‘Noles reflect: Why I signed with FSU

Wednesday is National Signing Day. A memorable day for high school football players who choose where they will attend college and and play football.

The Osceola staff contacted former Florida State football players, of which 19 responded. Below are their thoughts:

Peter Boulware – “Bobby Bowden. I wanted to play for this incredible coach and mentor.”

Forrest Conoly – “James ‘Keykee’ Conoly, my uncle, was there (at FAMU as a head of risk management) and I knew the support, along with the discipline I needed, came along with that and my mom lived in ACC country in Raleigh, N.C. FSU sent a different coach to Connecticut every weekend to see me. I felt loved. Even after committing, Coach Bowden still made an in-school visit to secure my commitment. Other schools like Penn State, Florida, Miami and Michigan didn’t care about the verbal commitment. They were still after me. I saw they (FSU coaches) were really committed to me being a ‘Nole. FAMU the best of both worlds. You get the HBCU experience but you also get to play for a national championship and on TV every Saturday.

Keith Cottrell – “I was dead set on heading to Pitt because they were going to let me play quarterback and punt. My folks were ‘Noles but never pressured me about being a ‘Nole. They supported my dream of keeping my hands on the ball every play. Then Johnny Majors was fired and I was put in a room with Coach Bobby Bowden and that sealed that deal. My heart was always with Florida State from the time I was a young fan anyway. I came to my senses and realized the opportunity in front of me given that we were mid-dynasty run when I came in (1997-2000). I enrolled early and in my four years we were 45-5. Choosing Florida State was a great decision athletically and academically. Florida State has given me great memories and lifelong friends. I’m glad Coach Majors was fired.”

Dedrick Dodge – “I came because Bobby Bowden said to come and you don’t question Coach Bowden. You just say, ‘yes, sir.’ ”

Todd Fordham – “I chose FSU for a couple of reasons, mainly of which I grew up a huge fan of FSU, Bobby Bowden and Burt Reynolds. Secondly, I had three former high school buddies who had gone to FSU and they all did well and FSU was winning. It’s everything I was looking for from a school, distance from home and athletic experience.”

Steve Gilmer – “Initially I was very interested in leaving town to get a new experience after spending my entire life in Tallahassee. After freezing on a church ski trip in December my senior year I decided I wanted to play in warm weather. I think Coach Bowden made sure that the jacket I borrowed would have no insulation. I then recognized that in my back yard was the best football program in the country, so going somewhere else just to go somewhere else wasn’t a wise decision. It was a great choice for me.”

Brad Johnson – “I wanted to go to a top-10 program in the country that would have a chance to compete for a national title. I wanted to play for coach Bobby Bowden and Mark Richt and felt very comfortable with them. They also said I could play two sports with football and basketball. I ended up playing two years of basketball.”

Keith Jones – “I signed with FSU because my mom loved her time with Coach Bowden during my official visit to Tallahassee. She told me that’s where she wanted me to go. I told coach Jim Gladden that my Mom specifically requested, ‘Mr. Bowden (she did not call him Coach yet because I was not actually on the team) not come to my house after the recruiting visit in Tallahassee for a home visit because he needs to spend his time with other boy’s mammas. Keith’s Mamma is already on board!’ That part is quite true. But the bigger issue was the position I was going to play. Florida, Alabama and Georgia Tech all wanted me to play quarterback which was my primary position in High School. But I was smart enough to know that at 5-foot-10 my chances were not promising at QB. Additionally, my high school coach had played at Alabama and was still tight with their staff. He advised they had signed a QB the year before they really liked. His name was Stedman Shelley. He led them to national championships in 1978 and 1979. UF had a commitment named Cris Collinsworth who also played QB. And I had made my mind up – it would be much better to be a hitter that a hit-tee in college. Coach Bowden promised me a shot at safety and I am forever grateful for all that athletic grant-in-aid and for what Coach Bowden’s influence has meant to me and my family.”

Amp Lee – “The tradition. The pride. Coach Bowden. The program had players who I felt had a deep commitment to competing and winning. Deion Sanders and Lawrence Dawsey were two players I fully respected.”

Danny McManus – “Opportunity to play for Coach Bowden, beautiful campus, and get a degree from a state school.”

Kez McCorvey – “Florida State represented a new life, a change in my circumstances. A chance to be who I wanted to become. No real other offers. FSU was basically my only offer until a week before signing day.”

