As Asante Samuel prepares to become Florida State’s latest NFL-bound defensive back, he hasn’t heard much from his Seminoles predecessors. The only one who stopped by was Derwin James, the Chargers’ All-Pro safety.
“We weren’t a very good team,” Samuel said Friday, “so I feel like the players didn’t want to come back and see us.”
There were probably other reasons, too — a pair of recent coaching changes and the coronavirus pandemic, for starters — but still. Ouch.
The good news from Samuel and FSU’s other NFL prospects is that things seem to be changing in Tallahassee. In de facto exit interviews before Monday’s pro day, they were optimistic that the program they’re leaving will soon be in a better place.
“I feel like we’re on the rise right now …” said edge rusher Janarius Robinson, a potential Day Three draft pick. “I fully believe in Coach (Mike) Norvell and his staff to get this place back to the old Florida State ways.”
Robinson played through one of the most turbulent times in FSU history. He redshirted during the Seminoles’ Orange Bowl 2016 team. He played on Jimbo Fisher’s final team and started almost every game under Willie Taggart and Norvell.
The pandemic made it hard to glean too much from Norvell’s rough 3-6 first season and what that flop means for the trajectory of a program with championship expectations. But from the inside, safety Hamsah Nasirildeen could see progress that culminated with a 21-point victory over Duke in the finale.
“Coming in with new coaches last year, it took time to get everything rolling, just to have everybody on the same page…” said Nasirildeen, a mid-round draft prospect. “I feel like at the end of the year, we had our feet wet really, and guys, from what I saw (Thursday) in practice, I feel like we were taking that momentum and rolling into it.”
Samuel saw the same thing when he stopped by Thursday to watch his former teammates. The potential first-round pick noticed a stronger energy around the field with more players focused on their assignments.
“They just took it more personally,” Samuel said. “I feel like the team is going in the right direction. Coach Norvell is doing a great job with the other coaches. I feel like Florida State’s going to be back very soon.”
Maybe the former FSU greats will follow.