Some of them have Florida State stories.
Jim Leavitt, the coach, drove up to Tallahassee the summer before his senior year of high school hoping to show his highlight film to a Florida State coach. He sat for hours outside the coaches’ offices. He didn’t see a coach. He drove home to St. Petersburg. He went to Missouri.
Kevin McCaskill, the center, is from Tallahassee. He worked as a vendor at Doak Campbell Stadium.
B.J. Daniels, now the quarterback, grew up in Tallahassee. He idolized Charlie Ward, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who led the Seminoles to their first national title.
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On Saturday at high noon Leavitt will lead his South Florida Bulls out of the cramped visitors’ locker room and on to the turf at Doak Campbell Stadium in front of 80,000 mostly Florida State fans for a game against history.
Chief Osceola will ride Renegade and carry a burning spear.
Bobby Bowden will walk one sideline.
The USF Bulls will be outnumbered by fans, by tradition, by ranking.
This is their first shot at FSU, their first trip to the college football cathedral in Tallahassee.
Some of the shine left the game when Matt Grothe suffered a season-ending knee injury last Saturday in a warm-up against an over-matched Division I-AA team. Too bad. Grothe, the best offensive player in USF history, played his best ball in September. With Grothe at quarterback, this could have been a heck of a game.
Without him, the Bulls will rally around Daniels, who will make his first career start on the same field where Ward built his legend many years ago.
“Fear has never been a factor for me,” Daniels told reporters earlier this week.
No, though the FSU defense could be.
But this is a game the Bulls want. It’s a chance to nudge their way among Florida’s elite as Leavitt continues his quest to make the Big Three the Big Four, though it will take more than just one win against the No. 18 Seminoles for that to happen. It will take a few more games against Florida, FSU and Miami and more than a couple in-state wins before Three becomes Four.
But Saturday can be a start. Daniels can have a storybook debut. The Bulls can take down the Seminoles the way Grothe and company went on the road and took down Auburn a few years ago.
There are a number of Bulls who wanted to be Seminoles. This is a chance to prove the coaching staff up north they missed on a few players. This is chance at another signature win for Leavitt’s program.
This is a chance for more Florida State stories.
Roger Mooney, sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2212.