The numbers speak for themselves: 29 consecutive wins. A 14-0 season in 2013. 11.6 wins per season. A modern-day record 29 draft picks over a three-year span. The .841 winning percentage. The No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The list could go on and on.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has established himself as one of the nation’s top coaches just five years into what is becoming a legendary head coaching career.
In his fourth year as a head coach, Fisher planted the Seminoles back at the top of the college football world, leading Florida State to an undefeated national championship season in 2013. He followed that incredible campaign with another outstanding year in 2014, taking FSU to the first-ever College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl and capturing the Noles’ third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Entering year six, Fisher has driven Florida State to become one of college football’s premier programs. The Seminoles have won the most games of any team in college football over the last three seasons (39) while setting the modern-day record for NFL draft picks over a three-year period with 29. Fisher has an overall record of 58-11 and a win percentage of .841 – the highest of any coach in ACC history. Among head coaches of “Power Five” conference teams, Fisher’s 58 wins in his first five seasons are the most in history. Only former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen (61) had more victories in his first five seasons in major college football since 1900.
Fisher guided Florida State to a 13-1 record in 2014 and completed a stretch where the Seminoles won 29 consecutive games – the most in ACC and FSU history. He has taken FSU to five straight bowl games and won four, including victories at the 2014 BCS National Championship and the 2013 Orange Bowl.
After 22 seasons as a college assistant, including three as FSU’s offensive coordinator, Fisher in 2010 succeeded Bobby Bowden - the second-winningest coach in major college football. The Seminoles’ first new coach in 35 years, and just the ninth in program history, hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back. He led the Noles to a 10-4 mark in 2010 - the most wins by a first-year coach in FSU history - and the first of four ACC Atlantic Division titles. He followed with a 9-4 season in 2011 and improved to 12-2 in year three before the perfect 14-0 2013 campaign and the one-loss 2014 season.
In 2013, Fisher’s Seminoles were one of the most dominant and well-balanced teams in college football history. FSU set the national record for points in a season (723), while leading the nation in scoring defense (12.1). Fisher was named the 2013 Rawlings National College Football Coach of the Year and the AFCA Regional Coach of the Year for Region 1, as the Seminoles became the sixth team ever to win 14 games and the first ACC team to accomplish the feat.
Known for his success in developing quarterbacks, Fisher has tutored three first-round NFL draft picks at the position at FSU. That includes Jameis Winston, who became the first Seminole selected first overall in the NFL Draft, going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015. Current Oakland Raiders quarterback Christian Ponder (12th overall pick, 2011) and current Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (16th overall, 2013) also developed under Fisher. Fisher guided Winston to one of the greatest seasons ever by a collegiate quarterback in 2013. Winston became the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, while collecting several other awards in addition to consensus All-America honors. In 2014, Winston led the ACC in nearly every passing category and was an All-ACC First Team selection for a second straight year.
Overall, Fisher has seen 36 Seminoles drafted into the NFL in his first five seasons. The Seminoles tied their own ACC record with 11 draft picks in 2015, led by first-round selections Winston and offensive lineman Cameron Erving (19th pick, Cleveland Browns).
The Seminoles show no sign of letting up either. Florida State has put together four top-five recruiting classes in the last five years. The 2014 and 2015 classes were both ranked No. 3 in the nation by ESPN, while the 2013 class was a consensus Top 10. Fisher’s 2011 class was ranked No. 1 or 2 by every major recruiting service, while the 2012 haul finished at No. 2 by ESPN.
Off the field, Fisher has been just as impressive. Since becoming head coach in 2010, Fisher has been very active in several efforts to raise funds and awareness for children with diseases, including Kidz1stFund.
Kidz1stFund was founded by Jimbo and Candi Fisher in 2011 and is a national fund to raise awareness and research funds to find a cure for Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disease that affects many, including Fisher’s youngest son Ethan. Kidz1stFund has already donated more than $3 million to FA research at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, the largest FA treatment center in the country.
In May 2015, Fisher helped Dick Vitale and the V Foundation raise $2.38 million for pediatric cancer research in one night at the longtime ESPN basketball analyst’s 10th annual gala event. Fisher was honored at the event for his philanthropic efforts.
TWENTY-NINE IN A ROW & FIRST-EVER COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF
The Seminoles capped a 29-game win streak by winning their third consecutive ACC Championship, defeating Georgia Tech, 37-35, on Dec. 6, 2014. The 29-game win streak shattered the ACC and FSU records and was the nation’s second-longest streak over the last 20 years. FSU became just the 14th team in college football history to win 29 straight games.
