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Legislature to honor FSU team, not its star player

A proposed House resolution to honor wide receiver Peter Warrick's career has been dropped.

By WILLIAM YARDLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida State University marching band will enter the elegant chamber of the state House of Representatives today, blowing their horns in celebration of FSU's national football championship.

Cheerleaders will cheer, a choir will sing and legendary coach Bobby Bowden will even speak from the rostrum usually reserved for House Speaker John Thrasher, FSU's most politically powerful alum.

But the star of the team, wide receiver Peter Warrick, will get no special attention.

Late Tuesday, after conferring with Thrasher, a Bradenton lawmaker dropped a proposed House resolution intended to immortalize Warrick's career at FSU and at Southeast High School in Bradenton.

"I did not want to give anybody any ammunition to create controversy," said Rep. Mark Flanagan, the Bradenton Republican who had filed the resolution.

But it was Warrick himself who created the controversy last fall, when he and teammate Laveranues Coles were charged with grand theft, a felony, for paying $21.40 for $412.38 worth of designer clothes at a Dillard's department store in Tallahassee.

Warrick, 22, eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was suspended for two games. Coles, who had gotten into trouble in the past, was dismissed from the team after pleading to a misdemeanor.

The resolution honoring Warrick would have passed while he was serving a one-year probation.

A Heisman Trophy favorite before the arrest, Warrick finished sixth in the final voting. In the FSU Seminoles' Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, Warrick scored three touchdowns and was named most outstanding player.

A handful of players, including quarterback Chris Weinke, will attend the ceremony today. Warrick will not be there.

Warrick is scheduled to display his skills Thursday in Tallahassee in front of National Football League scouts and coaches. Warrick is expected to be among the top draft picks.

"I don't know if he even knew about (the resolution)," said Rachel Zuk, a spokeswoman for Warrick's agent, David Falk.

Thrasher, who last year supported a resolution honoring the 50th wedding anniversary of coach Bowden and his wife, Ann, said the House dropped the Warrick resolution because "it's a team sport and I want to honor the whole team."

Previous speakers have approved resolutions honoring other individual players, including University of Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who won the 1996 Heisman Trophy.

Early Tuesday, before speaking with Thrasher, Flanagan said he expected the resolution to pass easily. "People make mistakes but it's how they handle the mistake that matters. And I think he responded like a champion," Flanagan said.

Flanagan said a "House tribute" with the same wording of the resolution will be delivered to Warrick. But the resolution will not be adopted by the entire House.

Both the House and Senate will adopt resolutions today honoring FSU and the team as a whole. In a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Gov. Jeb Bush signed a resolution honoring Bowden and the national champions.

FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte said there were "some special perils with honoring someone who's had problems with the law. I think a good general principle is to honor the team."

In January, the Bradenton City Council voted 3-2 to honor Warrick for his accomplishments on the field despite his legal troubles.

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