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Former player will cheer from home

(ran PC edition)

Eric Nelsestuen has been transformed from a Gator to a Seminole and, thus, will be rooting for Florida State University during the upcoming bowl games.

As a former Land O'Lakes Gator who was a walk-on at Florida State last year, Nelsestuen is not as interested in the Florida Gators-Syracuse Orangemen Orange Bowl as he is in seeing the Seminoles in the Fiesta Bowl.

Second-ranked Florida State takes on the No. 1 Volunteers at 8 p.m. Monday in Tempe, Ariz. Other bowl games have no bearing on the national title.

Watching the Fiesta Bowl in his family's Land O'Lakes home is a far cry from being on the sidelines, like Nelsestuen was for last year's Sugar Bowl game, an FSU win over Ohio State in the New Orleans Superdome.

"It was just a fun experience," Nelsestuen said of dressing out on the sidelines for a game watched by millions. "I had never been in a dome. It was really loud."

Preparing for the bowl game wasn't as fun. As an offensive lineman, Nelsestuen's job was to take a pounding from defensive lineman Andre Wadsworth as the current Arizona Cardinals rookie readied for Ohio State blockers.

Wadsworth was unlike anyone he blocked in high school, where Nelsestuen was All-Sunshine Athletic Conference and Times All-North Suncoast as a senior.

"One time, I came across the line and hit (Wadsworth) as hard as I could," said Nelsestuen, who played at 6-5 and 315 pounds. "He took two steps backward. That's it. I've hit people like that in high school that would have flown."

Nelsestuen never got to play in the Sugar Bowl, but said, "It was fun just watching that game. It made it worth it just to be there."

Although Nelsestuen did not return to FSU this fall, opting to pursue a computer engineering degree at the University of South Florida, his heart will be with some of his former teammates for Monday's championship game.

He plans to keep an eye on Ben Waldrop, a friend and backup linebacker at FSU. "I'm just hoping he gets in," Nelsestuen said.

Tennessee has waited longer than FSU for a national crown. The Vols last won the title in 1951 while the Seminoles claimed the 1993 championship. At least one local FSU fan hopes Tennessee will wait another year longer.