FSU is located at UF 24-21; Johnson and Thomas are ending their jobs as Seminoles.
Gainesville – When the Florida State Soccer team fell to rival Florida on Saturday, 24-21, it marked the end of a volatile year that had seen the Seminoles hit record lows before battling to come within one win of pot eligibility.
The closing of the Seminoles’ season also means that the team will unfortunately have to move on from end star defenses Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas.
The pair have proven to be some of the most influential pickups in the country, especially for a second-year transfer roster to FFA coach Mike Norville at the helm.
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After Saturday’s game, Norville again said the duo played a big role in changing the direction of the show. He praised Johnson and Thomas for their leadership on and off the field, and although their solo season on campus is complete, Norville said the university will capitalize on their influence for years to come.
“Some of the guys played their last game like the Seminoles in Florida. I am so grateful for everything they did,” Norville said. “For the leaders who were. It was enormous. …
“This is a football program that is confident about where we are going. Nobody likes results, nobody likes the record. I’m sure not. But I’m proud of the experiences and lessons. I know we will take lessons and apply them as we go forward.”
While Johnson put in some pretty impressive numbers during his only season with the Seminoles, Norville noted that Johnson accomplished much more than just speeding passers on match days.
“What a special player. I grabbed him and hugged him right after the match. Even today, just watching the effort he played with. So much effort playing,” Norville said. “Just care, work ethic. He affected the future of football in Florida, because he chose to come here to help create a foundation.”
Against the UF on Saturday, Johnson scored six interceptions, a second-half key sack and three accelerations in the middle. For the season, the All-America nominee finished with 12 ACC leading sacks, 70 ball tackles, 17.5 losing tackles and two forced fumbles.
However, despite all the individual accolades, seeing the FSU season end without a pot show clearly caused Johnson a lot of pain.
“I am a first-team player, not just with my teammates, but with the staff and the program as a whole,” Johnson said. “I really tried to give everything I had for the university and the program and that was the first thing on my mind. I always say, I didn’t want to come here and I just want to be who – which young man. I wanted to earn the respect of my teammates and my staff.”
Reflecting on his first encounter with Georgia’s transfer, Norville explained that he told Johnson that “Knowles would need massive play from him on the court, as well as showing an example of what a captain should look like.”
“He embraced it, and I don’t know if I’ve seen a better demonstration of how that transitioned to the field. He has an incredible future ahead of him.” For him to come and do the things he did, I can’t wait to see him at the next level. Not just the player, his ethic The work, the captain, but he will be remembered in Florida for a very long time for what he has done this season.”
Against Johnson, Thomas was an exceptional acquisition at the transfer gate as well. He made 42 tackles, 6.5 sacks and claimed the FSU ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week twice in the month of November alone.
Quarterback Jordan Travis on Saturday called the FA’s line of defense, “the heart and soul of our football team.”
“They meant everything for this program. That defensive line this year, they’ve really retained their characteristics, and that keeps us moving forward,” Travis said. They were a group of leaders, they were role models. They always support you, they were great players. We are blessed to have them here.”
Now that his college career is over, Johnson says he’s “grateful to be a part of this family,” and “forever grateful to be a Seminole.”
“It’s bigger than football. The kind of lessons this place has taught me are astronomical,” Johnson said. “I love this university, I love Tallahassee, I love the program. I will definitely be back. It’s some of the most fun games I’ve had in my life playing in Florida.”
Going forward, Johnson has shown what high-profile transfers can achieve when they take their talents to Tallahassee, Norville said.
“He chose to do something a little different. Maybe other programs are more grounded in what they do,” Norville said. “He chose us, and he knew exactly what he wanted. He has said yes. He was able to get out there and have a great season – one that will be remembered. I am forever grateful to him.”
As he hunts down the NFL quarterbacks next season, Johnson said he has no doubts the future is bright in Tallahassee.
“It all starts with the mindset and the foundations of the program,” Johnson said. “That’s one thing we’ve attacked this year, and I feel strong and confident in the guys in this locker room. I don’t think they’re going to let anything slip, and they will definitely continue to make progress. …
“It’s a learning curve. I think Bobby Bowden said, when you rebuild a program, you lose a lot, then you lose a little, then you win a little, and then you win a lot. So in my book, this program is on the right track. The mentality of these people shows up in every game we play. No matter what happens, we are still fighting.”
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