Florida State fans honor, celebrate national championship

Florida State Seminoles players celebrate the school's third national title (2013, 1999, 1993).

Melina Vastola/Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As caretaker of Florida State’s sod cemetery, Douglas Mannheimer wanted to do something special for Saturday’€™s celebration of the Seminoles’€™ 2013 national championship.

What the Florida State law school graduate created was a memorial service like no other to three small pieces of sod, each of which represented the Seminoles’€™ three road wins to close the season — at Florida, against Duke in the ACC title game and the BCS championship game. So Mannheimer arranged the three pieces of sod in small caskets, each on display with flowers that represented the team colors of the opponents that Florida State defeated.

And in front of the cemetery, which sits just outside the football team’s practice field and is in the shadows of Doak Campbell Stadium, Mannheimer arranged a tent from Bevis Funeral Home and had chairs arranged for fans to sit and remember the wins.

"I was little afraid the chairs would be over the top," Mannheimer said.

The fans were impressed by the effort of Mannheimer and his friends with the Extra Point Club. Over the top? Maybe. But many fans laughed while they took photos with their smartphones. Most walked away laughing at the sight.

"I think it’€™s hysterical," one fan said with a smile.

Photo gallery

About 30,000 fans showed at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday to honor the Seminoles’ national championship team, and many began the day by visiting the sod cemetery or stopping by Langford Green to get their photos taken with the crystal football or Jameis Winston’€™s Heisman Trophy.

Just moments after noon, members of the Florida State team walked through the tunnel and took seats at midfield. The Jumbotron showed highlights of Florida State’€™s 14-0 season, culminating with Winston’€™s pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left that sealed the Seminoles’€™ 34-31 win over Auburn.

It completed Florida State’€™s third national title, following up on a championship in 1993 and ’99.

"I don’t know who the best teams are," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We’€™re one of the great teams in Florida State history. But in my mind, we’re one of the great teams in college football history."

Fisher thanked the fans for coming to the celebration, and he made a point to thank the senior class for leading the turnaround of a program that had gone 7-6 in 2009, Bobby Bowden’€™s final season. Fisher took over the next year, and has led the Seminoles to a 45-10 mark.

"This senior class, I want to say an unbelievable thank you," Fisher said. "When you had the faith in us and our coaching staff four years ago to buy in to what we were trying to tell you, when we didn’t have much to sell. The legacy that you have left at Florida State . . . it’s unbelievable. This senior class is something special.

"We didn’t just develop a team, folks. We developed a program. We plan on being here for a long time."

Many of the seniors — including Kenny Shaw, Telvin Smith and Jacobbi McDaniel — were able to break from training for the NFL draft and return. And a few players that are leaving early for the draft, running back Devonta Freeman and receiver Kelvin Benjamin, also came back.

And while some of the biggest cheers were for Winston, fans appreciated one player in particular who opted to return. Receiver Rashad Greene will be back after a 1,000-yard season as a junior in 2013.

"It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of a team like this," Greene said. "I’m here to return and do it again with Jameis."

Winston thanked the fans and said he hoped the team would make another run in 2014.

"We won and now it’s a new year a new season," Winston said. "It starts now. We have to do it again next year."

You can follow Bob Ferrante on Twitter @bobferrante or email him at bobferrante17@gmail.com.