Before Hall-of-Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks was a success in the NFL, he was a success at Florida State University. A two-time consensus All American, he lost only three times there and won a national championship in 1993.
But Brooks wasn’t alone. There was a never-ending line of successful Seminoles’ players that went on to have successful NFL careers, and you can start with someone who preceded Brooks at Florida State — Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders.
So how did then-coach Bobby Bowden do it? We asked Brooks, who was 33-3-1 with the Seminoles, and he had a ready explanation.
“During that time,” Brooks said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, the last in our seven-part College Draft series, “there wasn’t a lot of movement by assistant coaches. He was able to maintain that staff that he had for probably, I believe, 10-15 years together before Mark Richt ended up going to Georgia.
“A lot of guys stayed together. I think that was one of the hidden gems in terms of recruiting that coach Bowden had over a lot of other coaches was stability. They did a great job of doing it, and they wanted to be there.”
We just wanted to go and show that we were the best in the country, day in and day out.
But it had to be more than that. Great coaches without great players doesn’t usually translate to success … and Florida State had great players.
“Coach Bowden was a closer, man,” said Brooks. “He knows how to go in and close deals in front of family and get the young men, such as myself, to believe in the program that he was producing at Florida State.”
In fact, he did such a great deal that for 14 consecutive years Florida State never lost more than two games in one season and ranked in the Top 10 every year. There was so much success … and talent … that the pressure to continue that streak should have been enormous on the next wave of players.
Except pressure had nothing to do with it, said Brooks.
“It was an expectation,” he said. “We had that on ourselves. We wanted to be great, and we wouldn’t accept anything else less than being great. So, it became an expectation for us.
“It wasn’t pressure at all. That’s how we pushed each other. We weren’t looking at the history of what we were doing at the time. We just wanted to go and show that we were the best in the country, day in and day out.”