Aug. 22, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Another highly-touted signing class, a third year under head coach Jimbo Fisher's direction and a favorable schedule all make Florida State a trendy national-title pick in 2012. But as important as each of those factors are to FSU's upcoming season, it's the veteran leadership that is arguably the team's greatest strength.
The Seminoles have proven upperclassmen on the team capable of being game breakers on Saturdays and practice leaders during the week, always there to show FSU's host of talented youngsters the way.
And it extends to the classroom as well.
When the 'Noles kick off the season Sept. 1 against Murray State, a staggering 11 players will step foot onto Bobby Bowden Field with with their college degrees already in hand.
"That shows a lot of leadership, a lot of wisdom on the team, a lot of people on the team that have been around for a long time and know the progress that we have made," defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said.
Dawkins (Social Science) is one of four Seminoles that graduated in the fall of 2011, joining quarterback EJ Manuel (Media and Communication Studies), tight end Jonathan Johnson (Social Science) and linebacker Vince Williams (Creative Writing).
Dax Dellenbach (Social Science and Sociology), Josh Gehres (Finance), Dustin Hopkins (Media and Communication Studies), Anthony McCloud (Social Science), Debrale Smiley (Sociology) and Toshmon Stevens (Criminology) all graduated this past spring and Garrett Faircloth (Sociology) earned his diploma this summer.
"We've got a lot of guys on the team that have [pushed themselves academically] and hopefully those young guys look at that and see that it's something that they can model themselves after," Hopkins said. "Because so many [older] guys have done it in so many different programs and different positions. So I am excited to see how this program matures on the field and in the class room."
A recent trend indicates that the maturation process is already taking shape and will continue to grow under Fisher's guidance.
Since taking over the program in 2010, 34 Seminoles have earned their college degrees including the 11 on this year's team.
"When we have 10 or 12 guys that already have their degrees it says a lot about not just us as athletes but that we're also good students," Manuel said.