Wherever and whenever you saw Bobby Bowden on gameday you also saw the imposing figure of Major Billy Smith. The 78-year old Alabama native retired from the Florida Highway Patrol in 1985, but continued to provide personal security for Bowden every season since. And it looks like he'll be back to shadow Jimbo Fisher this fall -- the fifth Florida State coach he's been proud to serve. In fact, nobody has been a part of FSU Football longer than Major Smith.
Here's what he shared with us about his 500-plus games on the Seminole sidelines.
Major, will you be back in the 2010 season to provide security for Jimbo?
"That's a pretty accurate statement. We've still gotta talk a little bit more, but I think it's going to happen. We're going to meet again on the 25th, I believe it is. But we get along fine together. He's a good guy. He's a lot different than Coach Bowden. He's much more aggressive. He's a great motivator and an excellent recruiter. Coach Bowden was good for the program and Jimbo's going to be good for the program."
You retired in 1985 but are still a full-fledged Florida State Trooper on game days?
"The legislature passed a law that created a reserve program that allows me and a Captain that travels with the University of Florida...we're both in reserve and that way we can keep doing what we've been doing for years. But the only thing I do is with the football team during football season. I've been with four coaches and it's worked out pretty well. I started in 1964 with Bill Peterson."
Do you recall a situation where you thought there might be a threat to Coach Bowden?
"This goes several years back, but we got a letter postmarked Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The guy indicated pretty strongly that he lost a lot of money on the game the week before and in the next out-of-town game he was going to kill Coach Bowden. Well, our next game was against South Carolina up there. Of course, I called their state director of law enforcement and director of their highway patrol. I told them what we knew. They provided plain clothes guys on the sidelines...