The best players to don garnet & gold under Bobby Bowden
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - In his 34 years at the helm for Florida State, Bobby Bowden coached 24 players who were selected to All-American teams. This is a testament to Bowden’s prowess for recruiting; his ability to reload a talented roster season after season is what established FSU as a dominant force in the world of college football.
Below, you’ll find a list of the best players to don the garnet and gold during Bowden’s tenure (NOTE: Consensus All-American selections and stats compiled via the Sports Reference website):
Defensive lineman Ron Simmons played under Bowden from 1977 to 1980. He was selected as an All-American in both 1979 and 1980. The Seminoles finished 11-1 and 10-2, respectively, in those seasons. They lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to end both of those years.
The Seminoles’ defense was especially impressive when Simmons was selected to All-America teams: They gave up just 13.3 points per game in 1979 and held opponents to a meager 8.6 points per game in 1980.
Simmons had a short stint in professional football after being selected in the sixth round of the 1981 NFL Draft. He is more well-known for his pro wrestling career. The WWE recognized him as the first black world champion in pro wrestling history. Additionally, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2012.
Allen earned his spot on the 1983 All-America team after rushing for 1,134 yards in 11 games. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns that season. In 1982, he scored a total of 21 touchdowns while rushing for 776 yards. The Seminoles defeated North Carolina in the 1983 Peach Bowl, 28-3.
Allen finished seventh in Heisman voting his senior year. After his final campaign, the Cleveland Browns selected him in the second round of the 1985 NFL Draft.
According to Seminoles.com, Dukes started all 48 games from 1982 to 1985 as an offensive guard for FSU. He received the All-America nod in 1985. During his career, the Seminoles ranked in the top 10 nationally for scoring and total offense.
Dukes played in the NFL for 10 years after going undrafted. He was inducted into FSU’s hall of fame in 1991.
“Prime Time” is one of the most electric players in Florida State football history — leading the Seminoles to back-to-back 11-1 seasons and major bowl victories in 1987 and 1988. “Neon Deion” is widely regarded as one of the best ballhawks and shut-down corners to ever step foot on the gridiron.
He was a consensus All-American in 1987 and 1988. He also earned the Jim Thorpe Award in his final season at FSU.
The Atlanta Falcons selected him fifth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. The two-time Super Bowl champ went to eight Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro six times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Sanders is currently the head football coach at Jackson State University.
Butler was another member of the Seminoles’ dominant defensive backfield. He had seven interceptions in his 1989 All-American season, and he was fifth in the nation in interception return yardage that year.
FSU held its opponents to 16.6 points per game in 1989. The Seminoles defeated Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, 41-17, to cap off that season.
The Green Bay Packers selected Butler in the second round of the 1990 NFL Draft. During his 12 seasons in Green Bay, he was selected to four Pro Bowls and named a first-team All-Pro four times. He became a Super Bowl champ in 1997.
Following his three-year career from 1989 to 1991, Buckley was the record-holder for the majority of Florida State’s interception records, Seminoles.com says. Not only was he a consensus All-American after nabbing 12 picks in 1991, but he also won the Jim Thorpe Award that season. Buckley was a shifty punt returner for the Seminoles as well; he returned three punts for touchdowns in his college career.
Buckley played 14 seasons in the NFL after the Packers selected him fifth overall in 1992.
Jones was the dominant force of FSU’s front seven from 1990 to 1992. He was a two-time consensus All-American, and he also won the Dick Butkus and Vince Lombardi awards in the 1992 season. He had 111 tackles, seven of them for a loss, in that season, Seminoles.com says.
The 1992 season was FSU’s first in the ACC, and Jones anchored a defense that allowed just 15.5 points per game. FSU defeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, 27-14, that season.
When he was selected fourth overall by the New York Jets in 1993, it was the highest an FSU player had ever been picked in the NFL Draft, according to Seminoles.com. He spent his entire 10-year career with the Jets, racking up 730 tackles along the way.
Bowden himself called Ward the best player he ever coached. The dual-sport athlete led FSU to its first national championship in 1993, throwing for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns while tacking on another 339 yards on the ground and four rushing TDs. Ward won every major award he was eligible for as a senior: The Heisman Trophy, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the Davey O’Brien Award.
