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FSU's new QB has many sides

As the play unfolded in front of him, Wyatt Sexton instantly devised a plan and perfectly executed it: He grabbed Pat Watkins to prevent his then high school rival from dunking during a summer league basketball game.

"You lost your mind?" Watkins screamed angrily after the unexpected play.

"We were close to throwing down," Sexton said.

They didn't fight that day more than four years ago, although the official did eject Watkins.

"He really caught me off guard," said Watkins, now a Sexton teammate and friend on the Florida State football team, but then a star at Tallahassee Lincoln High.

"I knew coming up we were going to be playing football against each other, and I just wanted to make a statement," said Sexton, then at Leon High. "I was trying to tell him I wasn't scared. And I didn't like Lincoln; I was p-----."

That from the famously mellow, unassuming and principled Wyatt Sexton?

Well, yeah.

"People who know me," he said, "know I'm not that laid back."

That's just one misconception about the third-year sophomore quarterback who will realize a lifelong dream and start Saturday against visiting North Carolina in place of the injured Chris Rix.

You see someone with his wiry frame, boyish looks and a 3.77 GPA and you think chess team, not football. Surely his dad, Billy, a longtime FSU assistant, cashed in a favor, right?

You learn that he has a passion for mastering the guitar, acoustic and electric, and wants to put together a band, yet is also committed to studying how best to pick apart a secondary or put together a winning drive.

You hear his monotone voice and watch his rocking chair manner ("Sleeping is a wonderful thing," he says) and understand how coaches complain that his engine idles and doesn't rev as you'd hope from a leader.

Don't be fooled, folks.

"I feel like I'm not a stereotypical personality-type football player," said Sexton, 20. "But at the same time, I feel like I have some pretty unique characteristics and I'm more competitive than a lot of people."

Sexton had gaudy passing numbers in high school, leading the state in yards as a junior, and drew interest from prominent schools such as Auburn, Tennessee, Illinois, North Carolina, and even a phone call from a Florida coach.

"I just laughed at him," he said.

Sexton knew he could go to only one school. He grew up at FSU. Although he didn't hang out at practices during the season, he spent bowl weeks cavorting with the players on the field and at arcade rooms.

"I just had the best week of my life every bowl week each year," Sexton said.

Still, he couldn't insulate himself from the whispers that he wouldn't be on scholarship if not for his father, the running backs coach who joined Bobby Bowden's staff in 1977.

Not so.

"Being tall (6 feet 3), being smart, all that fits together with what you're looking for in a quarterback," Bowden said. "He was a bona fide prospect."

Before making him an offer, Bowden asked for input from the other offensive coaches, as he does on all matters about Wyatt, to try to minimize the criticism any apparent sign of nepotism can spawn.

It didn't matter. In some Internet circles, such rumblings found a home.

Those who knew Sexton didn't pay attention.

"I had heard that a few times, but I know it's not true," Watkins, a junior free safety, said. "Anybody who played against Wyatt knows that's not true. He's a real good quarterback. He's going to be a great player eventually."