It feels strange to write an article that isn’t about recruiting, but when I was given the opportunity to attend and cover the Jacksonville Seminole Club’s 2021 Kickoff event, I leapt at the chance. Before I recap the evening, I want to sing the praises of JSC President Jessica Murfin and her phenomenal staff of volunteers. They put on a first-class event and were extremely helpful. It was easy to see why the Jacksonville Seminole Club has such a strong historic reputation, and Jessica and her crew are carrying the torch quite well!
College football is just a few short weeks away and the excitement was apparent throughout the evening, with guest speakers including Seminole Boosters CEO Michael Alford, a representative from Dreamfield Sports (which assists college athletes with name, image, and likeness opportunities), 2013 Orange Bowl MVP Lonnie Pryor, and the legendary Gene Deckerhoff.
The 2021 Kickoff also included dinner, a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle and prizes, and plenty of FSU fellowship among ‘Noles who hadn’t been able to congregate at a JSC event in two years due to the pandemic. A flag was also laid out near the entrance, soon to be mailed to Tallahassee, for attendees to write messages of support to the Bowden family.
Alford spoke about the importance of Seminole Boosters as well as the progress being made in membership, which was once above 15,000 but had dipped to 9,000 following the tumultuous past few seasons. Alford reported that despite the challenges of the pandemic, fundraising records were broken and membership has risen back up to over 11,500 since he arrived in Tallahassee. He gave updates on facilities and the new weight room, and touched on the importance of Booster contributions supporting all FSU sports teams both in their pursuits as athletes and as students. Indeed, as a department, FSU Athletics boasts an 82% graduation rate and a cumulative 3.3 GPA, which are both higher averages than that of the Florida State student body.
Deckerhoff, as usual, had the crowd wrapped around his finger as he reminisced about Coach Bobby Bowden and the legacy he left behind after his recent passing. Deckerhoff, a proud Jacksonville native and Class of 1963 Forest High School graduate, shared a story about the first house he and his wife bought when they moved to Tallahassee in 1974. Its previous owner had coached wide receivers at Florida State but had since moved up to coach in West Virginia... none other than Bobby Bowden.
Deckerhoff gave personal testimony about Coach Bowden’s fervent desire to helps others spiritually, his kindness towards friends and strangers alike, and his magnanimous grace in the spotlight. He noted that Bowden never turned away a request for an autograph or an interview. He even shared that as he and Bowden conducted their final coaching show following FSU’s 2010 Gator Bowl victory over West Virginia, the entire Seminole football team lined up and Bowden signed each one of their jerseys on the Gator Bowl patch while he spoke.
Deckerhoff also previewed the upcoming FSU football schedule, praising Coach Mike Norvell and his staff for their recruiting success, energy, and determination to do things the right way. He spoke to the gains in confidence that he’s seen from the team, and even gave a prediction on wins and losses. “Seminole fans, how does 8-4 plus a bowl game sound to you?” The crowd went wild.
The final highlight of the night came during the announcements of the raffle prizes. The final prize was a lump sum of over $1,200 from the proceeds of the 50/50 raffle. Instead of collecting, the winner of that prize donated the money back, resulting in a standing ovation and yet another reminder of the innate generosity that represents the best of us.
Formed in 1975, the Jacksonville Seminole Club is among the oldest and highly-respected FSU alumni organizations in the nation, serving all of Northeast Florida and helping generate money for scholarships given to local FSU students and students-to-be. Check them out at https://jaxnolesclub.com/ and please consider volunteering with them if you live in the area.