A big part of what has driven Florida State football is that they have had quite a history of excellent quarterback play.
“History” may be the keyword there. Current head coach Mike Norvell is trying to figure out the quarterback situation for the Seminoles, though not every coach is blessed with a Charlie Ward or Jameis Winston. We’re personally pulling for Chubba Purdy because his name is Chubba.
Many top-notch quarterbacks have taken the field at Doak Campbell Stadium for FSU. Still, somebody has to be the best quarterback to ever grace the school in Tallahassee, Florida. Here are the top 10 quarterbacks in FSU history.
10. Peter Tom Willis
Willis has three names but only spent one season as the starting quarterback for Florida State. That would be in 1989, when he led the team to 10-straight wins while racking up 3,124 passing yards, which was a new school record.
Willis became the radio color commentator for Florida State football in 1998 and held the job until 2008. At that point, he was fired for being “too critical” of the team.
9. Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson actually had trouble keeping down a starting job with Florida State, as he often ended up sharing time while he was there. This is a surprise, given that he had one of the best NFL careers among FSU quarterbacks. Despite being a ninth-round pick in the NFL Draft, he played from 1992 through 2008.
He made two Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is an NCAA list, though, not an NFL list.
8. Gary Huff
Gary Huff is the only quarterback on this list that predates Bowden at Florida State. He was a Florida boy through and through, as he played his high school ball in Tampa before heading up to Tallahassee.
Huff was an All-American at FSU, twice leading the nation in passing touchdowns. He also led the Seminoles to the first-ever Fiesta Bowl in 1971. Like Johnson, Huff also played in the NFL for the Buccaneers. In fact, he quarterbacked the first win in the Bucs’ franchise history.
7. EJ Manuel
EJ Manuel became the second quarterback in NCAA history to lead his team to four bowl wins. He also led them to an ACC title in 2012 and an Orange Bowl win to end his college career. After that season, he was a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, the only quarterback in the first round in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Manuel was a bit of a bust in the NFL, but he was a winner in college. His 7,736 passing yards rank fourth in program history.
6. Christian Ponder
Ponder followed in his father’s footsteps in going to Florida State, seeing his first action as a redshirt freshman. He was an efficient quarterback, especially in 2009 when he completed 68.8 percent of his passes. He also posted a solid 20 touchdowns to eight interceptions in 2010.
However, Ponder’s issue wasn’t talent but an inability to stay healthy. Unfortunately, this continued to be an issue in the NFL, leading him to be a bust as the 12th-overall pick of the Minnesota Vikings.
5. Casey Weldon
Weldon battled Brad Johnson for playing time, but he posted a 16-2 record as a starter and threw 42 touchdown passes when he was on the field. He also finished as the runner-up to Heisman trophy winner Desmond Howard in 1991.
After his last season in garnet and gold, Weldon became a journeyman quarterback, finishing his career in the one season of the first try at the XFL.
4. Danny Kanell
Kanell may be best remembered for being a hot-take-spouting personality on ESPN since retiring from a less-than-stellar NFL career. Still, we can’t deny he was an outstanding quarterback in college.
He’s still fourth all-time in touchdown passes for the Seminoles, most of them coming in 1995 when he was named the ACC Player of the Year. Kanell is also remembered for leading FSU back from a 31-3 deficit to the Florida Gators in the “Choke at Doak” to earn a 31-31 tie back when ties were a thing in college football.
3. Chris Weinke
Sure, Weinke was already 25 and a man among boys (or at least younger men) when he joined the FSU football team after half a decade playing minor league baseball. He was also excellent. In 1999, he led Florida State to a national championship in a win over Virginia Tech. Then in 2000, he spent his last year in college football winning the Heisman Trophy by throwing for 4,167 yards and compiling 33 passing touchdown.
Florida State played for another national championship that year but lost to the Oklahoma Sooners. Weinke still owns FSU career records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. Despite his advanced age, the Carolina Panthers drafted Weinke and he spent some time starting for them.
2. Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston was named the starter for the Noles as a redshirt freshman. He proceeded to complete 25 of 27 passes and totaled five touchdowns in a win over Pitt. That set the pace for the season, as Florida State went undefeated, and Winston would become the second freshman to win the Heisman. He also led the team to a win over the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game.
After another excellent year for FSU, Winston declared for the NFL Draft. In only two seasons, he managed 65 touchdown passes against 28 interceptions. Interceptions have been the game’s name for Winston in his NFL career after being the first-overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, he threw a whopping 30 picks against 33 touchdowns in his last season starting for Tampa.
1. Charlie Ward
Charlie Ward is the third Heisman winner on this list, and he’s on top of our ranking. He got it done with his arm and his legs in college, including overcoming a loss to Notre Dame in 1993 to lead the team to its first-ever national championship that year. Ward also won his Heisman that season. However, Ward would not play professional football.
Don’t worry, he was just fine. Ward was also a college basketball player at Florida State and was taken in the first round of the 1994 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. While he only averaged 6.3 points per game in his career, he lasted in the NBA for 630 games. He was a true dual-sport star and the best FSU quarterback ever.