Feb. 1, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The national-champion `Noles and thousands of fans came together Saturday to celebrate an undefeated and unconquered season. And while the day's festivities were geared toward looking back at a 2013 season that produced the third title in program history, one couldn't help but cast an eye to the future.
Even Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher couldn't stop himself from telling the crowd about what comes next.
"We didn't just develop a team; we developed a program," Fisher said. "We plan on being here for a long time."
A yearly excuse to gather in February to tailgate like it's October and celebrate the Seminoles as end-of-season kings of college football?
The reality is that Fisher has established staying power. Fans didn't just gather to applaud the accomplishments of a flash in the pan. No, they joined forces to cheer on a return to power, too. For years FSU was the talk of college football, and if you stare into the crystal ball Fisher hoisted beneath spraying confetti Saturday on Bobby Bowden Field you can see a return to those glorious years.
Fisher has been around the game long enough and around enough success to know that keeping his program atop its perch means a celebration must immediately be followed by a return to what got you there.
"We are excited about what we have done and proud of what we have done but know we are not finished and want to keep building for the future," Fisher said. "Everybody says we are the defending national champions. No, we are not the defending anything because they can't take that away. If you defend something it means you could lose it. We can't lose that.
"What we have to do is be hungry and hunt for another one."
Perhaps most important in that quest is the talent that returns next season.
FSU will undoubtedly miss the leadership, skill and collective presence of Telvin Smith, Lamarcus Joyner, Christian Jones, Terrence Brooks, Bryan Stork, Kenny Shaw, Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Jr., Kelvin Benjamin and others. But make no mistake about it: the Seminoles are still stacked with talent.
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston leads that on-field charge and he's still got some serious weapons coming back like Karlos Williams, Nick O'Leary, Rashad Greene and an all-senior offensive line. Mario Edwards, Jr., Jalen Ramsey, Ronald Darby, P.J. Williams, Tyler Hunter, Eddie Goldman, Nate Andrews and a bunch of skilled linebackers, among others, will have something to say defensively, too.
FSU is deep and skilled but it has recruited as well as anyone since Fisher took over the program. Fisher and his staff will next add yet another crop of elite prospects to the roster Wednesday on National Signing Day and the train rolls on.
"We've got to keep doing it," Winston told reporters after meeting fans on the field. "We won and now it's a new year and a new season and we've got to keep getting better. It starts now and we've got to do it again next year."
Yes, Saturday served as a celebratory Seminoles party that won't soon be forgotten. But if it all goes to plan, it will be duplicated next year.
"In my mind we are one of the great teams in college football history," Fisher told the crowd. "... And folks, we're not done yet. I promise you."