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Ex-Seminole great Simmons savors homecoming

Ron Simmons, who attended Saturday’s game as part of homecoming festivities, said he is proud to have played a role in bringing Florida State’s program to national prominence.

Times file

Ron Simmons, who attended Saturday’s game as part of homecoming festivities, said he is proud to have played a role in bringing Florida State’s program to national prominence.

TALLAHASSEE — Former Florida State All-American nose guard Ron Simmons doesn't get back for games often.

His schedule as a professional wrestler for years and now his duties marketing and training the next generation of WWE stars just doesn't give him much down time.

"Even when I wasn't there in person, I was always there in spirit," he said. "I'd watch on TV and wish I had my jersey on and I was 20 years old again."

Make no mistake. Simmons, 50, the first big-time prospect brought to FSU by Bobby Bowden in 1977, has a passion for his alma mater and was thrilled to be on campus for the homecoming parade on Friday then be an honorary captain for Saturday's game against Boston College.

"I go back to when I was recruited and everybody (in Georgia) thought I was an idiot and out of my mind to go to Florida State," he said. "We were on everybody's list for homecoming. Just to see how it's evolved and to have been a part of it from the ground up — a small part of it — it really makes me feel good to know that I had something to do with where the school is now."

Simmons helped lead the Seminoles to Orange Bowl appearances as a junior and senior (1979 and '80), putting the program on the college football map. He played briefly for the Browns and Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL before going into wrestling. FSU retired his number, 50, and he was recently elected to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.

And making it to Tallahassee on Saturday allowed him to come "full circle." He was at midfield for the coin toss and drew a warm welcome from the fans at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"I can't tell you how much of an honor and how flattering it is for me to go back, to be worthy of coming back and for them to make notice of it," he said. "I'm just humbled by it. I'm just so grateful."

More chances: Junior WR Rod Owens saw his number called more often as a result of FSU suspending five receivers for the game. In the opening half, he had two catches for 44 yards and had a rush, his first of the season, for 13 yards. His most productive game this year came in the opener against I-AA Western Carolina, when he had four catches for 61 yards.

Third-down dominance?: FSU entered the game with the nation's best defense on third down, holding teams to an 18 percent conversion rate (21-of-116). But in the first half, Boston College succeeded on 66.7 percent (6-of-9).

Gano-matic … for a while: FSU senior K Graham Gano hit a 39-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half to extend his school-record streak to 18 straight. He missed from 50 yards, however, in the opening minutes of the third quarter.

Homecoming crowd: The announced attendance for homecoming was 79,792, the second largest of the season but still about 2,500 less than capacity at Doak Campbell Stadium.

More famous visitors: Joining Simmons as an honorary captain was former CB Mario Edwards, who helped FSU reach the inaugural Bowl Championship Series title game against Tennessee in 1998 and win the 1999 national title. He played for the Cowboys and Bucs before retiring in 2005. Fans also might have spotted 2000 Heisman Trophy QB Chris Weinke on the FSU sideline.

Ex-Seminole great Simmons savors homecoming 11/15/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 15, 2008 11:02pm]
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