College football is filled with historic figures, some of whom have become bigger than life as the years have passed. These are the kind of figures who would be carved in stone somewhere in South Dakota as a monument to all they accomplished.
With that in mind, we here at CBS Sports have decided to build Mount Rushmores for some of college football's most historic programs. Today, we look at the men who helped build Florida State football.
Florida State had plenty of worthy candidates pass through Tallahassee before the arrival of Bobby Bowden in 1976. Fred Biletnikoff, for example, is a College Football Hall of Famer with his name on the award given to the best wide receiver in the country every year. This edition of the Mount Rushmore exercise is not meant to exclude Biletnikoff from being honored, but we can only choose four names for the program and much of the modern-day legacy of FSU football is built on the success of the last three decades.
So now we look at the four figures who have shaped the Florida State football program we know today, starting with that head coach who arrived in 1976.
Bobby Bowden, coach 1976-2009: We've gotten to highlight a lot of important program-builders during this college football Mount Rushmore exercise, but I'd argue that no one was more impactful than Bowden during his time with the Seminoles. Bowden took over an FSU program in 1976 that had won just four games over the previous three seasons. It only a took a few years for the double-digit win seasons to start stacking up after a decade of building the Seminoles began what is known today as one of the most impressive runs in college football history.
From 1987-2000, Florida State finished in the top 5 of the AP and Coaches poll every single year, won two national championships (1993, 1999), joined the ACC (and only lost two conference games in the first nine years of membership) and recorded double-digit wins every year. The streak made Bowden the only Division I coach with 14 straight 10-win seasons and was one piece of a record 28-year bowl run for coach and program.
More than 150 of Bowden's former players were selected in the NFL Draft, including two more names on this Rushmore. Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks -- former stars for Bowden and players deserving of their own wing in FSU history -- were not only stars at the next level but went on to be named the NFL's Man of the Year.
Accolades: Two-time national champion (1993, 1999), Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year (1980), Walter Camp Coach of the Year (1991), College Football Hall of Fame (2006)
Charlie Ward, quarterback 1990-94: No player had their grip on college football in 1993 like Charlie Ward. Florida State was entering its first (of many) peaks under Bowden and Ward, the multi-sport athlete who also led the basketball team to three NCAA Tournaments, was in top form. Ward completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 2,032 yards and 27 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He won the Heisman Trophy by one of the largest voting margins in history and Florida State went on to win the program's first national championship after defeating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
The Thomasville, Georgia, native brought the program's first title and first Heisman Trophy to Tallahassee, but Ward's professional career, as we know now, would be on the hardwood. Split between the NFL and the NBA, Ward chose basketball and spent a decade with the New York Knicks. Ward is just one of many multi-sport stars in the program's history, and there was already a standard for excellence thanks to the performance of a certain cornerback that came just before him.
Accolades: Heisman Trophy (1993), Maxwell Award, Davey O'Brien Award, ACC Athlete of the Year, Consensus All-American, College Football Hall of Fame (2006)
Deion Sanders, cornerback 1985-88: Sanders is one of the top athletes in modern sports history. His time at Florida State was only the genesis for what would be a wildly entertaining and productive professional career. Maybe it's because Sanders was so electric in the pros and continues to be a figure in the NFL or maybe it's because Florida State has not ceased to produce game-changing talent in football, but it seems like Sanders' time at FSU is often overlooked.
"Prime Time" was super-human in college. Sanders was a two-time consensus All-American cornerback, played outfield for a baseball team that was ranked in the top-10 nationally and led the track team to a conference championship. Of course, Sanders got the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, but his many talents also made him one of the most dangerous punt return specialists in the country.
Accolades: Two-time consensus All-American (1987, 1888), Jim Thorpe Award (1988), No. 2 retired by Florida State, College Football Hall of Fame (2011)
Jameis Winston, quarterback 2012-2014: The recency of Jameis Winston's time at Florida State makes it less necessary to rehash the history, but I think it's important to highlight his first impression on the college football world. After everything that Winston, and the college football news cycle that followed his every step and misstep, covered, I think many have forgotten his brilliant introduction to the sport.
Jimbo Fisher claimed throughout most of spring ball and fall camp that the quarterback position was "open" and did not name Winston -- the highly-touted redshirt freshman from Hueytown, Alabama -- the official starter until mid-August. There were reports of "Famous Jameis" having the potential to make an impact on the ACC in his first year of action, and in the post-Manziel era (this was the next year after Johnny Football's Heisman, after all) everyone was looking for the next great rookie.
The stage was set. Florida State played Pittsburgh on Monday night of opening weekend. The entire nation had consumed a full plate of football and this was going to be a delicious dessert getting to see what Famous Jameis was all about. That night we learned that the boy from Hueyville is all about balling out, especially on the big stage.
Winston missed just one pass in the first half (17-of-18) while throwing for 240 yards, three touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown to account for all of Florida State's scores in a 28-10 first half against the Panthers. While Winston finished the game on the bench and Florida State won handily, he didn't let up after the break and finished with a 92.5 completion percentage (25-of-27) for the evening. It was one hell of a college debut, and a precursor of what was to come from one of the best Florida State football teams in program history.
Accolades: Heisman Trophy (2013), National Champion (2013), AP Player of the Year, Walter Camp Award Winner, ACC Player of the Year, ACC Athlete of the Year, Two-Time All-ACC