While the 2013 FSU team was historically dominant, the 2014 Seminoles showed the most resilience of arguably any team in the country. As the defending national champion, FSU had a significant bulls-eye on its back and received every team’s best shot. And yet for 13 straight weeks, FSU refused to be knocked out. The Noles led the nation with five come-from-behind victories, including a school-record 21-point, come-from-behind win at Louisville and a 16-point rally at Miami.
In Week 3, the Seminoles came back to beat Clemson in overtime behind 300 yards passing from reserve quarterback Sean Maguire. The next week, FSU trailed 24-7 after one quarter at NC State and still won by 15 points. Florida State battled Notre Dame until the clock hit zeroes in a matchup of top-five teams, grabbing an interception on the game’s final play to preserve a 31-27 victory.
By the time FSU faced Louisville, coming from behind and winning close games had become “old hat,” but the Seminoles overcame a 21-0, second-quarter deficit by outscoring Louisville 42-10 the final 30:33 of the game. Most impressively, 28 of those points came from true freshmen.
When the Seminoles got down 16-0 early at Miami a few weeks later, there were no worries as FSU would go on to edge the Hurricanes, 30-26.
Florida State had 17 players capture All-ACC honors for a second straight season, while senior Nick O’Leary won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s best tight end. O’Leary joined senior right guard Tre’ Jackson, redshirt sophomore kicker Roberto Aguayo, redshirt senior offensive lineman Cameron Erving and sophomore safety Jalen Ramsey as First Team All-Americans. Senior receiver Rashad Greene wrapped up his career by setting the FSU record for career receptions and the FSU and ACC record for career receiving yardage. Fisher was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson and Paul Bear Bryant Coach of the Year awards for the second year in a row.
THE NATIONAL CHAMPION
The 2013 season personified that balance with one of the all-around most prolific years in college football history.
The Seminoles set the national record for points in a season (723), while leading the nation in scoring defense (12.1). Roberto Aguayo, then a redshirt freshman, set the national record for points by a kicker (157) and won the Lou Groza Award.
The Seminoles captured their third national championship in school history in the final Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game, completing the largest comeback (18 points) in the game’s 16-year history to defeat Auburn 34-31. Jameis Winston engineered an 80-yard, game-winning drive and threw the winning two-yard score to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left.
The 2013 season was truly historic for Fisher and the Seminoles. On offense, Florida State set FSU and ACC records for single-season total offense (7,267 yards), points per game (51.6) and yards per play (7.67). FSU led the nation with 94 touchdowns, which also was a school and ACC record. Florida State’s 42 passing TDs was a school and conference record, while its 42 rushing scores set a new FSU mark.
On defense, FSU led the nation in scoring defense (12.1), pass defense (156.6) and interceptions (26), while ranking third in total defense (281.4). The Seminoles also led the conference in pass defense efficiency (93.8) and ranked third in rushing yards allowed per game (124.8). Only two teams scored more than 17 points against the Seminoles in 2013.
FSU became the sixth team ever to win 14 games and the first ACC team to accomplish the feat. Fisher was named AFCA Regional Coach of the Year for Region 1 in 2013 and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year and the Bobby Bowden Coach of the Year awards.
The Noles opened the season with Winston completing the first 11 passes of his career as Florida State cruised past Pitt on the road. A few weeks later, FSU dominated a No. 25-ranked Maryland team to the tune of 63-0 – tying the all-time mark for margin of victory against a ranked opponent in college football history. Next, it was defensive back Lamarcus Joyner silencing Death Valley by forcing a fumble on No. 3 Clemson’s first offensive play and forcing three turnovers in a 51-14 win.
Against No. 7 Miami, running back Devonta Freeman sliced through the Hurricanes’ defense for 176 total yards and three touchdowns in a 41-14 victory in front of the all-time largest crowd in Doak Campbell Stadium history (84,409).
The Seminoles made a school-record-tying six interceptions and forced seven total turnovers at Wake Forest and held the Demon Deacons to just 166 yards of total offense. FSU totaled a school-record 80 points and Timmy Jernigan tallied 4.5 tackles for loss versus Idaho.
Benjamin capped the perfect regular season with a spectacular 212 yards receiving against Florida’s top-five pass defense.
