You can say that Charlie Ward was the most dazzling college quarterback you ever saw, and you would be right. You can say that Danny Wuerffel produced one of the most remarkable four-year college football careers of all time, and that he stands alongside Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow as the most important Florida Gator football player who ever lived.
You would be right.
Many other towering figures have been part of the Florida-Florida State football rivalry: Fred Biletnikoff, Jack Youngblood, Peter Warrick, Fred Taylor, Deion Sanders, Jevon Kearse, Peter Boulware, and many more.
Yet, if you had to pick the three best players ever to play in the Florida State-Florida rivalry, two of the three selections are obvious, and the third one is extremely hard to argue against.
This doesn’t mean the other choices are chopped liver – they aren’t – but these three present the most airtight cases (or something close to that standard).
The envelope, please:
3 – Warrick Dunn
Though not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the College Football Hall of Fame (the latter exclusion being due to a limited and unnecessarily shortsighted rule about First-Team All-America status), Dunn set an extremely high standard in both the NFL and college ball. He was First-Team All-ACC three times. He was a three-time Pro Bowler in the NFL.
More than that, he made the Pro Bowl in his first, fourth and ninth seasons, a rather remarkable feat. Dunn survived in the NFL as a small running back for 11 years, which is easier to appreciate today, given the pounding running backs (and running quarterbacks such as Cam Newton) take.
Great without being a superstar is still great. Dunn was an elite player in college and the pros. Moreover, he was a Gator killer as a member of the Florida State Seminoles. His catch-and-run touchdown late in the 1993 game in The Swamp is arguably the best and most memorable play in the history of the FSU-UF rivalry.
When you take all of that into account, Dunn’s place as No. 3 on this list doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.
2 – Emmitt Smith
Wait, why isn’t he No. 1? We will get to that in a moment. One of the elite running backs of all time, Smith made the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Durability, consistency, productivity, toughness – Emmitt Smith possessed all those qualities in abundance. He was First-Team All-SEC three straight years in Gainesville, at a time (1987 through 1989) when SEC football was still a running back’s game. Defenses knew what was coming, and they still couldn’t stop Smith.
In his freshman year of 1987, Smith debuted in the rivalry with 116 yards on just 17 carries with 2 TDs despite the Gators loss to the Noles. His final time in the rivalry, he rushed for 153 yards in another 1989 loss.
Everything Smith did in college, he did on a larger scale for the Dallas Cowboys. He played through enormous pain, chiefly a separated shoulder in a late-season game against the New York Giants in 1993. His warrior mentality helped Dallas win that game, secure home-field advantage through the playoffs, and beat the San Francisco 49ers to make and then win another Super Bowl.
Smith was an essential, indispensable part of the Dallas Cowboys’ last dynastic run of three Super Bowls in four seasons. No Gator has left a bigger imprint on the NFL.
1 – Derrick Brooks
Why is Brooks No. 1 and Smith No. 2? Brooks won a Super Bowl as Smith did (not three, but both reached the mountaintop in the NFL). He was an 11-time Pro Bowler, the best of the best at his position throughout his NFL career. He stands on the same plane as Smith in that regard.
Brooks is also – like Smith – a member of both the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame. Across the board, he matches Smith.
What was the tiebreaker? Very simply, Brooks – unlike Smith – played in the very best years of the FSU-UF rivalry, in the mid-1990s, when every Nole-Gator game was a seismic event producing earth-shaking results. The unquestioned leader of those FSU defenses led them dominate college football.
None of this is Emmitt Smith’s fault, but Brooks has everything Smith has PLUS the ownership of a place in the sweet spot of a rivalry.
FSU and LSU announced two game neutral site series Tuesday
In an effort to continue to beef up their out-of-conference schedules, FSU announced on Tuesday that they will play newly-crowned National Champion, LSU in two neutral site games coming soon in 2022 and 2023.
The Seminoles made the announcement through social media and their website that they will be playing the “Bayou Bengals” first in New Orleans and then, in Orlando:
Noles vs. Tigers set for '22/'23!!!https://t.co/nfLwLGhXE3
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) February 11, 2020
Both teams will be given the benefit of essentially a “home-away-from-home neutral-site game” on Labor Day weekend. LSU considers New Orleans to be their second home and just won the College Football Playoff National Championship game over Clemson there on January 12.
