The legacy that is Florida State football arrived in force Saturday morning on the field of Mikel Clark Sports Complex.
Seahawk Coach Tony Yeomans, himself a Seminole standout who played pro ball, drew Noles from the past and present to help instruct local boys ranging from the very young to seniors who will be leading the Hawks this upcoming season.
“I can feel this here is going to be a nice year,” said Dedrick Dodge, who can boast of two Super Bowl rings, one with San Francisco in 1994, and another with Denver in 1997.
“I can just tell, just from the atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the guys,” he said. “That’s infectious, especially when they’re able to see guys from small towns who have made it.”
Dodge hails from Mulberry,and played as free safety for the Noles from 1985-89, alongside Yeomans as well as superstar Deion Sanders.
“Twenty-two of the 27 who signed with Coach Bobby Bowden went all to play in the NFL,” said Yeomans.
After graduation, Dodge played two years with the Seattle Seahawks, three years with the 49ers, and then a year with the Denver Broncos and a year with the San Diego Chargers.
After that he wrapped up his playing career with two more years of pro ball, with London in the World Football League.
Following his retirement, Dodge went into high school coaching, including leading Evangel Christian to a state title in 2005.
“I’m my brother’s keeper,” he said. “I like going around helping kids, sharing what was given to me. I like giving back, the different things I learned along the way.”
Dodge praised his former teammate for the work he’s begun in Franklin County.
“What he’s doing right now he’s getting motivation and excitement,” he said. “He’s a man that’s been coaching a lot of different places, and he’s instilled those things. I’m proud of him.”
Carl Simpson, a Seminole defensive end and tackle who played from 1988-92, said he and Yeomans grew up in Georgia, about 30 minutes apart, and the two have been friends ever since their high school glory days.
“I wanted to come down and support him,” said Simpson, who went by the nickname “black and diamond” during his college and pro career. After leading the team in sacks his junior and senior years, he was a second round pick for the Chicago Bears, where he played for five seasons. After that he coached in the high school and small college ranks in Georgia.
“Just keep giving them (the Seahawks) your support, your unconditional support,” he said. “He (Yeomans) has got a good pedigree as far as where he comes from.”
The boys also heard from two current players, defensive lineman Fred Jones, son of Fred Jones Sr. who played with Yeomans at FSU, and nephew of Marvin Jones, an all-American FSU linebacker, member of the College Football Hall of Fame, who played for 12 years with the New York Jets
“What you do in the dark comes to light sooner or later,” said Marvin Jones, as he urged the players to focus on their grades, especially if they want to continue on to play in college.
“My mom is a teacher and principal. My grades always had to be tight, or I’d get grounded, no TV, no phone, no cupcakes, no brownies, no ice cream," he said.
Malique Jackson, a Seminole defensive cornerback, also was on hand, and he stressed the importance of building relationships that will serve the team’s morale and cohesiveness.
Jackson played quarterback for Jessup in Georgia, and he said his task was made easier because of the bonds he had with the other players.
“My coach didn’t have to tell me to go out and gather some players,” he said. “We just started building relationships. We could feel each other’s vibes, we knew what each other was going to do.
“That’s what it takes to win games and to win a championship, and to have a big crowd come out and support you,” said Jackson. “I believe you got the right one right now. He’s a great coach. I think he’s going to bring some good things to Franklin County High School.
“Every plant starts from a seed,” he said. “When it starts growing, you see it. It’s going to start growing eventually, it just takes time.”
Right now what’s on Jackson’s mind is earning a starting role for the Noles this fall, his senior year. “It’s time for my seed to sprout,” he said.
The Noles’ biggest test of the year will come in its opening game, when they take on Alabama in Atlanta. “The Crimson Tide, we’re coming for you,” he promised.
Closing out the morning were remarks from Rick Williams, Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic’s sports medicine outreach director, who spoke about players' need to respond to any sign of injury.
“Being great means you take care of little things,” he said. “Injuries are one of those little things.”
Yeomans said he was pleased at how well the camp went, especially on an overcast, hot morning. He said about 15 varsity players did not attend the camp, which wasn’t mandatory, and that he especially wanted to build enthusiasm among the younger boys.
“I was interested in getting the young kids out, to get them involved,” he said.
Taking part was Yeomans’ new offensive line coach, John Cooper, who was recently hired to teach ESE, as well as Brock Johnson, who is working with the quarterbacks. Not yet on hand, but recently hired, is Charles Syverson, a state championship coach from Wyoming, who will be working as offensive coordinator and with the wide receivers.
Players are working out in the weight room Monday through Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m.
On June 8, Yeomans is taking 18 skilled players to a seven-on-seven tourney in Wakulla, and on June 17 he’ll be taking 18 to a seven on seven tournament at Florida State.
On June 23, he’s taking 14 offensive and defensive linemen to a weekend-long “down and dirty” linemen camp in Lake Wales
On July 22, he’ll be taking 18 players to a seven-on-seven camp at the University of Florida in Gainesville.