FSU football coach Mike Norvell’s passion shows he knows what UF rivalry means

It struck me very early on during his press conference on Monday.

So much so that I had to go back and ask him a few minutes later.

Mike Norvell spoke so passionately about this week, this game, this rivalry, that I wanted to know exactly why he was so excited.

It might sound like a silly phrase, so let me explain.

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Yes, it’s Florida State-Florida week. It’s a great rivalry, one of the best and fiercest in the country. And yes, WE get it. But Mike Norvell didn’t necessarily grow up with Florida state football. Not up close and personal anyway.

He’s been here for less than two years. He was from Memphis. And before that, he was in the desert with the Gila monsters.

Arizona-Arizona State is not the same as Florida State-Florida. Not even close.

So I wondered where all this passion came from.

In this modern era of college football, when coaches – and now players – change schools every two years, you wonder how much a game like this can mean to someone who hasn’t lived it, who was not born there. , brainwashed into the hatred that arises when the Seminoles and Gators meet on a soccer field.

This is why you have so many coaches who only talk about “faceless opponents”. The other side doesn’t matter, it’s about yourself and what you’re doing. They don’t want to fan the flames of a rivalry because to them it’s just another game. They know it means a lot to the fans, of course, but so many coaches these days feel like strangers when it comes to the real passion of a rivalry.

They can feel like mercenaries who are here to do a job, get a check, and hopefully win games and change lives in the process. But for them, Florida is no different from Syracuse or North Carolina.

How thankful we should all be that Mike Norvell is not one of those coaches.

He understands, without a shadow of a doubt, how important these games are.

He admitted earlier this week that when fall camp begins he talks about two games with his players before first practice.

“Miami and this one,” Norvell said.

By the way, he said “this one” or “this game” or “that opponent” several times this week when referring to Saturday’s showdown. I haven’t checked all the tapes, but as far as I can remember the words “Florida” or “Gators” haven’t been out of her mouth all week.

This is not an original idea, of course. There are many examples of head coaches who do not name their rivals: legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes would never say “Michigan,” Urban Meyer would never say “State of. Florida, ”Jimbo Fisher would never say,“ Hey, what’s up, Ira? Nice to see you, man! “

Speaking of Fisher, however.

One of the things he’s done exceptionally well as Florida State head coach was to beat his rivals. He did it over and over again.

He lost to Florida once. In 2012.

He lost to Miami once. In 2017.

That’s it. Everything else was victories.

Fisher knew how important these rivalry games were because, in a way, he lived them. He was so close to the Bowden family as a quarterback at Samford, playing for Terry, that he knew firsthand what it meant when the Seminoles beat the Gators.

He knew, even before he trained for a second at FSU, what this rivalry was all about.

Looks like the new guy is doing it too. It is very heartwarming for us longtime college football fans.

As the sport gets closer and closer to the NFL – with a free agency (transfer portal), NIL deals, astronomical coaching salaries, and discussions about a 12-team playoff – the only real difference between the two. two sports could end up being the passion of these rivalry games.

You can tell me the NFL also has rivalries. But man, if you try to convince me that Green Bay-Chicago or New Orleans-Atlanta is the same as Auburn-Alabama or FSU-Florida, I can promise you I don’t believe you. I will never believe you.

One of the last strongholds of the sport that I have loved so much since my childhood is the passion for the game. At the end of the year. After Thanksgiving.

The FSU-Florida game is a ritual, a game that will always have meaning. Never mind the recordings. It doesn’t matter if a championship is in play or not.

He is not a faceless opponent. It’s the Florida Gators. And Mike Norvell certainly seems to understand how much this game means to all of us. On both sides of the rivalry.

So with that in mind, let’s close with the answer he gave on Monday about what’s at stake on Saturday.

You may have read it already. You may have seen the video. But it deserves a last look as we head to the state of Florida-Florida.

“I know what this game means,” said Norvell. “And if you don’t get up for this one, then go somewhere else. Go do something else. Because it’s not for you.

“But you look at the history, you look at the lore, you know what it means for the university, you know what it means for the fans. That’s why you play! That’s why you train! And that is to have guys [ready] for the moment. Everything we have done so far has prepared us. Either we take advantage of it. Or we won’t. “

Contact Senior Editor Corey Clark at [email protected] and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.

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