Recently, Rolling Stone asked me to describe how it feels to be a Florida State fan these days. Reigning national champions, preseason number one, potential repeat Heisman winner at the helm – those are all great, but my initial reaction was to simply write "How does it feel to be an FSU fan? It's been 643 days since the Florida State Seminoles lost a football game. That's how the fuck it feels."
After entering the national spotlight in the 1980s, Bobby Bowden led the 'Noles to an astonishing 109-13-1 record in the '90s, good for an .890 winning percentage, tops in the decade. It's easily one of the most dominant stretches in college football history. Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke won Heismans and racked up wins. During that time, I fell in love with the team, gaining an admiration for players like Derrick (DA GAWD) Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Snoop Minnis, Peter Warrick, Thad Busby and Laveranues Coles. The team was filled with larger-than-life personalities and the stands were filled with hot women (I was a teenager, hot women were integral to any decision I made at the time.) It felt like more than a team, it felt like an organization of ass-kickers led by a dude on a horse carrying a flaming spear.
I was born and raised in Chicago, about as far from Tallahassee as you can get. The city is the unofficial stronghold of the Big 10, with hundreds of grads from schools like Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana moving there every year. There's no real reason I should have even considered going to Florida State. Luckily, I grew up during the '90s.
My friend Justin's older brother London made the decision to go to FSU and when he got home, I bombarded him with questions about the school. He laid a recruiting pitch on me that was so effective you would have thought I was a four-star safety. I headed south.
Unfortunately, my full introduction to Seminole Nation came at the end of an era. After the last national title in 1999, FSU entered into a haze of mediocre finishes, the twilight of Coach Bowden's legendary run and constant losses to hated rivals the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida Gators (they're the last team to beat us, on November 24, 2012). Every season was the same: Decent ranking to start the year, rack up wins, get derailed by an inept team like NC State or Wake Forest, followed by a trip to the Gator Bowl. Wash, rinse, repeat.
For my generation of 'Noles, last year was what we signed up for. It wasn't just that we prevented the SEC from winning 8 straight national titles (you're all welcome, by the way). It was finally being able to witness the Florida State that we've heard about over and over again from older alums and players but never got to witness for ourselves. Being a Seminole fan now feels like a return to power.
It's also about reclaiming respect. What, we're not supposed to acknowledge that last year, the 'Noles set the record for most points scored by a team during a season? That despite losing 18 (!) players to the NFL over the past two years, the team is deeper than ever? Oh yeah, we're also returning the current Heisman Trophy winner. As for that "Jameis loves crab legs" bullshit? Look man, I can't lie, I may or may not have walked out of that very same Publix while I was in school without paying for an item in my cart. It wasn't intentional. But even so, if I threw for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in my first season, I might finesse some crab legs myself!
Despite all of the smack talk, I'm proud to be a 'Nole. Florida State is (despite our reputation as a football factory) a wonderful place to get an education (What's up, Professor Zeigler?) and make lifelong friends. Now we're back on top. We belong there. If you were in my shoes, I hope that you would feel the same way about your school. No matter what happens this year, 'Nole Nation is back and you can't deny us. We're louder (and prouder) than ever.
We begin our quest to repeat as champs on Saturday night against Oklahoma State. The game's in Dallas, which is fitting, because if all goes according to plan, we'll be back there on January 12, playing in the National Championship Game. See you there.