance against the Miami Hurricanes in 2014. Florida State’s roller coaster season saw them have to dig themselves out of plenty of deficits, and that night in Miami Gardens it was Ramsey’s heroics that saved the Seminoles. Ramsey finished the game with a stat line that included 3 tackles (1 for a loss), a QB hurry, a forced fumble, an interception, and four pass breakups. Plus, he blocked a kick for good measure:
By his third and final year in Tallahassee, Ramsey transitioned away from his STAR role and became an outside cornerback, though he still logged plenty of reps at STAR and safety as part of a strong rotation, and was voted a consensus All-American at safety in 2015. He finished his time in Tallahassee with 180 tackles (15 for loss), 23 PBUs, five sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries, both of which he returned for touchdowns.
While Ramsey’s career stats might not jump out like others on this list, his film certainly does. Ramsey shut down opposing receivers from whatever position he happened to play and was a legitimate defensive weapon regardless of scheme, although he would make his NFL paychecks as a lockdown outside corner. Ramsey went on to be selected 5th overall in the NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and has quickly become the best in the league at his position.
Myron Rolle came to Florida State from the Hun School in New Jersey with tons of hype and high expectations. A consensus five-star recruit, he surprised many when he picked the ‘Noles, as he’d previously trumpeted academics as a key selling point for his next destination. While some mumbled under their breaths that FSU couldn’t hang with the other finalists academically, Rolle followed his heart to Bobby Bowden’s program and the new FSU College of Medicine. When he finally put ink to paper with the ‘Noles, he was the third-highest ranked defensive recruit in the modern era to ever sign with FSU.
Rolle made an immediate impact in Tallahassee. His large frame and high football IQ led him to become a starter at rover in the third game of his freshman season, and he never relinquished the position thereafter, starting in 35 of his 38 total games played. Rolle finished his freshman season with 77 tackles, which was good for third on the team behind only Buster Davis and Lawrence Timmons. He was named 1st Team Freshman All-American by College Football News, Scripps Howard, and The Sporting News, as well as the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006.
The next year, FSU’s defense struggled. Rolle played through numerous injuries. His numbers dropped and he finished fourth on the team in tackles with 67.
In the 2008 season game versus the University of Miami Hurricanes, Seminoles defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews remarked that Rolle played the most complete game he’d ever seen a safety play at Florida State University in his 25 years of coaching. Rolle had four tackles (including two touchdown-saving tackles), one tackle for loss, four pass breakups, a sack, two quarterback hurries, and three critical 3rd down stops. He was in the right place at the right time nearly every play.
That year, he earned Associated Press 3rd team All-American honors, as well as Football Writers Association America 2nd team, All-ACC, and CoSIDA Academic All-America. He was also named Male Sportsman of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus.
Rolle completed all necessary pre-medical requirements and earned his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science in just 2.5 years with a 3.75 grade point average. In 2008, Rolle earned the nation’s highest academic honor, being named a Rhodes Scholar and still managing to play in a game the same day as his interview.
Rolle studied at Oxford University during the 2009–10 academic year in order to earn an M.Sc. in medical anthropology and would then enter the 2010 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Tennessee Titans but never appeared in a regular season game for the team.
He left the NFL and enrolled at Florida State University College of Medicine, graduating in May 2017. Rolle matched to a neurosurgery residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Rolle is currently a Global Neurosurgery Fellow at Harvard Medical School, and one of the most accomplished and most unique ambassadors FSU football has ever had.
Stan Shiver, older brother of Clay Shiver (FSU Mount Rushmore of interior OL), was a four year starter for the ‘Noles at strong safety, starting in 47 of the 48 games he played in.
“I have to be able to hit a little harder to make up for my lack of speed,” said Shiver, who wasn’t recruited by any major college out of Tifton, Georgia.
During his first season as a starter, Shiver picked off two passes in a game against Tulsa. His best game as a sophomore came against the Louisville Cardinals, when he notched three tackles, a fumble recovery returned for 29 yards, and an interception. He would go on to pick off passes in two different seasons against Auburn, always showing strong in bowl games.
