'Tallahassee stand up!' Winning FAMU, Florida State football seasons energize Tallahassee
The Rattlers' fifth-year coach, born and raised in Quincy, understands the dynamics surrounding Tallahassee's two Division-I football teams.
"Tallahassee Stand Up!!!"
"This community, this city is so much better when both teams are doing well," said Simmons, who cheered on coach Bobby Bowden's FSU teams and coach Billy Joe's FAMU teams as a youth. "We pull for Florida State, and they pull for us.
"It’s exciting to see both teams doing well on the football field."
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FAMU, FSU riding winning streaks as regular-season winds down
The Rattlers have won eight consecutive games heading into Saturday's rivalry showdown against Bethune-Cookman (2-8) in Orlando at 2:30 p.m. in Florida Blue Florida Classic.
FSU, meanwhile, appears to have recovered from a midseason slump with resounding road victories over rival Miami (45-3) and Syracuse (38-3) heading into Saturday's home game against Louisiana of the Sun Belt Conference at noon.
Though new to Tallahassee, Norvell, 41, understands the importance of winning football in the state's capital. He's also gotten to know Simmons the past three years and appreciates the friendship.
Simmons, 42, encouraged fans from both schools and the city to rally behind the programs last Saturday after visiting FAMU beat Alabama State University 21-14 and the Seminoles crushed the Orange.
“It’s a special situation to have two Division-I football programs in the same city, and it’s great for both to be experiencing success," Norvell said.
"For me, it’s been awesome to see the pride our community has in supporting both FAMU and Florida State. I have enjoyed getting to know coach Simmons and appreciate the passion he has for the young men in his program.
"We both are aware of the impact we can make on young men as well as our community through football and it’s great to have that support from the people we represent.“
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FAMU eyes FCS playoff bid; FSU once again bowl eligible
While Simmons has directed the FCS No. 24 Rattlers to four consecutive winning seasons and a top-25 ranking in the AFCA Coaches Poll the past three years, Norvell is rebuilding FSU's brand.
The Seminoles are bowl eligible for the first time since 2019 and are guaranteed a winning record for the first time in five years.
"We're going to focus on the things that we need to do to continue to improve and get better, but that's what this team is embracing," said Norvell, hired in December 2019 to replace Willie Taggart, who was fired after only 21 games (9-12 record).
"And it was started a few years ago. Great high points and some low, low points. But when you continue to believe and you're investing in the work and you pour into each other, and you're doing it with all your heart, it's fun to watch."
Both programs must stay hot as the regular-season winds down.
FAMU needs a victory to remain in contention for an at-large invitation into the 2022 FCS playoffs for the second straight year.
On Tuesday, FAMU athletics, with support from President Larry Robinson submitted a bid to the NCAA to host a first-round playoff game. The bid is contingent on the No. 24 Rattlers defeating B-CU.
The NCAA playoff announcement is scheduled for Sunday, with games starting a week from Saturday.
FSU closes its regular season against Louisiana and rival Florida Friday, Nov. 25, at Doak Campbell Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.
The Seminoles, who debuted in the 2022 College Football Playoff rankings last week, moved up from No. 23 to No. 19 in Tuesday's updated rankings. Last week marked the first time since Week 14 of the 2016 season that FSU was ranked in the CFP rankings.
Winning energizes fan bases
Winning teams also help boost the local economy as fans fill hotels, restaurants, stores and stadiums.
The Rattlers averaged 14,418 fans in five home games this season at recently renovated Bragg Memorial Stadium, which features a new capacity of 19,500. FAMU sold-out its homecoming victory (27-6) against Arkansas Pine-Bluff last month.
FSU has averaged 66,522 fans for five home games, enjoying its first sellout at Doak Campbell Stadium (79,660) since 2015 during its 44-14 Family Weekend win against Boston College Sept. 24.
The Seminoles also announced in September they had sold out their regular-season finale against Florida.
"We've been selling a ton of everything," said Tara Kennedy, of Garnet & Gold, which sells FSU Seminole apparel. "We can't keep the Norvell (gray) hoodies in stock. You can tell that fans are definitely excited again."
FAMU and FSU winning also filters down to local high schools.
The Rattlers' roster features 13 Tallahassee players. FSU linebacker and former Chiles star Amari Gainer is the Seminoles' active career leader in tackles (205), tackles for loss (18.5), forced fumbles (5) and fumble recoveries (3).
"This is a great college town with two great universities," said Florida High football coach Jarrod Hickman, whose Seminoles are 11-0 and meet Pensacola Catholic Friday in the FHSAA playoffs. "I think this city is a whole lot of fun when the two college football programs are rolling.
"This season has been definitely a good vibe."
Simmons shared those good vibes on social media. And it's safe to say both programs and supporters want to keep the good times rolling.
"It’s exciting to see both teams doing well on the football field," Simmons said.
"During my high school days, that’s what Tallahassee was booming with – Florida State winning national titles, FAMU competing in the FCS playoffs and having deep runs.
"I just remember how exciting the city was. (I am) starting to get that same feeling again since both teams are getting back to national prominence."
Reach Jim Henry at email@example.com.
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