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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2007
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Growing up garnet and gold
Several Tide players cheered for Florida State as children

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Andre Smith grew up with a Florida State room.

Now the starting left tackle for Alabama, the Birmingham native had painted the walls in Seminoles garnet and gold.

Before he took any of his recruiting visits as a Huffman High senior, Smith wanted to play for Florida State. His mother, however, wanted him to take all his trips before he made his decision.

Smith eventually moved to a new house — without a Florida State room — and signed his letter of intent to play at Alabama. That was the end of his Seminole obsession.

“I liked the coaches that were here, just the school and tradition and overall is why I picked Alabama,” Smith said. “I mean, it’s only 45 minutes from home.”

Smith’s childhood love of the Florida State program is not unusual among Alabama players. Several said they grew up cheering for the Seminoles.

Smith and those teammates will have a chance to beat Florida State when Alabama faces the Seminoles in Jacksonville.

During the 1990s — the formative years for many Alabama players — Florida State was one of the hottest teams in football.

The Seminoles won two national championships (1993 and 1999) and were 109-11. Their coach, Bobby Bowden, is the winningest in major college football.

During that time, the Seminoles had talented players such as wide receiver Peter Warrick and running back Warrick Dunn.

For example, Tide center Antoine Caldwell was a running back when he was younger (and smaller) playing football in the ’90s, so his favorite player was Dunn.

Caldwell also used to choose Florida State when he played football video games as a child. He wanted to play with a team that included Peter Warrick and Warrick Dunn.

“I liked those guys a lot growing up,” Caldwell said. “I have nothing but respect for what those guys do down there.”

Defensive end Wallace Gilberry liked both Warrick Dunn and Peter Warrick. A native of Bay Minette, Gilberry lived about a 31/2-hour drive from Tallahassee.

“It’s not that far from the house,” Gilberry said.

Some other players always associated the Seminoles with the sun and the beach.

“If you remember back in the ’90s, I think it was Nebraska and Florida State,” said Tide linebacker Darren Mustin, another FSU fan as a child. “Nebraska’s way out there and Florida is ... that’s where we go on vacation. So we wanted Florida State.”

Tacked onto the wins, the players and the location, Alabama players also recall the pageantry before Florida State games.

For example, Gilberry talked about the Florida State mascot riding out onto the field on a horse and throwing a spear into the ground.

Caldwell said he enjoyed the tradition, the colors, the spirit, and “everything that they did.”

But of course, when Saturday comes, those will put their childhood allegiances aside and try to beat Florida State.

They all say that the nostalgia won’t change the way they play. But it may actually have a different kind of effect.

“I’m really looking forward to it, competing against the team I grew up loving,” Smith said.

“It’s an opportunity to go down there and compete in Florida.

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