Florida State Football Heroes
Fred Biletnikoff came to Florida State as a wide receiver in 1961 and left three years later as the school’s first consensus All-American. He set school single season records for receptions (57), receiving yards (987) and touchdowns scored (11) as a senior. After the 1964 Miami game, he was honored as the Associated Press national back of the week, the first Seminole to be so honored. The numbers do not include his phenomenal 1964 Gator Bowl performance against Oklahoma State when he set an FSU single game record with 13 receptions for 192 yards and four touchdowns. He finished his FSU career with 87 receptions for 1,463 yards and 16 touchdowns, which were all school records. His number 25 was retired as soon as his FSU career was completed. He went on to become one of the finest receivers in the history of the NFL playing for the Oakland Raiders and earning Super Bowl MVP honors.
One of Florida State’s most brilliant defenders, James “J.T.” Thomas began his Seminole career with a sensational performance and ended as an All-American. FSU’s first black football player, Thomas blocked two field goals in his first game in 1970. His second preserved a 9-7 victory over Louisville. That same year, the Macon, GA, native tied the FSU record for single game interceptions with three. He was a brilliant open field tackler, great playmaker in the secondary and brought FSU fans to their feet with exciting rushes at punts and field goals. Thomas, who began as a cornerback and ended as a safety, was a first team All-American pick by Pro Football Weekly and Time Magazine as a senior in 1972. He went on to a great professional career with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning four Super Bowl rings as a member of the famed “steel curtain” defense.
In four years at Florida State (1976-79), Jimmy Jordan completed 298 of 595 passes for 4,173 yards and 39 touchdowns. He was honored by AP as Southeastern back of the week vs. LSU, Sports Illustrated as national back of the week vs. Oklahoma State, and ABC-TV as player of the game vs. LSU and Navy in 1978. He first hit the FSU record books in 1976 throwing the longest touchdown pass in school history – a 96 yarder to Kurt Unglaub against Virginia Tech. Beyond all the statistics and honors, what Jimmy Jordan and his friend and fellow quarterback Wally Woodham did was win! From 1977 through 1979, Jordan was a key factor in making FSU a major national power with a record of 29-6 and three straight victories over Florida.
When Ron Simmons was signed out of Warner Robins, Georgia, he was one of Florida State’s greatest recruiting victories. He made an immediate impact as a freshman and he was the difference in his first game at FSU earning national lineman of the week honors. He would finish his first year as The Football News freshman lineman of the year. He earned consensus All-America honors in 1979 and 1980, and was a finalist for the Lombardi Trophy in 1980. The powerful middle guard led FSU to the top of the polls, into two Orange Bowls and a Tangerine Bowl and to four consecutive victories over Florida. He was the first defensive player in FSU history to have his number retired.
Widely considered one of the finest athletes in professional sports history, Deion Sanders proved from the start at Florida State he would be something special. As a freshman, “Prime Time” started at cornerback, played outfield on the baseball team which finished fifth in the nation, and led the track team to its tenth conference championship. A two-time consensus All-American in football, Sanders was the 1988 Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s finest defensive back. His 14 career interceptions ranked among the top two in school history and he was the top punt returner at FSU. He was drafted as by both the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Yankees and played both sports earning All-Pro honors with the Falcons, 49ers and Cowboys and becoming a superstar in centerfield for the Braves, Reds and Giants.
Casey Weldon came to Florida State in 1988 as a hometown Tallahassee product who seemed destined for greatness. He left FSU as the runner-up for the 1991 Heisman Trophy and with the reputation as one of the Seminoles’ finest quarterbacks ever.
Weldon starred at North Florida Christian High School and waited for his chance to lead the Seminoles. As a senior in 1991, He completed 189 of 313 passes for 2,527 yards and 22 touchdowns – all with the pressure that comes from playing for a team ranked number one in the country for the first 12 weeks of the season. He led the Seminoles to a 10-2 record and a win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. He was named the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award signifying him as the best quarterback in college football. He was named first team All-America by Walter Camp and the Football News among others. Weldon’s 4,643 career yards of total offense ranked as the second highest total in school history when he graduated. He threw 41 career touchdown passes which also ranked as the second highest total ever for an FSU career, and ranked among the top four in six other statistical categories when he left campus. Weldon led the Seminoles to a 16-2 record as the starting quarterback including memorable wins over Michigan, LSU, BYU, Penn State and Florida.