Winston accounted for three touchdowns and over 300 yards passing against Duke in the ACC Championship Game.
And, of course, there were several standout performances in the BCS National Championship Game versus Auburn: Telvin’s Smith’s 15 tackles, P.J. Williams’ momentum-shifting interception, Kermit Whitfield’s 100-yard kick return touchdown and Winston’s game-winning toss to Benjamin to give Florida State the national championship.
Winston became the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, while also nabbing the Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year honor and consensus All-America honors. He became the first freshman to win ACC Player of the Year honors and set the conference, FSU and national freshman record for single-season touchdown passes (40). Winston also broke the national freshman record for passing yards (4,057).
In addition to Winston’s numerous accolades, center Bryan Stork won the Rimington Trophy awarded to the nation’s top center, while Aguayo nabbed the Lou Groza Award and All-America honors. Joyner collected unanimous All-America honors and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe and Bronko Nagurski awards.
The unprecedented success of the 2013 season came on the heels of FSU having an ACC-record 11 Seminoles selected in the NFL Draft and losing several key assistant coaches, who not only became hot commodities themselves after FSU’s success in Fisher’s first three seasons, but also received coaching promotions.
EARLY SUCCESS AT THE HELM
The 2012 team, Fisher’s third as FSU’s head coach, had a league-leading 12 Seminoles split between All-ACC First and Second Teams, while another four ‘Noles garnered honorable mention honors. With a win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game and a win over Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl, FSU closed the year ranked No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches poll and No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, cashing in on its nation-leading 31st consecutive bowl appearance.
Quarterback EJ Manuel capped off his senior year with one of the most memorable seasons in FSU history, not only finishing as the most accurate passer in FSU history, but ranking among the top five Seminole quarterbacks all-time for passing yards (7,736, 4th), total offense (8,563, 3rd), completions (600, 4th) and attempts (897, 5th), despite only two seasons as the full-time starter.
Two-time Lou Groza Award Finalist Dustin Hopkins not only became the ACC and FSU all-time leading scorer in 2012, but also the NCAA FBS all-time leader for scoring as a kicker, finishing his career with 466 points. That came one year after Shawn Powell’s departure as a consensus All-America punter.
Fisher wrapped up his second season at the helm of the FSU program in 2011 by guiding the Seminoles to a 9-4 record, capped by their 18-14 victory over Notre Dame in front of a Champs Sports Bowl record crowd. Florida State ranked No. 23 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls after rallying in its 30th consecutive bowl appearance. It was a fitting finish to a season that saw the Seminoles successfully defend their state title, sweeping both Miami and Florida for a second consecutive season - something that had not been done since the 1998 and 1999 seasons.
The Seminoles displayed tremendous resolve throughout the 2011 campaign, winning seven of their final eight games after getting off to an injury-riddled, 2-3 start. Receiver Rashad Greene burst onto the scene in limited game action and put together one of the best seasons ever by an FSU freshman. Greene posted the second-most receptions (38), receiving touchdowns (7) and third-most receiving yards (596) by an FSU freshman and ranked among the top five freshmen nationally in receiving touchdowns. That, coupled with Devonta Freeman’s freshman campaign in 2011 which saw him run for the most yards (579) by a freshman since Travis Minor in 1997, showed that Fisher’s offenses continue to be a force to reckon with in college football. Success in the NFL Draft also continued to pick up steam as Nigel Bradham was FSU’s highest 2012 NFL Draft selection, going in the fourth round to the Buffalo Bills.
Florida State’s success under Fisher has not been unexpected. Fisher set the standard for expectations in his first season, delivering the Seminoles back to a place of national prominence with a 10-4 record in 2010. FSU capped the season with a 26-17 win over No. 19 South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and finished at No. 16 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. In addition to their season sweep of in-state rivals Miami and Florida, the Seminoles won the ACC Atlantic Division title en route to their first 10-win season since 2003.
Fisher won the most games (10) by a first-year coach in Florida State history and tied for the second-most by a rookie coach in ACC history. He was named the 2010 Football Writers Association of America’s Freshman All-America Team Coach.
Three of his players in 2010 earned All-America honors: offensive guard Rodney Hudson (consensus All-America selection), Brandon Jenkins and Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes was named the ACC Rookie of the Year and National Defensive Freshman of the Year. Fisher capped off the 2010 season with three seniors selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, led by his 11th NFL quarterback prodigy in Ponder - the No. 12 overall pick in the draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Ponder at the time became the highest offensive player to go for the Noles since offensive lineman Alex Barron in 2005. Before Ponder, Gary Huff was the highest drafted FSU QB as the 33rd overall pick in the second round of the 1973 draft.
