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Chris Weinke
AP Photo/Stuart Ramson

FSU Gambles On A First Baseman

2000 Heisman winner Chris Weinke

If Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden hadn't chosen one baseball player over another, the Seminoles might not have had their second Heisman Trophy winner. In the winter of 1996, Chris Weinke decided to give up on his dreams of playing major league baseball and return to college. Six years earlier, Weinke had been one of the country's most heavily recruited quarterbacks as a senior at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in Saint Paul, Minn. He signed with Florida State and spent four days on campus before signing a $350,000 contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. "Chris told me, 'Look, if I go in the first round, I'm not going to play football. I'm going to go play baseball,'" Bowden said. "He went in the second round, but they gave him first-round money." After a less than fruitful minor-league baseball career, Weinke was back on the phone with Bowden, asking to return to FSU as a 23-year-old freshman. "He called and asked if he could come back," Bowden said. "He was about ready to give up baseball because he wasn't making the progress he wanted to make. He wanted to know if we'd take him back." The Seminoles wanted Weinke back, but highly regarded quarterback Drew Henson of Brighton, Mich., had already committed to play for FSU. "He wasn't going to come if Weinke came," Bowden said. "We had to decide if we wanted Weinke or [Henson]. I know my vote was to bring Weinke back." Bowden's vote was the only one that really mattered. As a junior, Weinke led FSU to a national championship by beating Virginia Tech 46-29 in the Sugar Bowl. The next season, he passed for 4,167 yards with 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He had a 32-3 record as FSU's starting quarterback.
-- Mark Schlabach

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