- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan grew up 20 minutes from the University of Florida campus in Lake City, rooting for the Gators as a young child.
But that does not mean he only saw through orange and blue glasses. Jernigan kept tabs on all of the college football greats around the state, including those making a name for themselves at Florida State.
So when it came time to begin the recruiting process, Jernigan already knew about the Seminoles' past history at his preferred position -- including all the success current assistant Odell Haggins had while playing in Tallahassee. His relationship with Haggins led him to sign with Florida State. Now, Jernigan is prepared to take the next step in his career as he will see more playing time.
He wants to be the best defensive tackle to ever play at the school. It's bold talk for a former role player, but talk Jernigan fully intends on backing up in the fall.
"There’s so much more I want to do at Florida State that hasn’t been done here," Jernigan said in a recent interview.
How will he get it done?
"Work," Jernigan said. "There’s no trick to it. I really feel like when I push myself and I work hard, and I really buy into something it’s hard to stop it."
The list of standout tackles to play for the Noles is a long one. Most recently, Andre Fluellen (2008), Letroy Guion (2008), Brodrick Bunkley (2006), Travis Johnson (2005), Darnell Dockett (2004) and Corey Simon (2000) became NFL picks -- Bunkley, Johnson and Simon all went in the first round.
Jernigan easily starts listing the players who came before him when asked, and says he has had a chance to ask guys like Johnson and Simon for a little bit of advice whenever they come around Tallahassee.
"Just the little things, from stepping to hands, anything I can learn from them I’m willing to learn," he said.
Of course, he also is more than willing to learn from Haggins, who went on to coach many of the standouts Jernigan has come to admire.
"Luckily, I am blessed enough to have the same coach all those guys had," Jernigan said. "I’m getting the same teaching they all got. I’m getting the best. That played a big part in me coming -- because of the history of the D-tackles, the history of the defense itself, and definitely coach Haggins."
One more blessing. During the recruiting process, Haggins had three finalists -- Florida State, LSU and Alabama. The big pull to the Tide? Then assistant Jeremy Pruitt. Now, Pruitt is leading the Florida State defense, so Haggins is playing for two of the three coaches that appealed to him most during recruiting.
"It’s amazing how everything pans out," Jernigan said.
3hTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney