FSU's seniors leave lasting legacy

Terrence Brooks is part of a senior class hoping to lead Florida State to a national title. Melina Vastola/USA TODAY Sports

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The questions come because Saturday marks an ending, and endings require acknowledgement. But really, Terrence Brooks hasn’t wanted to talk about it much.

Yes, he’ll walk out onto the field at Doak Campbell Stadium for the final time in his career on Saturday, but it seems like an odd time for reflection. There’s still so much work left to do, and for Brooks and the rest of Florida State’s 2010 recruiting class, the ultimate goal is tantalizingly within reach.

After all, a national championship is why they came here in the first place -- even if it seemed a long way off at the time.

“I feel like all of us in that class, we’ve laid some great groundwork since we came here,” Brooks said. “We want to go out with a bang. We can’t let anything get between us and this national championship.”

When Brooks agreed to play for Florida State, a national championship was the least of the Seminoles’ concerns. In 2009, FSU barely qualified for a bowl game. Legendary coach Bobby Bowden was pushed out, and coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher was given the reins. For nearly a decade, the program had been listing toward irrelevance, and now Fisher was tasked with convincing top recruits he had an answer.

The Class of 2010 bought his pitch, then spent the next four years building the legacy he’d promised.

“There’s some guys that you’ll remember to the end of your last dying days,” Fisher said. “That’s a tremendous group of guys to me, and they ought to be remembered in Florida State lore for a long time for what they really meant.”

For Brooks, Lamarcus Joyner, Telvin Smith, Kenny Shaw and Christian Jones, creating a new legacy at Florida State was part of what drew them to Tallahassee in the first place.

Joyner grew up in Miami, rooting for the Seminoles as a kid. Smith was a star in south Georgia, and he knew the history of the once-proud program. Jones’ dad and brother both played here, too, and he wanted to make his own mark.

When the class finally came together on Signing Day 2010, Fisher had compiled enough talent to begin the long climb back to relevance.

“Guys like me, Telvin, Lamarcus -- we used to talk in high school,” Jones said. “We’d talk about how we can help build that foundation. We grew up watching Florida State and knew how great the teams were in the past.

Fisher’s job when he took over as head coach was to change the culture of a program that had fallen on hard times. He needed leaders -- both on the field and off. He looked for players with infectious personalities, then sold them on what they could accomplish at Florida State.

Little by little, Fisher’s process took root. Florida State won 10 games his first season, nine his next, then 12 in 2012, along with his first ACC title. There were still the occasional questions about whether Florida State was “back” but no one doubted the program was pointed in the right direction.

“Everything he was saying was falling into place,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, I couldn’t do anything but believe.”

That belief has paid off in a perfect start to the 2013 season, with Florida State in the hunt for a BCS championship and the Class of 2010 leading the charge -- in the locker room and on the field.

“They are the transition,” junior Karlos Williams said. “They’re the class that started it, that really started the change. It’s something they take pride in. They came in and said they weren’t leaving without a national championship.”

Saturday figures to be a rather simple step toward that goal. Idaho has won just four games the last three years. But it’s still a significant moment, a point to measure where they were and how far they’ve come.

“I think this is just the beginning for the program,” Jones said. “And it’s a special thing for us to know we laid that foundation.”