Shiver bookended his FSU career with All-American nods, including a second-team Freshman All-American selection from Football News in 1985 and an Honorable Mention from the AP in 1988, when he was also a second-team All-South Independent choice.
Shiver finished his career at FSU with 198 career tackles (122 solo), nine sacks, nine interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two blocked kicks. Shiver’s nine career interceptions have him tied for the 19th in the FSU record books.
Shiver was a 12th-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in ‘89. He was also featured in a photo that adorned the walls of many Seminole fans. Who can forget this classic picture?
One of the great stories of the dominant Florida State defenses of the 1990s was safety Shevin Smith.
A native of Miami, Smith came to FSU in 1993 as a 6’0”, 190 pound walk-on. When all was said and done, Smith had become a multi-year starter for the Seminoles and an All-ACC performer. Smith made 25 career starts, recording 148 career tackles (five for loss), eight interceptions, and two forced fumbles.
“He and Andre Wadsworth came in together as walk-ons,” said E.G. Green, a wide receiver for FSU from 1993-97. “We knew Andre would get a scholarship, because he was so big and athletic, but Shevin was persistent. I always thought of him as such a clutch player.”
Smith appeared in just one game in 1994 before making a start in seven games as a sophomore in 1995. Over his final two seasons, Smith started every game. As a junior in 1996, Smith scored touchdowns in wins over NC State, Miami and Georgia Tech.
As a senior in 1997, Smith recorded a career-high 67 tackles and tied career-bests with three interceptions and a forced fumble en route to being named second-team All-ACC. During the regular season, Smith had picks against Miami, Duke and North Carolina. The Seminoles shut out Miami 47-0 that season and topped North Carolina 20-3 in a top-5 matchup in Chapel Hill. In his final game at FSU, Smith returned an interception 51 yards in a 31-14 Sugar Bowl victory over Ohio State.
Following the 1997 season, Smith would go on to be drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth round of the 1998 NFL Draft.
“When money was on the line and the impossible needed to be done, he came through,” Green said. “I always had such a high level of respect for the things he was able to accomplish.”
A member of coordinator Mickey Andrews’ vaunted defense under legendary head coach Bobby Bowden, FSU finished in the top 5 nationally in each of Smith’s years on campus.
Standing 6’4” tall and able to cover a lot of ground in a hurry with his long strides, Pat Watkins wasn’t hard to miss on the field. Watkins, a local product from Lincoln High, played in 49 consecutive games and started in 23 games during his FSU career from 2002-2005. He earned All-ACC Honorable Mentions during his final two seasons.
As a freshman, Watkins played in seven games as a backup and on special teams, registering eight tackles. As a sophomore, Watkins played in all 12 regular season game as a backup and showed a penchant for picking off passes, four of them in fact, before finally getting his first start in the Orange Bowl game against the University of Miami, where he recorded nine tackles. He also returned a fumble 25 yards for a score against the Florida Gators that season.
Watkins started all 12 games during 2004, finishing the season with two forced and recovered fumbles and another four interceptions, tied for second in the ACC. He teamed up with the aforementioned Jerome Carter to form a dynamic duo at the safety spots. As a senior, he appeared in all 13 games with 10 starts, registering 77 tackles (third on the team) and three more interceptions (tied for the team lead).
He finished his college career recording 205 tackles, 23 pass deflections, 10 interceptions, forcing five fumbles, and recovering three of those. Watkins enjoyed a 10-year career in the NFL (Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers) and CFL (Toronto Argonauts, Edmonton Elks).
Who are the top four safeties 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
Defensive Tackles: Ron Simmons, Darnell Dockett, Corey Simon, Timmy Jernigan
Linebackers: Derrick Brooks, Marvin Jones, Sam Cowart, Paul McGowan
Cornerbacks: Terrell Buckley, Deion Sanders, Corey Sawyer, Bobby Butler