By Jim Joanos
At Florida State University the football team is in the midst of spring practice. One of the questions being asked most is "Who will be FSU's starting quarterback when next football season begins?" Fans are guessing whether it will be Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee or one of the two red shirt freshmen, D'Vontrey Richardson or Christian Ponder. It is an important question. FSU has a new offensive coordinator in Jimbo Fisher who is in the process of installing some changes into the FSU offensive scheme. The quarterback will be the main ingredient in that new system.
However, the importance of the quarterback to FSU's system is nothing new. Ever since head coach Bill Peterson in 1964 installed a professional-style offense, the position of quarterback has occupied a most major status of importance to FSU football teams through the years. The play of the quarterback has more than any other position been the big factor in FSU's success through the years. FSU has had some fine ones and it is a pleasure to remember some of them.
Steve Tensi was the quarterback when Coach Pete led the college football world into a major emphasis on passing in 1964. There were other great passing quarterbacks during the Peterson era. Kim Hammond in 1967 led FSU to a 7-2-2 record including a trip to the Gator Bowl. In the process, he threw for 1991 yards and 15 touchdowns that season. Both of those accomplishments were team records at the time. Bill Cappleman led the offense for three seasons from 1967 through 1969 amassing 4904 yards through the air which was outrageous at the time.
Gary Huff was the quarterback leader in head coach Larry Jones' first two years at FSU, 1971 and 1972. His performance in the first ever Fiesta Bowl game at the end of the 1971 season against Arizona State is definitely on the list of all time great performances by an FSU quarterback. Although FSU lost the game, 45-38, Huff threw for 347 yards that day to seven different players, and was named the most outstanding offensive player of the game. He went on to an outstanding career in the NFL.
Bobby Bowden has been the head coach since the 1976 season. During his tenure, there have been a number of legendary quarterbacks wearing garnet and gold. Some of my favorite recollections are about the two-headed quarterback system that FSU used during three seasons from 1977 through 79 when Wally Woodham and Jimmy Jordan shared the spotlight. Both were great passers and seemed to alternate games in which each would have fantastic performances. They led FSU to its first ever appearance in the Orange Bowl following the 1979 season. Rick Stockstill who followed them also helped get FSU into a second consecutive Orange Bowl game after the 1980 season. One of my all time favorites was Danny McManus who led the team in 1986 and 87. While he was not as fancy as some of the others, he knew how to win. His performance in 1987 led the team to an 11-1 record including a 31-28 victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl and a second place final ranking by the Associated Press Poll, the highest that FSU had attained up to that point. Chip Ferguson led the Seminoles to a 11-1 record including a 13-7 win over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl the following season, 1988. Peter Tom Willis had a sensational 1989 season, good for a 10-2 record including another victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.
Oddly enough, the three quarterbacks who have gained the most notoriety at FSU during the years have all had the same initials, "C.W."
(1) Casey Weldon was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy following the 1991 season. He did win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award that year which is given to the nation's best passing quarterback as determined by the sponsors of that award. In both the 1990 and 91 seasons he led the Seminoles to fourth place finishes in the AP polls. He also led FSU efforts in two bowl victories over Penn State in the Blockbuster Bowl and over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
(2) Charlie Ward not only won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 as the most outstanding football player of the year but led the FSU team to its first ever National Championship that same season. He is the most decorated football player in FSU history in that he won numerous other awards in 1993 including the Davey O'Brien award for the number one quarterback in the country, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, and the Maxwell Award presented by an organization in Pennsylvania to the player determined to be the best in the country that season.
(3) Chris Weinke, after the 2000 season, also won the Heisman, the Davey O'Brien, and the Johnny Unitas awards. In all three seasons (1998, 1999, & 2000) that he was the starting quarterback for the Seminoles, the team played in the national championship game at the end of the season. Under his leadership they won that game following the 1999 season and the national championship.
Not one of the four currently competing for the starting quarterback job have the initials, "C.W.", but, hopefully whoever gets the job will have success similar to some of FSU's legendary quarterbacks.