By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published July 31, 2005
ORLANDO - Florida State coach Bobby Bowden revealed Saturday that before quarterback Wyatt Sexton was hospitalized last month for "irrational" behavior, he had been suspended by coaches for failure to submit to a drug test.
Bowden, speaking at the Florida Sports Writers Association's annual preseason media gathering, said he visited Sexton on Friday for the first time since the junior was found in the middle of a Tallahassee road by police, insisting he was God. Sexton has since been diagnosed with Lyme disease.
"He looked like he'd just gotten up from a nap and can't wait to get back," Bowden said of his meeting with Sexton, who will sit out this season while being treated for the disease. "He was pretty alert, but he looked tired. He's going to be that way for a while."
Bowden said before Sexton's incident, the quarterback had been acting strangely since "April or May," enough so that FSU coaches asked him to take a drug test. When he refused, he was suspended, though Bowden said he believes the Lyme disease was responsible for Sexton's behavior.
"The Lyme disease, I feel sure, triggered the whole thing," Bowden said. "He wouldn't be suspended for what we know now. This is something else that's happening to him, totally unexpected."
Sexton was expected to be the starting quarterback this fall, but Bowden said his father, running backs coach Billy Sexton, noticed marked changes in his behavior and in his approach to academics. Bowden decided to test Sexton and four other players, a random spot check he said he has made before.
"He was acting strangely," Bowden said. "I was gone, out of town. His dad was keeping me up on it. Here's a guy who was a straight-A student. All the sudden he's making I's (incompletes). Something strange is happening here. What's the first thing you suspect?"
Bowden said Sexton had not missed or failed a drug test before the one for which he was suspended.
According to an incident report, Sexton was doing pushups in the middle of a road, wearing nothing but wet shorts, and later jumped on a parked car and yelled at a woman. Asked his name by police, he told them he was God, then later was sprayed with pepper spray and taken to a hospital for evaluation under the state's Baker Act.
The connection to Lyme disease was made when two people in Tallahassee read of Sexton's behavior and called his father to say their children suffered from Lyme disease and exhibited similar symptoms.
"They called Bill, said, "Hey, Bill, my son had that and thought he was God.' It must be a common trait," Bowden said. "When Bill heard that, he said, "Gosh, this could be this.' That's when he took them up to Pennsylvania, had some tests run on him and found out that's what was causing him to act irrationally."
Bowden, who will turn to redshirt freshmen Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford at quarterback, said Sexton may have been suffering from Lyme disease for "a couple of years."
"Evidently, the germ gets in there and lays dormant," Bowden said. "It gets to different areas, and sooner or later, it comes out. It settled up here (pointing to his head), I think (that) made the strange actions, and it settled in his heart also."
Bowden said Sexton is on a strict diet, not unlike the one the 75-year-old coach is on for diabetes, but that the quarterback hopes to return to football.
"They think he can get over it completely," Bowden said. "His desire right now is to get back out there. He's got to go ahead and face the fact that he's out a year."