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Peter Warrick’s Place in History

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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While Bowden made people watch Florida State, Peter Warrick made people watch again.

For me, it's just a joy. I just thank God that he gave me the opportunity and blessed me to be the player and the person that I am today.
~Peter Warrick

From 1987-2000, Florida State football finished in the top four of the AP poll for fourteen consecutive seasons. The Seminoles became more than just a national contender, they, playing for five championships in eight years, helped tell college football's story. Legendary head coach Bobby Bowden developed Florida State into a true superpower, establishing the Seminoles as must-see TV for decades. While Bowden made people watch Florida State, Peter Warrick made people watch again. 

Few players, ever, were as dynamic as Warrick, a playmaking pioneer whose attitude and abilities were completely unmistakable. Warrick ran with an energy and unpredictability rarely before seen. Not the fastest or the tallest player, he beat defenders with motion you couldn't predict and movements you couldn't prevent; Warrick brought a new type of footwork to football. Whether lined up at receiver, running back, return specialist or even quarterback, Warrick, like his replays, never stopped.

Warrick finished his Florida State career as a three-time All-ACC honoree and a two-time consensus All-American. He caught 32 career touchdown passes, rushed for four more, threw for two scores and reached the endzone twice on special teams. Also, Warrick is the only player in league history with at least 3,500 receiving yards and 30 receiving touchdowns and is one of just two league players all-time with a minimum of 900 punt return yards to average 13 or more yards per attempt. In 2000, he was the number four overall pick in the NFL Draft. 

Even still, Warrick's best moments were seen not counted. His highlights inspired a generation.  

Above all else, Warrick was a winner. He paced Florida State to back-to-back national title game appearances as an upperclassman, leading the Seminoles to an undefeated championship in 1999. As Florida State, that fall, became the first team ever to go wire-to-wire as the nation's number one team, Warrick was the MVP of the Sugar Bowl, outdoing Virginia Tech's Michael Vick with six receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns and a 59-yard punt return for a score.

Fittingly, Warrick's final catch was an acrobatic 43-yard juggle where he snagged a game-clinching touchdown, while overcoming pass interference, with a defender draped all over him. It remains one of the most iconic plays in college football history.

The echoes were stirred for Warrick, a Bradenton-native, when his alma mater hired Oregon's Willie Taggart from Warrick's very same hometown. Now both leading names in Florida State lore, Warrick and Taggart are less than a year apart in age and grew up competing against one another in youth sports. Warrick was a star quarterback and wide receiver at Bradenton Southeast, while Taggart, who went on to play at Western Kentucky, was the quarterback at nearby Bradenton Manatee.

Long-time friends, Warrick and Taggart now share an even more special bond.

After inviting Warrick to speak to the team following a spring practice, Taggart surprised the Florida State great by announcing that the program will retire his number 9 jersey this fall. Warrick, joining the likes of Fred Biletnikoff, Derrick Brooks, Deion Sanders, Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, will be just the 11th Seminole to have his number retired. It's a well-deserved distinction for a well-defined talent.

"Those names, man, it's just an honor for me to be on the same level, the same list they're on," Warrick reflected. "People used to come and tell me 'Pete, you were the best college player that I've ever seen' and I'm not saying that about myself. For me, it's just a joy. I just thank God that he gave me the opportunity and blessed me to be the player and the person that I am today."

To receive the news from Taggart, a man near and dear to his heart, was especially meaningful for Warrick, who, in addition to his own recognition, knows what this opportunity means for Florida State's new head coach. 

"Taggart is just a really good person. Being a good person and being a good father, that just overrides everything. For me, I grew up with him so I already knew what kind of person he was. Him getting the job at Florida State, it was a dream of his," Warrick nodded. "I just wish him all the luck and, you know, we gotta win this thing. That's what it's about, we are going to go in there and try to win these games for coach Taggart. What I like about him is I like the way he handles things, I like the way he is just a standup guy."