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS FORGED FORWARD THINKING VISION
He has carefully crafted his vision by borrowing from two men - Nick Saban and Bowden - he worked under. Their influence, though very different, can be seen sprinkled throughout Fisher’s own blueprint for success. Fisher has not wasted any time putting his stamp on the Seminoles. From assembling a staff of seasoned, ambitious assistants, to dramatically overhauling the program’s infrastructure, he has left no stone unturned. His attention to every aspect of the program - from strength & conditioning, GPS monitoring, nutrition, mental training, academic support, talent evaluation and recruiting, player development and peer mentoring among teammates - is centered on establishing an unshakeable foundation that emphasizes the whole development of each player, and it’s why Florida State was crowned national champions in just his fourth year.
Yet the greatest influences in Fisher’s life have been his parents, John James and Gloria Fisher. His late father, a coal miner and farmer who demanded accountability from sons Jimbo and Bryan, helped them understand the value of hard work from an early age. Those lessons extended beyond the family farm and home and onto the fields and courts as a promising young football, basketball and baseball player.
By the time Fisher reached junior high school and became the starting quarterback, he was calling plays in the huddle. Win or lose, the car rides home with his father always included a critique of what transpired on the field.
Fisher learned about tough love from his father, but his future was also shaped by his mother, who retired in 2011 from the West Virginia public schools system after teaching high school chemistry for 51 years. It was Gloria who made sure that her son escaped from a life in the coal mines and followed his dream after an all-state career at Liberty High School.
He has done both and with a high degree of success. After a one-semester stop at Clemson, where he was going to play baseball, Fisher returned home to Salem College in West Virginia. He starred for three seasons at quarterback, establishing a school and conference record for career passing yardage. A two-time conference player of the year and an All-American in his final season at Salem, Fisher transferred to Samford College in Birmingham, Alabama, for his final season of eligibility. He enjoyed a record-setting season in 1987 with the Bulldogs, earning NCAA Division III National Player of the Year honors, which he parlayed into a season with the Chicago Bruisers of the Arena Football League.
RISING THROUGH THE COACHING RANKS
LSU made seven consecutive bowl appearances, won two SEC titles, posted a 70-20 record and won the 2003 BCS National Championship with Fisher as its offensive coordinator. He was a finalist for the 2001 Frank Broyles Award, presented to the nation’s top assistant coach.
Fisher accepted Bobby Bowden’s invitation to join the Florida State staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in January 2007 and by the end of his first year was tabbed as Bowden’s successor upon retirement. The quick ascent followed a similar arc to the Seminoles’ offense, which improved statistically in each of his first four seasons.
Along the way he has significantly impacted FSU’s recruiting, been instrumental in the development of quarterbacks Ponder, Manuel and Winston and set the table for the inevitable transition to the seat occupied by Bowden since 1976. The time as a coach-in-waiting allowed him the opportunity to closely evaluate the players and program as a whole; what changes needed to be made and how to work the proper channels to get that accomplished.
After having the longest tenured coaching staff in college football in 2012, Fisher had several holes to fill in that offseason but he put together another top staff with more than combined 100 years of collegiate coaching experience. The results – the 2013 national championship and three ACC championships – speak for themselves.
Fisher treats his players very much like his own family, challenging, praising, even admonishing, when necessary. It is all in an attempt to help each and every one reach their full potential as student-athletes and responsible young adults.
Fisher wants relentless competitors to define his Florida State program; players who are immune to adversity.
As a hands-on head coach who will continue to work with the quarterbacks and call plays, Fisher will remain a vocal presence on the field, while balancing a myriad of off-the-field responsibilities as he continues to shape the Florida State program in his own image.
Fisher will do that with a sense of responsibility and appreciation for Florida State’s rich past and the men - Bowden and the players who have come before those he coaches today - who have built the program. Not surprisingly, he has welcomed those players back with open arms in an effort to bridge the past with the present and future.
It’s that rich tradition that drew Fisher to Florida State and his time under Bowden. He’s built on it thus far, and delivered the program’s third national championship. The challenge now is to stay at the top of the mountain. It’s a challenge Fisher is equipped for and wholeheartedly accepts.