Actor Burt Reynolds Embodied the College Football Spirit

Actor Burt Reynolds recently passed away and with him died a piece of American pie.  Reynolds, who played football at Florida State and was a lifelong Seminole fan, died at the age of 82.

People will remember Reynolds as the rough and tumble Oscar nominated actor who had amazing success.  His movies like Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, and The Longest Yard made him the highest grossing actor in the world from 1978 to 1982. But, behind the famous mustache and the tough guy image, Reynolds embodied the spirit of what college football is all about.

Reynolds played running back at Florida State during the years when Lee Corso was a two-way player for the Seminoles.  In fact, Reynolds and Corso were roommates in college, and stayed lifelong friends. Corso and Reynolds talked at least once a month for 60-plus years.

While Reynolds career was cut short at Florida State because of a knee injury, he made the most of his chances. The famous actor averaged 7.7 yards a carry during his Florida State career.  That includes averaging almost 20 yards per catch out of the backfield.  In the 1955 Sun Bowl, against Texas Western, later called UTEP, Reynolds touched the ball seven times for 35 yards in a 47-20 loss.

But, what made Reynolds special wasn’t his playing days in a Seminole uniform, it was the fact that he remained a lifelong fan of his alma mater.  There is not a guy he played with that will say his fame changed him.  Reynolds treated his classmates and his old teammates with the same enthusiasm and fun-loving attitude that he did while in college.  To many, he never changed much after becoming famous.

“We were lifelong friends who for the last 64 years stayed in touch,” said Corso.  “It was just two weeks ago that we were talking about the upcoming season and ‘Noles football.  Burt, known as ‘Buddy’ to his friends, loved FSU football.”

Corso also addressed Reynolds and his relationship with his teammates.

“No matter how big of a star he became, he never forgot his friends from the FSU football family,” added Corso.  “I will forever remember our conversations and the true friend he was.”

Florida State University President John Thrasher tweeted a tribute to Burt Reynolds their dear friend:

There were a lot of roles Reynolds played in movies, but none more spot-on then quarterback Paul Crewe in prison based ‘The Longest Yard.’  Like the real-life Reynolds, Crewe was a gunslinger who occasionally got himself in trouble.  But, just like in real life, there was always redemption in the end.  Reynolds character in the move was mischievous, tough, and loyal, just like Reynolds was in his everyday life.

Bobby Bowden, the legendary coach from FSU, tells a story about Reynolds that pretty much sums it up.  Bowden asked Reynolds to go on a recruiting trip with him back in the day when that was legal by the NCAA.  So, Reynolds agreed.  Bowden said it is simple — “Burt, I will recruit the kid, you recruit the Mom.”  A few weeks later the kid announced his decision.  “I have decided to go to Notre Dame, but my Mom is going to Florida State.”

When it came to loyalty in real life and in college football, there were none more loyal than Burt Reynolds was to Florida State.  He was a fun guy when he played in Tallahassee, and he enjoyed the heck out of being a fan of the Seminoles.  He exemplified everything that is good about college football.


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