Ward was also a four-year starter at point guard for Florida State’s basketball team. He still holds the record for most career steals at FSU with 236, and he ranks sixth all-time in assists at 396. The New York Knicks selected Ward 26th overall in the 1994 NBA Draft. He went on to have an 11-year career in the association.
Ward was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Sawyer was one of the defensive backs on Bowden’s 1993 championship team. He had a total of 13 interceptions in two seasons as a starter. Sawyer also returned punts, even leading the ACC in punt return yards in 1992.
The 1993 championship game allowed the fewest points per game in the nation: Opponents averaged 9.9 points per game against the Seminoles that year.
Sawyer was a consensus All-American in 1993.
Brooks was the leader of the 1993 Seminoles’ dominant defense — showcasing incredible talent at the outside linebacker position. According to Seminoles.com, he racked up 274 tackles in his junior and senior seasons. Not only was he a consensus All-American both of those years, but he was also a finalist for major awards, including the Butkus, Lombardi and Football Writer’s National Defensive Player of the Year.
Brooks’ talent translated seamlessly to the NFL level; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him 28th overall in the 1995 draft. When his career was all said and done, he had 11 Pro Bowl selections, was selected to five All-Pro teams and was part of the NFL’s All-2000s Team. The Hall of Famer has a Super Bowl ring as well, winning one with the 2002 Buccaneers.
Dunn is FSU’s all-time leading rusher, with 3,959 yards on the ground in his four-year career. He started his career on the 1993 championship squad, and as his workload grew, he eventually earned MVP honors in the 1995 Sugar Bowl. Seminoles.com says he is the sixth FSU football player to have his jersey retired.
Dunn was also an All-American as a sprinter on FSU’s track team.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him 12th overall in the 1997 NFL Draft. He played in the league for 12 years and was selected to the Pro Bowl three times. In 2004, he was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year because of his “Homes for the Holidays” program as part of his Warrick Dunn Foundation.
The program helped single moms become first-time homeowners by making the down payments on new, fully-furnished homes.
Abraham is another one of the many talented defensive backs Bowden coached throughout his career. As a junior on the 1993 championship team, he was an honorable mention for the United Press International’s All-American team. The following season, he was a consensus first-team All-American.
He had a total of eight interceptions in his college career, returning two of those for interceptions. Additionally, he returned four punts for touchdowns before he went on to the next level.
The Buccaneers had their eyes on this Seminole too; he was selected in the fifth round of the 1995 NFL draft.
Shiver started as a freshman in the 1993 season, protecting signal-caller Charlie Ward. In more than 700 snaps that season, he only gave up half of a sack en route to winning the national championship, according to Seminoles.com. The Seminoles were the nation’s number one offense that year, averaging 41.2 points per game.
After collecting All-ACC honors his first two seasons, he was recognized as a consensus All-American in 1995.
The Dallas Cowboys selected him in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft. He played three seasons for them before retiring due to a shoulder injury.
Boulware was one of the best pass rushers to ever play for Bowden. In 1996, he set FSU’s single-season sack record with 19. His performance that season earned him consensus All-American honors, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and the Football News National Defensive Player of the Year award.
The Baltimore Ravens selected him fourth overall in the 1997 NFL Draft. He was part of the 2000 Ravens Super Bowl team, which is respected as one of the best defensive units ever in the league’s history. Over his nine-year career, he was selected to four Pro Bowls.
Wilson is another player on the long list of ferocious defensive linemen to suit up for Bowden. He has the most sacks in a career for the Seminoles, with a total of 35.5.
In his senior season in 1996, he led the team with 105 tackles and 13.5 sacks. FSU had the nation’s best rush defense that season. Wilson earned consensus All-American honors that year.
He was one of four Seminoles selected in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft, as the Bengals picked him 14th overall.
Cowart is another linebacker who imposed his will on opposing offenses game after game. He started his career as a contributor on the stout 1993 championship defense, then grew his production steadily after that. After injuring his knee in the 1995 Orange Bowl, Cowart made an incredible comeback in the 1997 season.
He led the team in tackles with 116, and the defense embarrassed rival Miami in a 47-0 rout.
