It struck me early during his press conference on Monday.
So much so that I had to go back and ask about it a few minutes later.
Mike Norvell talked so passionately about this week, about this game, about this rivalry, that I wanted to know exactly why he was so turned on.
It might seem like a stupid phrase, so let me explain.
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Yes, it’s Florida State-Florida week. It’s a big rivalry – one of the best and toughest in the country. And yes, we understand that. But Mike Norvell did not necessarily grow up with Florida State football. Not quite close and personal anyway.
He’s been here less than two years. He came from Memphis. And before that, he was out 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, where coaches – and now players – change schools every two years, you wonder how much a game like this can mean for someone who has not lived what was not born into that, indoctrinated into the hatred that comes when the Seminoles and Gators meet on a football field.
That’s why you get so many coaches who just talk about “faceless opponents.” The other side line does not matter, it’s about yourself and what you do. They do not want to turn up for a rivalry, because for them it’s just another game. They know it means a lot to the fans, but so many coaches these days feel like outsiders when it comes to the actual passion for a rivalry.
They may feel like mercenaries who are here to do a job, get a check and hopefully win some games and change some lives in the process. But for them, Florida is no different than Syracuse or North Carolina.
How grateful we all are that Mike Norvell is not one of those coaches.
He understands, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how important these games are.
He admitted earlier in the week that when the fall camp starts, there are two games he brings up to his players before the first practice.
“Miami and this one,” Norvell said.
As a side note, he said “this” or “this fight” or “this opponent” several times this week when talking about Saturday’s showdown. I have not checked all the tapes, but as far as I can remember, the words “Florida” or “Gators” have not crept out of his mouth all week.
Of course, this is not an original idea. There are plenty of examples of head coaches not saying the name of their rivals: the legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes would never say “Michigan”, Urban Meyer would never say “Florida State”, Jimbo Fisher would never say, “Hey, what’s going on “, Ira? Good to see you, man! “
Speaking of Fisher dog.
One of the things he did exceptionally well as the head coach of Florida State was beating his rivals. He did it again and again and again.
He lost to Florida once. IN 2012.
He lost to Miami once. In 2017.
That is it. All the others were victories.
Fisher knew how important these rivalry games were because he somehow lived up to them. He was so close to the Bowden family as a quarterback at Samford, where he played for Terry, that he knew what it meant when the Seminoles beat the Gators.
He knew before he ever coached anyone else at FSU what this rivalry was all about.
It looks like the new guy is doing the same. It’s very comforting to us longtime college football fans.
As the sport gets closer and closer to the NFL every day – with free agency (transfer portal), NIL deals, astronomical coaching salaries and talk of a 12-team playoff – the only real difference between the two sports may end up being the passion in these rivalry games.
You can tell me the NFL has rivalry too. But man, if you’re trying to convince me that Green Bay-Chicago or New Orleans-Atlanta are the same as Auburn-Alabama or FSU-Florida, I can promise you I do not believe you. I will never believe you.
One of the last bastions in the sport I loved so much from my childhood is the passion in this game. At the end of the year. After Thanksgiving.
The FSU-Florida game is a ritual, a game that will always mean something. Regardless of the records. No matter if a championship is at stake or not.
This 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 end this with the answer he gave on Monday about what’s at stake on Saturday.
You may have already read it. You may have seen the video. But it deserves one last look when we enter Florida State-Florida.
“I know what this game means,” Norvell said. “And if you do not get up for this one, then go somewhere else. Go and do something else. For it is not for you.
“But you see the history, you see the tradition, you know what it means for the university, you know what it means for the fan base. That’s why you play! That’s why you train! And that’s to get guys [ready] for this moment. Everything we have done up to this point has prepared us. We will either benefit from it. Otherwise, we do not. “
Contact senior writer Corey Clark at email@example.com and follow @Corey_Clark on Twitter.
Talk about this story with other Florida State football fans in the Tribal Council