More than any other player, Lamarcus Joyner embodies the turnaround that Florida State's program has undergone in the past four years.
Joyner came to FSU with hopes of building the program back to national prominence. And now, as a senior playing his last game at Doak Campbell Stadium, he's playing for the No. 2 team in the country and the odds-on favorite to play for a national title.
"I always wanted to be a part of the reason why we build this thing back to where we are now," Joyner said. "I embraced the challenge. We're not there yet. But to see the road we're on right now of success, its' great not for me but for this program."
Joyner started affecting FSU's program even before he arrived on campus. He was the first big-time recruit to commit to Jimbo Fisher after Fisher took over as head coach and helped spur Fisher's first recruiting class. Once on campus, Joyner steadily took on a larger role each year in the secondary and increased his production. As a senior, he leads the team in sacks with 5 and has as many tackles (51) as he did all of 2012.
He also spurned the NFL draft as a junior and came back for his senior season, in part because he felt like Florida State had the pieces to compete for a national title - and he's not the only one. Christian Jones came back as well for a senior season. Those kinds of sacrifices gave FSU an extra level of leadership and depth. They also resonated with Fisher, who got emotional when speaking about the class of 2012 on the week before their home finale.
"What a group there," Fisher said. "There's some guys that you'll remember to the end of your last dying days. Those guys made an impact on your life, not just with football, but people and how they impacted the guys around them. That's a tremendous group of guys to me, ought to be remembered in Florida State lore for a long time for what they really meant and how much they've actually done for this university and for their teammates. Golly, it's a tremendous group."
Joyner, for his part, said he never had any doubt that Florida State would get to this point.
"We always progressed," Joyner said. "You always see that peak at the end. My thing was I was wondering when we were going to start clicking on all cylinders. Coaches, fans, support system, all of it. We were always perfect in one area and this area was kind of down."
So far in his senior campaign, FSU has been pretty close to perfect. Even with allegations swirling around Winston, on the field the Seminoles haven't missed a beat this season. Handling television cameras and nation-wide hype hasn't been a problem, nor have any of the teams FSU has faced this season. Learning to maintain that consistency has been a process - as Joyner and Co. learned with season-derailing losses in previous years. Joyner said he's made as much progression in that area as anyone.
"I was part of it too," Joyner said. "A lot of people depended on me too. Early in my career I couldn't embrace pressure. I always ran from it. It's tough when a lot of people depend on you and a you have to be the same person day and night you have to embrace that. A lot of people when things are good, 'Yeah I'm a leader.' But when things are going bad you don't want to take the blame. So this offseason I had to train my mind and my spirit to be able to embrace that. And a lot of good is coming out of it."
And now Joyner said he's happy to see all the factors finally come together at once.
"I'm happy," Joyner said. "It's a big accomplishment for me to be here for four seasons and actually be healthy and strong and be able to celebrate my last time in Doak Campbell."
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