TALLAHASSEE — Florida State defensive end Everette Brown wanted an edge to round off his ever-improving game.
He knew blistering speed wasn't enough. Nor was added strength. Nor was force of will. That's why he spent the offseason studying video clips of former FSU All-America end Peter Boulware.
"I just wanted to look at what he brought to the table and look at what I brought to the table and just try to put it all together," said Brown, a fourth-year junior.
The next step was picking the brain of Boulware, who, along with his wife and three children, has lived in Tallahassee since he retired from the NFL three years ago.
"We've talked several times," said Boulware, whose 19 sacks in 1996 are a school record and 341/2 overall second all time.
"He's got a lot of ability, and I tried to share some of the things that helped me at FSU. … It's a hint here, a hint there; things that might make him a step faster and things that can make all the difference."
"He just simplifies everything for me," Brown added. "And it makes me look at the big picture."
Will that mean a faster path to the quarterback?
FSU can only hope.
The Seminoles (1-0), who play host to their second straight Division I-AA team, Chattanooga (1-1), on Saturday afternoon, are without 10 key players for another two games as a result of an academic misconduct scandal.
Most are on defense, including projected starting tackles Budd Thacker and Paul Griffin, linebacker Dekoda Watson and cornerback Patrick Robinson.
Brown, the team's sacks leader last season with 61/2 despite starting just nine times, looms as the defense's top playmaker, at least for a while. He had 11/2 tackles and a half-sack in the season-opening rout of Western Carolina, drawing far more attention than many of the inexperienced players next to and behind him.
"No. 1, he knows more about what his role is," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "Two, he's put himself in the position where he can be successful at a high level because he's stronger, he's faster, he's more knowledgeable.
"Just because he did those things doesn't mean it's going to happen. Now you've got to follow through with it. It's all about seizing the opportunity and doing something with it."
Doing something positive with it.
And that's what the 6-foot-4, 248-pound Brown does with his opportunities, on and off the field. He doesn't know any different.
Brown, 21, is a "yes sir, no sir," old-fashioned blue-collar worker who sees the big picture in what he does. Or doesn't do.
"He kind of grew up pretty fast with taking on responsibility," said his father, Odell Brown. "Everette was in elementary school, and he had to help care for his baby brother Tobias when we'd drop them off at my mother's house because (me and my wife) worked."
The elder Brown loves to tell a story about when Everette was in middle school and the boys basketball team got into the cafeteria's ice cream box during a study hall period. Every player took some. Every player except Brown.
"He told the guys, 'Ya'll shouldn't do that,' " Odell Brown said. "He sat down and did his homework."
He also was the only one who wasn't suspended.
"My dad instilled in me doing the right things and making the right decisions," the son said, flashing his infectious smile that belies his on-field ferocity.
Little wonder he has become the face of the football team. In Tallahassee, he has volunteered to speak at countless elementary and middle schools. Even during his lone summer break back home in North Carolina, he took the time to work a police-sponsored football camp.
"His brother Tobias was on the staff, and Everette saw what was going on. And the next thing you know, he rolled up his sleeves and showed up every day," Wilson Police Department Capt. Craig Smith said. "He wasn't down to be one of our guest speakers. But one failed to show up, and we asked Everette minutes before he was supposed to go on before 100 kids. He gave an impromptu speech that brought the house down."
"He's a great football player and gets it done on the field, but he's a gentleman off the field," Boulware said. "That's what makes me proud of him — the way he carries himself."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347. Read his blog at blogs. tampabay.com/seminoles.