- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
THE BIGGEST THING FOR ME LEADING UP TO THE GAME WAS UNDERSTANDING the magnitude of it—that it was the last chance for me and guys like Peter Warrick to win a national championship, the reason we came back for our senior year. Bobby Bowden had never had an undefeated team before. You look at the lineage of teams at FSU, and you think how great it would be to play on the first team that went undefeated and put our stamp on the university.
We weren't the underdogs in the game. There were no nerves; we were focused. And from the moment we stepped onto the field, we felt like the better team. We didn't have to tell everybody about it. That's one thing that gets understated about Coach Bowden: He didn't have teams that talked a lot.
We had the single greatest player in college football that year on our team, but Peter didn't talk like he was the best. And, yeah, it was the big stage, but we had played on big stages before. This was Florida State University. This was why you came to FSU—to play for national championships.
I think the one play from that game that sticks out in my mind was the fumble recovery in the first quarter. I was able to dive on the ball in the end zone. That definitely saved seven points and really changed the momentum of the game.
And when Peter went out and scored that first TD, it just appeared so easy that we said to ourselves, O.K., we got this. We understood they had Michael Vick, but we had prepared during that month for what he was going to bring to the table. Guys came to the sideline a little complacent, though, because we jumped out so fast and scored so many points so quickly. We relaxed a little bit, and it allowed Virginia Tech to get back into the game.
When we went down by one point in the third quarter, we still felt very confident. That season we had been down before and had come back. At Clemson we came out flat and were behind 14--3. Then we came out in the second half and turned it on and won 17--14.
So against Virginia Tech there wasn't a lot of ranting and raving going on. There wasn't nervous energy on our sideline. Having a veteran team, it was easy to get that point across: Hey, let's just go out there and get the job done. We scored a touchdown and a field goal to go up by 10 points, and then we wanted to put the nail in the coffin. When Peter scored his third touchdown, that was it.
As the final seconds ticked off, all I could think was, We finally did it. We knew we had done something special. We'd had a bull's-eye on our backs from Week 1, but we went undefeated. There was no disputing who the best team in the country was. It was us.
I kept my jersey from that year. Still have it hanging up at the house. I also have a tape of the game, and my son is at an age where he can watch it and understand it. To relive that moment and the national championship game—it's fun to go back and show him.
After the game there was a bit of sadness, too. That was our last time playing together. We embraced that we were champs but also realized the ride was over. There was immense joy, and there was immense sadness. But at the end of the day we walked away with what we came for: the trophy and the rings.