by Howard Ellis, Class of ‘67
It can’t have been forty years! That beautiful fall day seems like yesterday. Except for the fact that I’ve told this story probably 100 times since then. Our young, unpredictable Seminoles (“What’s a Seminole?” was a question we used to answer a lot forty years ago) were scheduled to be the Alabama Crimson Tide’s football sacrifice du jour at Birmingham’s Legion Field on Saturday the 23rd of September 1967.
I remember the date because it was the day after my 23rd birthday. As a birthday present, my sweetheart at the time had purchased tickets for the game and arranged for another couple to drive up with us to see FSU play one of the biggest games ever…against an Alabama team lead by Kenny “The Snake” Stabler and coached by Bear Bryant, legend in a pork pie hat.
Being poor college students, we packed a lunch and all chipped in for gas. Among the four of us, the most reliable car was my friend’s Nash Rambler station wagon. We all piled into it and headed out from Tallahassee for the evening game in Birmingham. We barely got there for the kick off, and would have missed it had we not bought a newspaper from the kid selling them at an intersection where we were stopped for a red light. We initially told the young boy, who looked to be about sixteen, we didn’t need a paper, but could use directions to Legion Field. After being told to turn right and drive straight for five miles, we decided a paper would helpful in getting information on the game. Handing over the newspaper, the kid then gave us an entirely new set of directions that began with turning left…The kid was street wise on several levels.
The stadium was packed. As Seminole fans, the four of us were outnumbered about a thousand to one. The game was a wild offensive display by both teams. Kim Hammond had quite a night throwing to Ron Sellers. “Jingle Joints,” as he became known, hauled in twelve or thirteen passes for over a hundred and fifty yards. We couldn’t believe it! Alabama was a legitimate contender for the national title and here was little old FSU (at the time) running up and down the field with them. After a couple of series, we overcame the intimidation of being so out-numbered and started screaming support for the guys in garnet and gold.
When the smoke settled, the scoreboard read FSU—37 Alabama—37. The ‘Noles had given it everything they had. In the stands, we had done the same. And I’ll never forget what great fans the Tide loyalists turned out to be. Although it was a disappointing outcome for them, many who had been seated around us shook our hands and congratulated us on FSU’s mighty effort.
We drove a long way to see that historic game. The FSU Football program covered a lot of ground that weekend too. It was the beginning of a drive for national recognition that peaked in 1993 when we won our first title, and the making of a tradition I feel privileged to have been a part of.