Cowart earned the ACC’s Comeback Player of the Year Award that season, and he was also a finalist for the Butkus Award.
The Buffalo Bills picked Coward in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He played in the league for eight years.
Wadsworth wrecked offensive linemen during his senior year in 1997. The conference and nation took notice; after taking down quarterbacks 16 times, he was selected as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.
FSU’s 1997 defense gave up the seventh-fewest points in the nation; opponents averaged 15.1 points per game.
Wadsworth’s stellar senior year shot him to the top of NFL Draft boards. He was selected third overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 1998, making him one of the highest pick out of FSU ever.
Warrick was an electric playmaker at wideout for the Seminoles, collecting 3,705 yards from scrimmage and 36 touchdowns in his career. He was quarterback Chris Weinke’s favorite target, especially during the 1999 National Championship run. He finished sixth in Heisman voting during the championship season
Warrick earned consensus All-American honors in back-to-back seasons: 1998 and 1999. Both of those years, he had more than 10 touchdowns on the season. His jersey, No. 9, was retired in 2018.
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Warrick fourth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Weinke went off the beaten path to reach greatness at FSU. He was part of the same recruiting class as Charlie Ward, but after the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the second round of the 1990 MLB Draft, he decided to try to make the big leagues, according to the Heisman website.
After spending a few years in the minors, he returned to Tallahassee in 1997, at 25 years old. Weinke became the starting QB in 1998 and led the Seminoles to three straight national title games, securing the 1999 championship over Virginia Tech.
In 2000, he threw for 4,167 yards and 33 touchdowns, which was enough to win the Heisman Trophy and a litany of other awards.
“The Polish Cannon” won back-to-back Lou Groza Awards (1998, 1999) for being the best kicker in college football. Coach Bowden himself wondered how many national championships FSU would’ve won if Janikowski was his kicker every season, according to Seminoles.com.
He is third all-time in points in FSU history, scoring 324 with his leg.
Janikowski became especially famous after the Oakland Raiders drafted him in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft. His career-long field goal was 63-yards, one shy of the NFL record. He played in the NFL for 18 years.
Simon was the anchor of the 1999 championship team’s front seven at defensive tackle. His 21 tackles for loss that year led the conference, and he had a total of 84 tackles on the year.
Not only was he a consensus All-American in 1999, but he was also a finalist for the Lombardi and Outland trophies.
The Philadelphia Eagles selected Simon sixth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. He retired from the NFL during the 2007 season after battling injuries throughout his career.
Whitaker was one of the big boys up front keeping Weinke pristine in the pocket. The offensive guard was a second-team All-ACC selection in 1997. A couple of outlets voted him as an All-American in 1998, and he earned first-team ACC honors that season. He was also part of the conference’s all-academic team in 1998.
In 1999, his presence kept Weinke safe throughout the championship run. Whitaker was a consensus first-team All-American that season.
Bowden’s only undefeated team had a prolific offense, scoring an average of 38.2 points per game.
Cody was another ball hawk in Bowden’s defensive backfield. The DB picked off six passes during the 2000 season, leading to consensus first-team All-American honors.
The San Diego Chargers selected him in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft.
Seminoles.com says he was inducted into FSU’s Hall of Fame in 2015.
Minnis had a major role in the 2000 Seminoles’ offense. He caught 63 catches for 1,340 yards, leading the ACC in both of those categories. He caught 11 touchdowns that year as well. His performance landed him consensus All-American honors.
The Kansas City Cheifs selected Minnis in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft.
Reynolds terrorized quarterbacks as he zoomed around the edge against opposing offenses. The defensive end earned a starting spot on the 1999 national championship game. In the Sugar Bowl, he sacked Virginia Tech QB Michael Vick three times.
In 2000, he was a consensus All-American and earned the Lombardi Trophy. In his senior year, he had 12 sacks, four forced fumbles and 15 tackles for loss.
The Green Bay Packers selected him 10th overall in the 2001 NFL Draft.
Barron was the first offensive lineman in FSU’s history to earn back-to-back consensus All-American honors (2003-2004), according to Seminoles.com. Seminoles.com also says he allowed five QB pressures and one sack during his senior season.
The St. Louis Rams drafted Barron 19th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft.
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