Out of state players take time grasping UF, FSU rivarly

Florida State players celebrate after a 27-2 win against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) ORG XMIT: 1177287

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State's Roderick Johnson was slightly taken back at the thought of eating alligator tail.

But Johnson, a junior left tackle from Florissant, Missouri, willingly tried the delicacy as a rite of passage into the Florida-Florida State rivalry.


"It's pretty good," Johnson said, "and it's one of the things they do here for tradition."

Johnson is one of nearly 40 players on FSU's roster not originally from the state of Florida. On the other sideline in Saturday's game in Doak Campbell Stadium, the Gators have 30 players on their roster from out of state as well.


For the players from Florida, it doesn't take much to get a grasp the breadth of the heated rivalry. More than 40 players on both teams opted to go different paths after being high school teammates. The fostered relationships, also made on 7-on-7 teams during offseason, are tested when both teams play every season.

Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson, who tried to recruit FSU running back Dalvin Cook and safety Ermon Lane in 2014, has had to hear about losing to the Seminoles for the past two seasons.

Like the in-state players know, the game is all about bragging rights, as the Seminoles aim to make it four in a row this season.

"I definitely need to not go another 365 days without beating FSU," Wilson said.

For players who aren't from Florida, getting acclimated to the rivalry does take some time.

Florida linebacker Kylan Johnson, from Texas, said his motivation this week has been "no different than any other week."

Johnson really did not understand how enthused fans of both schools can get riled up as a redshirt freshman sitting out of last season's game. He'll make his first appearance in the UF-FSU game this season.

"I know it's pretty serious," Johnson said. "You know everybody talk about it. You know it's a lot of Florida State-Florida fans, so you know, I guess it's kind of a big deal down here."


FSU senior cornerback Marquez White said he loved watching it as a youngster behind the Alabama-Auburn rivalry from Dothan, Alabama.

White said it's grown on him during his career, especially playing alongside seven defensive backs teammates from the state.

"So many legends, so many first round picks, so many Heisman winners played in this game," White said. "It's a great game to play in."

The out-of-state players can take a lesson from Florida offensive lineman T.J. McCoy, whose father Tony played defensive end for the Gators from 1987-1991.

"I actually watched the '91 game when they beat Florida State in The Swamp," McCoy said. "That was a very emotional win, and that year they won the SEC championship. So just beating Florida State is like the pride of saying, 'know we're state champions.'

"Also it's the SEC versus the ACC. It's kind of like saying, 'We're the best conference.' … It's the SEC versus the ACC and being state champs."


FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, from West Virginia, has had 10 seasons at Florida State to acclimate to the rivalry, while UF's Jim McElwain, from Montana, is getting ready for his second game in the series.

Winning the mythical state championship also contributes to victories on the recruiting trail in-state and how the programs are portrayed nationally.

"We think for our program to be where it needs to be, those are extremely important not only because of rivalry games, but because of the nature of their programs and how their programs are very well received across the country," Fisher said. "That means you can play with anybody."

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