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Norvell’s speech captivates fans – and maybe HS coaches, prospects

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When Mike Norvell is in front of a podium, he has a captive audience. On Tuesday night, the Florida State coach spoke to the Tallahassee Quarterback Club, blending seriousness, a touch of humor, passion and often a raised voice in a nearly 30-minute speech.

Early on Norvell, drew chuckles when he commented, “It would have been really cool if this was a week earlier.” Yes, the speech would have gone over better following an upset over No. 5 North Carolina compared to a lopsided loss at Louisville. But the crowd was enthusiastic and gave Norvell a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech.

The up-and-down start for FSU, which is 2-4 at the midpoint of the 2020 season, has been tough on Norvell, too. At one point he described how awful he felt after losses. But he also reflected on the challenges of taking over a new program as well as doing so in the middle of a pandemic.

“Throughout the course of this year, I thank God they brought me here this year, with this situation, with all the things that we’ve had to go through, because these kids need us and we need them,” Norvell said.

Norvell has a way of speaking and connecting. On Tuesday, his speech was clearly to fans. But it was also to a small group of local high school coaches and players who were honored for the club’s weekly awards. Some members of coaching staffs at Tallahassee schools like Lincoln, Godby, Florida High and John Paul II were in the audience.

“Coaches, you are building the future,” Norvell said. “We all have an opportunity and an obligation to make an impact on this world.”

Among the players who were honored this week were Terrion Arnold, a four-star safety at John Paul II and a prospect who is on FSU’s radar. (Arnold had 10 tackles and two interceptions, one for a touchdown, in a victory over Chiles High.) He is “probably priority No. 1 for the FSU coaches,” Osceola recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein wrote earlier this month.

A few days ago, the 6-foot, 180-pound Arnold announced he would reveal a top 5 on Dec. 1. Arnold took the stage minutes before Norvell spoke, said a few words of appreciation to the crowd and ended with a “Go Noles” that, as expected, drew smiles and applause.

Norvell may not be able to leave campus to recruit due to the NCAA’s dead period. And prospects can’t have official visits on campuses. But Norvell followed a tradition of FSU coaches speaking at the club’s leadoff event, albeit one that was delayed a few months due to the coronavirus pandemic. And it was fortuitous that Arnold was a breakout local star honored for his performance.

During the speech, Norvell commented how much he hates losing but also feels the short-term pain may deliver long-term results for the players and the program.

“We’ve seen the glimpses. The first half of the North Carolina game might have been one of the best halves of football I’ve ever been a part of,” Norvell said. “We’re still growing. We’re looking for that consistency, that confidence that comes through all the experiences. I hate losing. It physically makes me sick when we come up short. But at the end of the day a loss is there for a moment but it can make a positive impact for a lifetime if you learn the right lessons.”

The coach is introduced by FSU All-American Peter Boulware. Norvell’s speech to the Tallahassee Quarterback Club begins at about the 1-minute, 30-second mark. There is background noise at times during the audio recording but Norvell’s voice comes through clearly throughout.