The first game with the Noles will be on Saturday night September 4th, 2022.
FSU will, then play “hosts” in Orlando against the Tigers the following year on Saturday night September 3rd. The Noles recently played a season-opening game with Ole Miss, whom they defeated, at Camping World Stadium in 2016.
New Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell had this to say in the school statement about adding the games coming soon,
“I’m excited about this series,” head coach Mike Norvell said. “Florida State has a rich tradition in Louisiana, the home of many former Seminoles including Warrick Dunn and Travis Minor, and all three of our national championship teams had at least one player from Louisiana. It continues to be an important area for us now. We added two players from Louisiana in our first signing class, and it will be great for them and other future Noles to be able to play back in their home state.
This series matches two of the iconic brands in college football, and I know our fans will have a great time in New Orleans and Orlando. I want to thank our administration for all their hard work on this and for continuing to pursue first-class experiences for our student-athletes.”
These will be the 10th and 11th times that Florida State and LSU will meet. The Noles hold a 7 – 2 advantage, including winning four straight games in the series. It is the first time the two schools will have played since 1991.
Further, Florida State is 9 – 2 in their last 11 games opening a season on a neutral field. The Seminoles were to have played Boise State in Jacksonville last Labor Day weekend, but the threat of Hurricane Dorian moved the game to Tallahasse.
That’s where the Broncos upset the Seminoles and sent coach Willie Taggart into a second year spiral that resulted in his firing in November.
The Noles are also 8 – 2 all-time in games at the Superdome with the most prominent one coming in the BCS Championship Game win over Virginia Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.
Deion tells Dan Patrick he’d consider coaching Hurricanes
NFL Hall of Famer and former Seminoles All-American defensive back Deion Sanders is making the rounds for broadcast outlets at Super Bowl 54 in Miami,. And it’s not just his NFL Network duties that made some news on Tuesday. Rather, it’s an interview, where he expressed more desire for coaching college football and maybe, even in the city where he currently is working this week.
Sanders appeared on The Dan Patrick television – radio show Tuesday in advance of the 49ers and the Chiefs meeting for pro football’s title at Hard Rock stadium Sunday night.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) January 28, 2020
And, while most of the interview centered around the NFL and the Super Bowl match-up, Patrick naturally turned to Deion’s desire to apparently be a head coach in college football and maybe, as soon as next year.
This subject came up after Sanders was apparently under consideration to possibly be the new head coach at FSU, when they fired Willie Taggart in early November. The school and AD David Coburn did confirm that they had a serious formal discussion with “Prime Time” about building a staff, etc.
That’s when Patrick turn the questioning to Sanders’ son and what might test his loyalty to FSU and possibly, coaching at a hated-rival like the University of Miami.
“What if ‘The U’ called?” Patrick asked.
“You know what is so funny, cuz I saw that when I was watching you on television (earlier in the day when Patrick said he would ask Sanders about Miami). My son is a phenomenal quarterback. My youngest son. He has a plethora of offers. We’re going to visit ‘The U’ on Saturday,” Sanders said.
“But would you coach the U?,” Patrick quickly asked again.
“You know what. You never know,” Sanders replied leaving the door open, like most do.
“Are you a ‘package deal’ with your son,” asked Patrick?
“I’ve never been a package deal with any-body,” Sanders shot back, which drew laughter from the studio audience at Patrick’s Super Bowl show site.
Now, the Hurricanes have obviously floundered for much of the 2010s, including 2019 with first-year coach Manny Diaz struggling mightily down the stretch of his first season. Miami lost it’s final two games to finish 6 – 6, and then, were shutout humiliatingly by Louisiana Tech 14 – 0 in the Independence Bowl.
Miami has swapped offensive coordinators after Diaz fired Dan Enos after just his first season. The Canes have hired former Auburn and SMU play-caller Rhett Lashlee to replace him. And, they secured Houston dual threat transfer QB D’Eriq King for this season.
Sanders was a two-time All-American at Florida State (1987, ’88), and won the Jim Thorpe Award during his final season playing for the Seminoles in 1988. He was selected in the first round of the 1989 draft by the Atlanta Falcons and played in the NFL through the 2005 season.
His elite level of play earned him inductions into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sanders has been analyst for the NFL Network for the past 10 years and clearly has the desire to try something else.