TALLAHASSEE — Florida State big-play receiver Jarmon Fortson, a projected starter for the second straight year, was dismissed from the team for violating unspecified "team policies," coach Jimbo Fisher said Sunday.
"We wish him the best, we love him and we'll miss him," the first-year coach said, casting a pall on the team's media day, usually an upbeat and optimistic event.
ESPN.com reported Fortson's dismissal was due to multiple failed drug tests. According to FSU's intercollegiate athletics polices and procedures manual, "a third positive test for alcohol or marijuana/illegal substance will be the basis for automatic dismissal from the athletics program …"
When asked if Fortson has an option to stay in school, Fisher said he didn't think so. Fortson didn't respond to a message from the St. Petersburg Times seeking comment on his situation and his future; a future that had seemed so promising.
The 6-3, 221-pound junior from Hurtsboro, Ala., emerged after a shaky start last season. He dropped a pass that would have been the winning touchdown on the final play of the opener against Miami, but he finished the season with 45 catches for 610 yards — both third on the team — and a team-high four touchdowns.
"I sat there and cried that night (after the 38-34 loss to Miami), but I had to move on from that," he told the Times later during the 2009 season. "I couldn't be down about it all year. … There's going to be fans out there who are going to hate me for that, but I'm going to make them love me one day for something else."
Fortson, 21, possessed the size, quickness, acrobatic skill and strength to accomplish that goal. At one point last year, then-coach Bobby Bowden likened him to Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas, who was a first-round pick of the Broncos in this year's draft.
Fortson's ability fueled some of the sky-high expectations for a veteran FSU offense that returns all five linemen, including star Rodney Hudson, a stable of gifted running backs and quarterback Christian Ponder, a Heisman Trophy hopeful.
"You've got an experienced guy, and he was a very good player … (and) as he became more consistent he had a chance to be a really good guy," Fisher said. "But we've got some other really good guys and some other experience there."
Speedy and elusive fourth-year junior Bert Reed (60 catches, 710 yards) is back, as is fellow redshirt junior, Taiwan Easterling (35 catches, 442 yards), who was slowed a bit last year after surgery on a torn left Achilles' tendon.
"I'm real excited to be out here," said Easterling, who played baseball in the spring. "I'm looking to get better each and every day, and I'm feeling real good these last couple days of practice. I can tell I'm coming out of my breaks a little faster. I've been working extra, studying more film, just like everybody else, and I'm hoping that all pays off."
"Getting Taiwan back is huge; he's played probably as good as any of them so far," said Fisher, adding that 6-6 sophomore Rodney Smith probably takes over for Fortson as of now. (FSU also signed five receivers, including Christian Green from Tampa Catholic, Kenny Shaw and Jarred Haggins.) "As far as numbers, we'll have people and we'll do well. But we'll miss him (Fortson) because we care about him."
Rumors about Fortson were swirling before the media day session with Fisher began just after 9 a.m. Sunday. Fortson wasn't at practice Saturday, although Fisher deflected the issue by pointing out that his young star had a minor arthroscopic surgery a couple of weeks earlier and there was some "irritation."
But then Fortson wasn't in the stadium for the team pictures. Not long after the photo session, Fisher addressed the media again.
"I wanted to announce it to our football team first," he explained. "We hadn't had the chance to have a team meeting and I wanted to announce it to them first; I wanted them to hear it before everybody else heard it. I didn't want them to be shocked by it."
He said the players, who have already had to deal with junior linebacker Nigel Carr's suspension after his arrest on felony and misdemeanor charges last month, were "disappointed because they loved him and they respected him. And sad for him; we all are. That's one of our family."