FSU walk-on DB Joe Lang talks role on 2021 team, career backstory.
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Former Holy Cross standout DB chases his football dream to Florida State

After learning he and other seniors would get back their final year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic, Holy Cross star safety Joe Lang decided to see what options might be available for his final season of college football.

A standout with the Crusaders and their leading tackler in the spring, Lang was willing to walk away from the FCS school, where he had been a starter and key player for the past three seasons, to take a chance at a bigger program.

What he never could have realized before entering the transfer portal was that Florida State, a school he grew up a huge fan of, would be highly interested in bringing him to Tallahassee to play for the Seminoles.

“Once I got in the portal, Florida State was actually one of the first schools to reach out and call me. Throughout the process, they were the school I felt the most love from,” Lang said. “It clicked for me once I got the opportunity to play here, that I just couldn’t pass that up. Once you get to see it, be around Florida State football, it’s tough to pass on. Regardless of who else you’re talking to.”

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Former Holy Cross standout Joe Lang is poised to be a key special-teams player and reserve defensive back this season for FSU Football.
Former Holy Cross standout Joe Lang is poised to be a key special-teams player and reserve defensive back this season for FSU Football. (FSU Sports Information)

Growing up in Naples, Fla., there was never any doubt Lang would focus heavily on athletics. He says he was part of a “very sport-dominant family,” with a dad that college football and baseball, three uncles who played college football, and a grandfather who played college basketball.

Lang's love for the Seminoles also came naturally. When he was a young child, one of his cousins attended Florida State and shared the traditions and history with the rest of the family.

“We became pretty big Florida State fans when she was here, and it just kind of carried over. From elementary to middle school on, we became pretty big Florida State fans,” Lang said, adding that his favorite player is former FSU safety Derwin James. “I always liked Florida State just because we’ve had a family connection.”

After a stellar high school career at Community School of Naples, Lang was named athlete of the year and offensive player of the year; he set school career records for tackles and rushing yards.

“I had a real good time playing there,” Lang said. “I was at a smaller high school, not a big public school. That allowed me to do a little bit of everything.”

Coming out of Community, Lang did have offers from some mid-level FBS programs, but he preferred the mixture of rigorous academics and athletics at Holy Cross. He played sparingly his freshman season there in 2017, then caught on as a sophomore after a coaching change.

“It was really neat. So my sophomore year, we got a new coaching staff and everything started to click for me,” Lang said. “It took me a year to adjust to college and get into a groove with everything.”

A week before that second season, Lang was elevated from a key second-teamer to a sure-fire starter when a teammate sustained an injury.

“I got the opportunity to play in our first game, which was a huge game. We ended up losing, but I played well. I had eight tackles (second on the team),” Lang said. “From that game on, my mentality was, I've got to put myself in the best position to succeed in every opportunity I get.”

From there, Lang played nearly every defensive snap the next three seasons, racking up 77 tackles as a sophomore and 72 as a junior. He undoubtedly would have piled up more stops as a junior, but he played the second half of that season on a broken ankle, choosing to have surgery after the season.

Lang then led the Crusaders with 29 stops in four games during a COVID- shortened 2020 season, which was played this spring.

While he again had scholarship offers from Group of Five programs after announcing he was transferring for his senior year, Lang instead chose to walk-on with the Seminoles.

“Those schools weren’t Florida State," he said.

After nearly a month of preseason practice in Tallahassee, Lang feels great about his decision.

He has seen action at times with the second and third defensive units as well as on special teams, and FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller says he believes the senior safety will help the 'Noles in a couple of different roles.

“Joe has been a real good addition to us. He loves football. I really like his attitude. I think he’s a really good addition to our football program,” Fuller said. “And I think he’s got a chance to help us. We’ve got him on a couple core special-teams units right now. He brings some physicality at safety, he’s a smart player.”

A strong relationship with Fuller and defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson was what really sold Lang on FSU.

“I really, really like the staff here," he said. "I think defensively, our system and scheme is elite. Coach Woodson has done a great job. I’m a fifth-year, and you come in thinking you know a lot about the game, but I have learned a lot from Coach Fuller and Coach Woodson.”

Lang runs through a drill during practice inside the FSU Indoor Practice Facility.
Lang runs through a drill during practice inside the FSU Indoor Practice Facility. (FSU Sports Information)

When he first joined the team, Lang said, he instantly connected with quarterback Jordan Travis and running back D.J. Williams.

“I think the relationship between the scholarship and walk-on players here, I think everybody in general is very close,” Lang said. “I think the culture around here, everybody respects everybody else. Everyone has their role, and that’s what you have to embrace.”

With Florida State preparing for Notre Dame this week, Lang has split his time between the normal position drills and also participating on the scout-team defense. While some veterans might not appreciate being asked to work on the scout unit, Lang said he is ready to embrace any role that helps the team.

“I was on a full scholarship, so I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum,” Lang said. “Being on both sides, I know how important scout is. … The better look you give those guys, the more prepared they’re going to be.

“I know how important special teams is, I have won and lost games based on special teams. Every opportunity, I've got to make the most of it. That’s just the way you get on the field. … I came in, I knew I would have something to prove. I think I helped myself out a lot by playing well on defense to get on special teams.”

Fuller said he loves seeing a player like Lang, who has proven himself at a smaller school, get one more chance in college with a historic program like Florida State.

“To see guys challenge themselves the way Joe has, it’s inspiring,” Fuller said. “I think he did a great job at Holy Cross, had an opportunity to have one more year of college football and came back to his home state to kinda live a dream. I am just excited to be a part of that with him. Excited to see what the year brings for all of us.”

Everyone around the FSU program insists they believe things are trending up and that the team chemistry is improving, and Lang said even he sees that progression under second-year head coach Mike Norvell.

“I feel that culture really changing. I really like the coaching staff around here,” Lang said. “The culture and the mentality have changed around here -- even since I have been here. People are buying in. A lot of good things are coming.”

With the season opener less than a week away, Lang couldn’t be more excited to take the field as a Seminole.

“Absolute dream come true," Lang said. "Something you dream about as a kid. Since the time you’re 5 years old watching it on TV. I’ve watched plenty of it on TV, and I’m ready to go do it. I can’t wait.

"It gives me goosebumps just talking about it.”

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