Weinke awaits shot at redemption
Posted: Thursday December 30, 1999 10:00 AM
NEW ORLEANS -- When Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke stepped off the plane on Tuesday, he wore a grin wider than Bourbon Street, held his head up high as he descended down the steps and was overcome with elation.
Weinke immediately thought of the helpless feeling he had this time last year when he arrived in Phoenix wearing a neck brace as his teammates prepared to play Tennessee for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl. The then-26-year-old sophomore wouldn't play in the Seminoles' 23-16 loss to the Vols, and he's coveted a chance to lead Florida State back to the title game ever since.
"Not a day goes by when I didn't think about getting another chance at a national championship," says Weinke. "Last year I was there while we prepared for Tennessee, but I really didn't feel like I was part of the team because I couldn't do anything except watch."
| QUOTE OF THE DAY |
|"Don't fall for that 'they're hungry and we're not' stuff. Virginia Tech wasn't there in the locker room after we lost the national championship to Tennessee. They weren't in there while our kids were crying and kicking lockers and that stuff. I saw how the kids were, and believe me we're not satisfied with being here. We're just as hungry as they are." |
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden
Before injuring a vertebrae in his neck against Wake Forest last November, Weinke had contemplated leaving for the pros following the season. But after the Tennessee loss, he decided to return to school for one reason: to win a national title.
"It's why I came back and something I've thought about all year," says Weinke. "It's been a roller coaster of a career for me, but winning the title would be the perfect ending to a great season."
Weinke has been close to perfect for the Seminoles in 1999 and is a major reason why they are 11-0. Since throwing an ACC-record six interceptions in his second career start -- a loss to N.C. State last fall -- the unflappable 6'5", 240-pound junior has won 20 straight games, finishing with 3,103 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. He's heard enough about his counterpart in the Sugar Bowl, Virginia Tech wonderboy Michael Vick, and is ready to show the country that he's a pretty good quarterback, too.
"I've been reading all this stuff about how he's a better athlete than me and how he can do all these things better than me," says Weinke. "He might be able to run faster than I can and throw the ball further than I can, but we'll find out on Jan. 4 who can do the things you need to win the game."
Charlton sings Sunshine State praises
Virginia Tech cornerback Ike Charlton is the first one to remind his teammates where the best crop of high school football players come from: Florida. "All of us Florida guys stick together," says Charlton. "That's the crop. There's a whole lot of speed and talent down there and I've been telling my teammates that [Florida State is] going to come at us with athletes some of them have never seen before."
Growing up in Orlando, Charlton idolized Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and dreamed of playing for the Seminoles one day. He says he received a few letters from FSU during his junior year at Dr. Phillips High, but was dropped from Florida State's recruiting list as a senior.
"This is a big game for me," says Charlton, who has eight career interceptions for the Hokies. "I'm out to prove to them and to the rest of the country that I can play"
Reining in Seminoles
Florida State is keeping its players on a tighter rope than Virginia Tech. The Seminoles' curfew (1 a.m.) is a hour earlier than the Hokies', and FSU players have been told to stay out of casinos.
Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has been encouraged to go out and have fun -- even gamble a little if desired. The Hokies' hotel houses a casino and coach Frank Beamer sees no problem with his players playing a few rounds of roulette. "We should enjoy this and have fun without going overboard," says Beamer.
In addition, Florida State has hired a private security force in its hotel to patrol the players floors. Seminole officials have also distributed pictures of all known agents to hotel personnel as well as to the parents of all players. "We'll have our fun," says Bowden. "Believe me, we don't want to keep our guys in shackles. These measures aren't to keep the players in, they are to keep them other folks [agents] out."
Dumb Question of the Day
From the Are You Serious? school of journalism:
Q: Does it surprise you how much support Virginia Tech has gotten?
A: Have you ever heard of an underdog?
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