Just as Taggart's position is one he has long worked towards, so, too is Warrick's. His sprint to paydirt began long before he ever stepped foot in Doak Campbell Stadium. More than just an All-American blue-chip football recruit who won two straight state championships on the gridiron, Warrick was named the state basketball player of the year in Florida and won two state titles in track. Aside from his aforementioned athletic success, Warrick went on to graduate from Florida State with a Bachelor of Science in political science.  

While Warrick's transformation may have begun in Tallahassee, his motivation was always much closer to home.  

"It was just a great opportunity because that's where my mom wanted to go, then she didn't have an opportunity to because she got pregnant with me. So that was my inspiration. That is what I wanted to do for my mom," Warrick shared. "The time that I had at Florida State was just the best experience. I enjoyed being in high school, but there is just nothing better than being in college and it was very special that it was in Tallahassee. Playing at FSU was always a dream of mine and I just went there, fulfilled my dream and enjoyed every moment of it."

Those memories will now come with a place on the program placard.

The news that Florida State will retire his number has brought Warrick, still running to and fro in highlight videos, full-circle. Confidence has always been there; Warrick played the game with an uplifting passion and pride. All that he did on the field came with a special energy. Warrick recently shared that excitement with the place and the person who prompted it all.  

"I'm from Bradenton, it's just our way of thinking. We automatically say we're the best thing out there, we feel like we're the best at everything, that's just our competitive nature and I really didn't know I would be getting my jersey retired at the State. It's just an honor to me, I went in there and put in the work," Warrick continued. "My mom told me the other day 'you went in there and did what you do'. I asked my mom if I really did that and she was like 'yes, son, you really did'."

All that Warrick accomplished during his Florida State career helped change the way coaches use versatile offensive playmakers. He made an impact all over the field, catching passes from the boundary and the slot, stretching the field and staying close to the line of scrimmage. Warrick, somewhat before his time, even took snaps out of the shotgun. A remarkable ability to make defenders miss made Warrick a rare open-field asset. Beyond any position or placement, all Warrick needed was the football.  

What Warrick did, but also how he did it, came with mass appeal. Warrick was a superstar, playing with a swagger that defined the Seminoles. The Warrick brand, his wide smile and bursts across the field, was, for some time, the garnet and gold standard. Recently, the legendary Lebron James gave Warrick a shoutout, saying he was the reason James wore the number nine while playing football in high school. 

Warrick's reach extended to the man now widely considered the most powerful athlete in the world.

"My son woke me up the next morning and said 'hey dad, you see this?'. When I saw that, I just couldn't believe it because Lebron is the best basketball player on the planet and that's a guy that I like," Warrick beamed. "He's a great basketball player and I watch the things that he does as far as being a family man, taking care of his family, taking care of his kids, that says more about a person than what kind of basketball player that you are."

When Warrick's ceremony comes, there is an open invitation to the King.

"By him saying that he wanted to wear nine because of me, that's a great honor and I appreciate it and I want to reach out to him and let him know that when I have my jersey retired I would love to have him there. That would be a great honor, I have to find a way to try and get him to that game," Warrick added. "I would love to be on the sideline with my jersey retired and see Lebron James over there on the sidelines with a Peter Warrick jersey on."

Clearly, the Warrick legacy continues. His cross-field run against Louisiana Tech, the tipped-pass versus Florida and his championship showcase against Virginia Tech; still on repeat, those replays are timeless. The player strutting onto the Superdome turf is the Warrick many fondly remember and even imitate to this day.

We still see Warrick when a highlight-reel move is made. Each time a juke is shown on the jumbotron, there is a shadow with spears in the shade.

Soon, the number nine jersey will be on display and, for now, off limits at Florida State. The next name to don the digit could be a familiar one.  

"I'm glad nobody can wear that number, I don't want anyone to wear it until my son gets there," Warrick laughed.

Elusive to conclusive, the incomparable Warrick is now grateful to reminisce.

"I tell the kids something that I heard Derrick Brooks always say: It's God, family and football in that order and since I heard him say that, that's how I've been living my life," Warrick reflected. "For the kids, that's just where I'm from, a small town. All you have to do is believe in God and believe in yourself and everything else will work itself out. Just believe, you have to believe."

Warrick was always one-of-kind. Now, he will be the one of the few.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports