F-L-O-R-I–D-A S-T-A-T-E! FLORIDA STATE! FLORIDA STATE! FLORIDA STATE! WOO!
Florida State football is well known for their game day traditions. As a full-fledged Florida State fan myself, I grew up doing the Tomahawk Chop and listening to the War Chant. Watching Chief Osceola spear the field while riding Renegade last Sunday meant college football was back, baby! In order to start football season off right, here are my favorite, some perhaps lesser-known, Florida State football traditions.
Watch the Skull Session
Two hours before kickoff, music spanning from today’s hits to classic jams can be heard from the Florida State baseball stadium. The Marching Chiefs warm up in front of a small crowd on the Mike Martin Field before every home game. Each section warms up with a different song before they come together. It’s free to watch and is the perfect way to get in the game day mood!
Visit the Sod Cemetery
The Sod Cemetery is my favorite Florida State Football tradition. Next to the Dick Howser Stadium is a small fenced “graveyard” containing soil from other colleges’ football fields. This spooky yet spirited tradition started in 1962. When the football team plays an away game in which they are the underdog, they are only slightly favored, or they are against a big rival, the players rip a chunk of grass and dirt from the field after a victory. The small piece of sod travels back home to Tallahassee to be joyfully buried in the legendary Sod Cemetery. When one of the conquered teams visit Doak Campbell Stadium, the cemetery-keeper lays flowers down on their respective graves. Last week, FSU played Notre Dame. I stopped by to pay my respects to the Sod Cemetery and saw a couple of blue and yellow bouquets on headstones.
Say Hello to Chief Osceola and Renegade
Chief Osceola and Renegade are Florida State’s most beloved mascots! Florida State is closely partnered with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to ensure genuine and respectful presentations of the Seminole culture. To honor the only Native American tribe to never be conquered by the U.S. Government, FSU selects a well-rounded student to represent Chief Osceola at football games. This student wears traditional clothing sewn by the women of the Seminole Tribe. He rides the Appaloosa horse named Renegade on the field during the pregame show. Osceola carries a burning spear while riding around the field, inspiring awe in the stands. The entire stadium shakes as Osceola spears the middle of the field before the game starts. I get chills every single time!
But did you know you can visit them before the pregame starts? Walk around the first floor of the stadium to the north side and you can watch Renegade being prepped for his legendary ride. As a young child, it was so much fun seeing him before he took the field. It felt like I was a part of the FSU tradition.
Take a Picture With the Garnet and Gold Guys
If you see two college guys walking around the stadium covered head to toe in red and yellow glitter, don’t be alarmed. For Florida State, this is completely normal. The Garnet and Gold Guys are a Florida State tradition started in 1998 by the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. If you’re sitting in the student section, make sure to get a picture with them during the game! They stand the entire game at the front of the student section. Keep an eye for them on ESPN as they watch the game; they have the funniest reactions. As a member of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, I have had the honor of befriending several of the Garnet and Gold Guys during the past couple of years. They are incredibly kind! Getting your picture with the Garnet and Gold Guys is a must as an FSU football fan. You might even see them riding to the game on their tandem bicycle. Wave and tell them I said hello!
High Five and Sing the Fight Song With the Players
After a Florida State victory, make your way toward the south end zone. The players pray and jovially congratulate each other after the game. They sing the Fight Song with the fans and give them high-fives over the railing. This is my mom’s favorite tradition! It is a great way to feel connected with the team. If you’re special (or just a super adorable little kid) a player might even give his gloves to you.
Even if you’re not a Florida State fan, I encourage you to partake in these traditions if you’re in town. American football is incredibly unique in how it brings people of all backgrounds together. Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Notre Dame football game (where we almost won). It was my first in-person football game in a long, long time. Doak Campbell Stadium was filled to the top during every quarter. The stadium shook with noise and movement. The feeling of excitement and hope in all the fans was indescribable. The energy in the student section is unparalleled. I’m not necessarily a huge football fan in general, but I love how football brings people together. The adventure at college football games isn’t the game itself: it’s being a small part of something big. These traditions are dear to my heart, and I hope that one day that will be dear to yours, too.
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