Buzz for FSU football is building around Tallahassee

TALAHASSEE – state of florida graduate assistant Cooper Williams grew up with Memphis Soccer. There were good times, like the By Angelo Williams Era in the early 2000s, then hard days under Larry Porter.

During those years, Williams would go to games with Dad and his group of friends at an empty Liberty Bowl. At a contest, with maybe 5,000 in attendance, pops told Williams to walk across the facility and yell at him from the opposite end zone.

“Can you hear me?!?”

“Loud and clear,” Williams shouted back.

From a cavernous bowl to a rowdy environment that hosted College GameDay in 2019, Williams has seen the growth of the Group of Five program firsthand as a fan, player and helper. justin fuente helped stabilize Memphis, but mike norvel took it to another level. And Cooper is again witnessing a similar injection of excitement and energy under Norvell as the coach rocks Florida State and Tallahassee in a way that hasn’t been felt in this entire community for nearly a decade. ‘a decade.

Matt Thompson, the managing partner of For The Table Hospitality, can’t remember the last time he felt this kind of atmosphere around town. Seriously he says that and people think he’s kidding… but the College Town brewery township wasn’t yet adjacent to his base bar/restaurant Madison Social when FSU last had a winning team with THIS guy of hype around it.

“It’s nice to have positivity in the air,” Thompson said with a chuckle.

You can feel it everywhere in the city. He was built in New Orleans when the fanbase swarmed the French Quarter and greeted the team at his hotel with a vigor that’s stuck with the defensive coordinator. Adam Fuller a month later – “this is Florida State. I mean, that’s what this whole fanbase and college and all that is for. Yes, it’s a special place, and something I don’t take for granted. — and he followed the team back to Tallahassee as the wins mounted in a 4-0 start.

Fire trucks honk over the training ground on Stadium Drive when the team is outside in the form of an auditory nod. Go to a doctor’s office and listen to the conversations of two elderly gentlemen discussing the Wake Forest contest this weekend. Will the game be played with an impending hurricane? That’s what the director of a Tallahassee institution, Bagel Bagel, wants to know. Fuller goes to Little League games to watch his sons play, and people want to talk about FSU football. When the Whataburger near Doak AND the Mile on Apalachee Road both have cars wrapped around the drive-thru lane hours after the game, you know you’re cooking.

On a personal note, I haven’t felt this for a season (maybe before a season where the hype outweighed the substance) since 2014, when you could jog or walk and feel that palpable energy running through the city.

Tallahassee is definitely more fun when FSU wins, and you’re right, it’s better for business. Not just athletic departments or collectives or team sites like Noles247.

Ask Thompson, who opened Township after FSU’s 29-game winning streak, what it’s like when the team doesn’t win.

Or even when it is, and that’s not funny, like in 2016 when leaks started squirting out of the sinking ship that was the SS Jimbo.

“Even then, they were making players sign promissory notes,” jokes Thompson. Not funny, however, was the bottom line. Declining interest in 2016, the 2017 crash-and-burn season that included multiple schedule-altering hurricanes, then what Thompson called “the Willie debacle” with serious apathy in 2018-19, then a pandemic year in 2020…for a company that only found success with Madison Social, the For The Table Hospitality spinoff was in trouble.

“Jesus, what did we do,” Thompson recalled thinking to himself.

He’s seen what his restaurants do when the team starts 0-4, and now he has a direct comparison to FSU at 4-0. Thrown into Parents’ Weekend, and Thompson said last week was “a monster” from a business standpoint. Employees are happier, writing end-of-day reports in which they literally state “it feels good to have a winning football team.”

“They’re writing this because they’re dealing with great, good-natured customers. Energy is obviously better, and money is a means to an end, but there’s only energy. solid, it’s welcoming,” said Thompson. “And honestly, I thank Coach Norvell.

“It really matters to local businesses when FSU is doing well, or at least has the potential to do well. You’re not going to games thinking we’re going to blow our doors down, you’re not going to have a fan reading a book on top of a stadium.

Norvell felt that energy spilling onto campus last week before a prime-time game against Boston College. The Seminoles, then 3-0, picked up a remarkable Week 1 win over LSU in New Orleans, then a gutsy effort in a comeback attempt against Louisville. A friendly, hard-working group who found ways to win close games to open the year brought excitement and pride to a hungry fanbase. Granted, it’s a fanbase that’s already been burned buying into the hype of previous years.

Still, when Saturday’s game against British Columbia got underway, the atmosphere reflected the confidence the Seminoles showed on the field. FSU scored on the return of the opening kickoff, then recorded an interception that the offense turned into a touchdown on each unit’s first series to put the visiting team in their place before they even she doesn’t realize what happened. Quickly, the FSU told the nearly 80,000 people in attendance that the program was on the rise again.

“I think when the community, when the fanbase, they see a fun team to cheer on, they see a team that’s working extremely hard to do things the right way and they care about each other, they care. of what they stand for,” said Norvell.

This symbiotic belief only bounces back, fueling both sides. The fans believe in the players, the players believe they will succeed, and the fans are rewarded. On and on the cycle goes.

And as everywhere around the program feels different, the expectation internally remains the same. Norvell, always consistent in its actions, has set a standard.

Williams smiles as she thinks about how Norvell has changed the environment around another university. He was coming out of the Figg players’ dining room – known on campus as “The Figg” – after breakfast and heard a student on video who said: “I used to scared by Coach Norvell every time he shouted “good”. morning, but now if I don’t hear it, I feel like I’m absolutely missing something.

“He’s an undergrad at Florida State,” Williams said. “Hearing that, it’s like, fuck man, what it was like when we first got here in what he integrated in terms of everybody joining and everybody joining the same identity and to the same message, it’s pretty remarkable if you ask me.”

That doesn’t shock Williams, because he’s seen it before.

Yet, like so many others in the city of Big Bend, he can appreciate the drastic change in just a few years.

“It’s cool because there are so many people who are results oriented that they don’t understand the work that goes on behind the scenes in training, in the weight room, in the movie theater. “Williams said. “Now they’re actually seeing the product, seeing the outcome that everyone wants at Florida State and it’s starting to pay off for the kids, and then giving our kids back the vibe, it’s second to none.”

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