After a lifetime of waiting, QB embraces 1st chance
By JOHN ROMANO
Published September 26, 2004
TALLAHASSEE - These are the moments you remember. The snapshots that endure. Such as the first time you see a quarterback in uniform.
For Joy Sexton, that would have been, what, like 1986? That first uniform number isn't really important, but the size is notable.
Her son Wyatt would have been wearing a 2T in those days. Or had he not yet graduated to toddler size? Maybe it was one of those 18-to-24 months deals.
Whatever the size, you have to say he wore it well. And from the looks of things this morning, he was destined to show up in a Florida State huddle.
You see, Wyatt Sexton was an FSU quarterback on Christmas morning. He was an FSU quarterback on Halloween night. He was an FSU quarterback in every pretend game he played in his Tallahassee yard with his brother. Finally, on Saturday, Sexton was an FSU quarterback for real.
"It's been a long time coming," Joy Sexton said.
"Since he was 2 years old," said his sister, Leslie. "He had a uniform and a helmet that was a little too big. But he thought he was big stuff."
They say every quarterback must wait his turn. Sexton has been waiting a lifetime. He was born down the street and raised near Bobby Bowden's office.
His father, Jimmy, was an FSU quarterback in 1973 and has been on the coaching staff for 28 years.
Oh, the kid has gotten a handful of chances previously. Just last weekend, for instance.
But this wasn't garbage time. This wasn't a scrimmage or a drill. This was the first quarter against Clemson, and the Seminoles were losing.
This was a 47-yard touchdown pass and an Atlantic Coast Conference victory. This was everything the kid had imagined.
"It was definitely kind of crazy to sit back and realize just what the freak was going on," Sexton said. "It was awesome."
So what do you say? Has Sexton waited long enough?
Should the FSU job be his?
"We'll have to look at the film and see what's there," Bowden said. "I hate to start a controversy. But there may be one there. Really, if there is, I'm the guy who'll start it."
You have to believe this is an opportunity for Bowden. Maybe even a blessing. He has never been sure if he could win with Chris Rix, but he was even less sure about Sexton.
Now, Bowden has a chance to find out. Now he has reason to believe. The Seminoles have a pair of winnable games looming. Next weekend, against North Carolina, Bowden can decide whether Sexton was a fluke. The following week, against Syracuse, he can decide whether Sexton is a long-term fix.
It's not as if Sexton was spectacular against Clemson. He hit one long pass and had a couple of clutch moments on third down.
Mostly, he had the type of game rarely seen in the days of Rix. A safe game. A contained game. He wasn't brilliant, as Rix has been on occasion. He wasn't a detriment, as Rix has been too often.
When Clemson blitzed, Sexton got off screen passes. When it stopped blitzing, he sat in the pocket and picked his receivers carefully.
He ate the ball when it was necessary and threw it away a couple of times. Mostly, he made sure he did nothing to blow the game.
In a way, that made Sexton a lifeline for Jeff Bowden. FSU's coordinator has come under increasing scrutiny for a lack of production. Maybe Rix has been the cause, but Bowden is the one in charge.
With Sexton, he finally had a quarterback who ran the game plan the way it was intended. Even if it was scaled back a bit.
"I was like everybody else: I wanted to see what he was going to do," Jeff Bowden said. "I thought his operation was smooth. I thought he handled the offense."
It was, to be honest, a revelation. As poorly as Rix played against Miami in the opener, a change in quarterbacks would not have been a shock.
But coaches had not been impressed with Sexton in practice. He was smart. He had some physical abilities. He just seemed to lack an intensity.
"I just would liked to have seen a little more sense of urgency," Jeff Bowden said.
"We weren't happy with the walking around, the walking up to the line. You can only (punish) a kid so many times. But as far as putting him in the game and playing? I'm pretty happy with that performance tonight."
The coaches know what they have with Rix. They know that is not going to change. He is a stallion with a spirit that cannot be tamed.
So it's time now to figure out what they have in Sexton.
With a kid who grew up around the stadium. A kid who, in pregame warmups, still throws passes to his 15-year-old brother, Taylor.
A kid who has been waiting for this moment. Not just since he was a star at Leon High. Not just since coming to FSU two seasons ago.
"His whole life. That's how long he's been waiting," Taylor said. "Easily, his whole life."