GREENSBORO, N.C. — It did not take long for Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher to build a champion.
He immediately brought a once proud program back to respectability in his first two seasons at FSU, turning the Seminoles into fringe title contenders in his third season. By his fourth year, Fisher fielded a team that went undefeated and won the BCS national championship.
"You could argue, and I don't like to go back, but that team was as dominant as any team in college football history," Fisher said of his 2013 squad, which set the NCAA record for points in a season. "That team, to me, is one of the all-time great teams. I really believe that."
Now comes his next challenge: maintaining excellence.
Reflecting on what the Seminoles did in 2013 makes Fisher uneasy, but it is a necessary exercise as he looks ahead to 2014. His ability to analyze last season's team in a historic perspective is healthy because last season is just that, history.
Fisher addressed the media Monday at the ACC football kickoff meetings, and the common theme during his hourlong session was how he would keep his team focused. The Seminoles outscored opponents by an average of 39.5 points a game last year, the largest margin by an undefeated team in modern college football, so it's easy to understand why Fisher is wary of his team becoming complacent.
Boredom will likely be FSU's biggest enemy this season. It returns seven starters on offense, including Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, and six starters on defense.
As a result, Fisher has looked for ways to combat satisfaction and motivate his players. He has had his staff study and compile presentations on legendary sports figures Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, John Elway and Larry Bird.
"Those guys all had that killer instinct and were guys who wanted to be on top, stayed on top and one championship wasn't enough," Fisher said. "We looked back and studied those guys, habits they had. They all have that attitude of domination, is what we call it.
"That's what we have to create. If you look at things that failed, that's great, but I'd rather look at things that succeeded and why they succeeded."
Another part of Fisher's strategy is keeping things light so pressure doesn't mount.
"If you worry about losing, you play defensively," he said. "Let's have fun. Let's be aggressive, let's go win a game. We expect to win, we want to win, that's what we think we're going to do, let's play that way. You are what you think."
Fisher believes every team has a unique identity. One of his strengths as a coach has been his ability to interpret different personality traits then properly adjust his coaching style accordingly during a season.
But coming off a national title as a head coach is uncharted territory for Fisher, so there is no guarantee he will know all the right buttons to push this year.
"There's no formula for it," Fisher said. "How many of you all have kids? You think you've got your pulse, then all of a sudden as soon as you get the pulse, they do something and you're like, 'Where in the world did that come from?' A team is the same way sometimes. I think it ever evolves, and I don't think you ever have the answer."
Fisher was careful Monday not to mention the word "defend" when answering questions about winning back-to-back championships. And while he insists on looking forward, he won't mind taking a peak at the past at times for motivation.
"It was done last year," Fisher said, "so why can't it be done this year?"