Joe Ostaszewski – “Henry and I visited five schools but when Coach Bowden sat on our couch and promised Henry and I and our parents a family atmosphere, that was it. We were coming and you know what? It was a family. It didn’t matter your age, your race or your position, we were a family. I hope Coach Norvell can implement that atmosphere for his players and for past players, and from what I have seen he and his staff are very welcoming. I was up there yesterday (Monday) and they seemed to be very happy to see me and encouraged me to visit more. It felt like the family atmosphere I remember.”

Bill Ragans – “For me it was a no-brainer. This was my only DI offer. I would have been at D-IAA or D-II school if Coach Bowden and Coach (Mickey) Andrews hadn’t given me a chance. We played in the Seminole Bowl at Florida High when it was still on the FSU campus and several of the coaches came to the game. I had a pretty good game and caught their eye. I was still 16, so there was room to grow.”

Mark Salva – “I was a marginal Power 5 guy simply because of my height/weight.  I played at Winter Park with Paul McGowan and we went deep in the playoffs my last two years. I played against David Williams out of Lakeland two times a year (regular season and playoffs), and against guys that signed with Florida, Miami, Michigan, Georgia and other schools and did really well. But at 6-1 and 250 pounds, a lot of folks didn’t know what to make of it. Playing with Paul in high school meant that everyone saw me play because Paul was getting recruited by everyone and I was noticed. Well, what got the ball rolling was when Mike Archer was at UM he really liked me and recruited me full speed and offered me when they were in the middle of their first national championship run. Jim Gladden recruited me hard too but really no other big schools did. UF hardly knew my name. I took an official to UM the week after the championship and was ready to commit. But Archer left that weekend to go to LSU and I had no advocate so they wouldn’t take my commitment. I then took an official to FSU with Paul and when Coach Bowden met with me, he told me they had one scholarship left for a DL and if Ron Stallworth (USA Today defensive player of the year from Pensacola) decided he wanted to come, then that scholarship was committed to him. If he went to Auburn, then I would have that scholarship. He was dead honest with me and I always appreciated that. My only other option was Eastern Kentucky. Well, I came back from my official from EKU, Coach Gladden was on the phone and told me that “Ron Stallworth committed to Auburn and so …” I answered yes before he could finish. Later, while I was coaching, Mark, Brad and Jim told me that during the recruiting meeting that Sunday, there was some heated discussion about whether or not to take me. I heard that Chuck (Amato) stood up, held his fingers about 2 inches apart and said, “you mean if he was this much taller it wouldn’t be a problem?” The thing that iced it was that Coach Bowden finally put it to rest and said ‘I promised that boy that we would take him if Stallworth went to Auburn, so that’s what we’re gonna do.’ I can’t imagine where I’d be if Coach Bowden didn’t keep his word – like there was any doubt that he would. Needless to say, I was the last scholarship given, moved to OL and I lettered my Freshman year and started 3. Oh, and beat Stallworth.”

Sammie Smith – “Loved Coach Bowden and his staff. And I wanted to be a part of the building of a great football program at FSU.”

Rick Stockstill – “I signed with FSU because of Coach Bowden. My class was coach’s first full recruiting class. I believed in his vision and plan that he had for FSU football. He was the type of coach that you could feel his love and passion for coaching and I wanted to be part of something special that he was building as FSU had not had much success the previous four-five years. And we wanted to help coach build FSU football into a national name.”

Kurt Unglaub – “Bob Harbison signed me after Darrell Mudra got let go. Mike Shumann talked me into coming, said I could start as a freshman. The chance to play early and the chance to help build a program from the bottom. Then the gravy was to play for Coach Bowden. All that was accomplished. A blessing.”

Charlie Ward – “Coach Bowden, close to hometown and Coach Bowden allowed Brad (Johnson) to play basketball. And that is what I wanted to do.”

Tony Yeomans – “I had committed to Southern Cal. UGA was pushing hard late but when Coach Bowden came into my home it was over. Coach Bowden is why I chose FSU. One of a kind coach and person.”

Jerry Kutz and Patrick Burnham contributed to this report


  1. Jim Gladden

    These guys are all saying what I would say, that is why I stayed at Florida State the balance of my Career, the last 27 years. Coach Bowden had more influence on me than any man alive. He taught so much more than Football, His management style, gave ownership to everyone in the program, Coaches and Players and the Fan Base. He created a very enjoyable working environment. Our Family will forever grateful to Coach Bowden and The Florida State University. We were able to stay in one place, our children went all the way through school here and Daughter Julie Graduated in the First Graduating Class of the New Medical school and is an Orthopedic Surgeon in Sarasota.

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