Weldon went onto a long career in the NFL, playing for Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, San Diego and with the Washington Redskins at the time of his induction.
The most decorated player in the history of college football, Charlie Ward won literally every award he was eligible for as a senior quarterback on Florida State’s 1993 National Championship team. In addition, Ward was the sparkplug on three Seminole NCAA Tournament basketball teams.
A native of nearby Thomasville, Ga., Ward became Florida State’s first Heisman Trophy winner in 1993 after completing 69.5 percent of his passes for 3,032 yards with 27 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also won the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards and was named Walter Camp Player of the Year and Toyota Leader of the Year. He is only the second college football player ever to win the Sullivan Award given annually to the nation’s top amateur athlete. Ward still owned 14 FSU football records at the time of his induction.
On the basketball court, Ward pushed the Seminoles to the brink of the 1993 Final Four, falling one game shy. He also started on FSU’s Sweet 16 team in 1992 and hit the game-winning shot in its Metro Conference Tournament Championship game win over Louisville in 1991. Ward still holds Seminole basketball records for steals in a game (9) and career (236) and ranks sixth all-time in assists (396).
At the time of his induction, Ward had just finished his fifth season in the NBA as the starting point guard for the New York Knicks. He helped his team to the NBA finals in 1999. Ward remains an active member of his home community in Thomasville, running various youth clinics and sports camps during the summer.
Derrick Brooks came to Florida State as one of the most heralded recruits ever and left FSU having set a new standard for the outside linebacker position.
A two-time consensus All-American and an NFL first-round draft choice in 1995, Brooks was a dominating linebacker who was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year as a junior in 1994 and a three-time All-ACC first team selection during his career. His ability to run like a receiver and make plays like a defensive back made him one of the most exciting players in all of college football.
Derrick Brooks earned four varsity letters (1991-94) and was the defensive leader on Florida State’s first national championship team in 1993. He recorded 274 career tackles and was a finalist for the Butkus, Lombardi, and Football Writer’s National Defensive Player of the Year as a junior and senior. Brooks was also a top scholar-athlete who won an NCAA post-graduate scholarship and earned Academic All-America honors following his senior season. He was a GTE Academic All-America second team selection and named the ACC All-Academic team as a junior.
Warrick Dunn entered Florida State a fighter, a survivor and one of the top 10 high school football players in Louisiana. In his first year as a Seminole, the running back earned Freshman All-America honors as he helped lead Florida State to its first National Championship in 1993. The Baton Rouge native went on to become the first two-time 1,000 yard rusher in Florida State history, a pre-season Playboy All-American and the MVP of the 1994 Sugar Bowl. Dunn still holds the career rushing record of nearly 4,000 yards. He became only the sixth FSU football player to have his jersey retired. Dunn became a two-sport All-American after a standout spring season with the Seminole track team. Warrick was a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons and was invited to the Pro Bowl twice. Off the field, the former Seminole set up a Home for the Holidays program, awarding single working mothers a down payment for a furnished home. The program has gained national attention as over 40 children have benefited from his foundation.
Peter Boulware was a lightning quick pass rusher who earned a place among the 50 best football players in ACC history as well as becoming a perennial all-pro in the NFL. Boulware led the nation and set an FSU single season record with 19 quarterback sacks as a junior in 1996 while earning consensus All-America honors. He was named the Football News National Defensive Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 1996. An outstanding student, Boulware graduated early from Florida State and chose to enter the NFL draft. He would almost certainly have set the school record for career quarterback sacks had he stayed, since he finished with 34 over three seasons, which was just 1.5 short of the record.
Cornerback Terrell Buckley owned most of FSU’s interception records following his terrific three-year career from 1989-91. Buckley earned consensus All-America honors as a junior after setting a Seminole record with 12 interceptions in 1991. He became FSU’s second Jim Thorpe winner following his junior campaign. He held the FSU career record for pass interceptions with 21 when he was inducted and was also one of the Seminoles’ all-time great punt returners. He scored seven career touchdowns, four on interceptions and three on punts. His interception return for a touchdown on the second play of the 1991 game at Michigan was quintessential FSU football. He was the fifth pick in the 1992 NFL draft after his junior year and played over 15 years in the NFL.