Newly bald Javon Walker, Talman Gardner bounce back from shaky openers.
By ALEX ABRAMS
© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State wide receivers Javon Walker and Talman Gardner wanted to prove their team unity before Saturday's game, so they shaved their heads.
Their loyalty cannot be questioned after the veteran wideouts combined for 165 yards and one touchdown during FSU's 29-7 win over Alabama-Birmingham at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"Last week, (the wide receivers) didn't perform the way we wanted to perform, so shaving the head was like a fresh new start," said Walker, whose 104 receiving yards were five short of his career high.
"If that is going to be the thing (to help me) perform as well as I did tonight, I'm just going to have to shave it every week until the end of the season."
Walker, who has struggled catching easy passes, had receptions of 49 and 46 yards that led to Florida State field goals. His 166 receiving yards in the first two games is more than half his output (313 yards) in 2000.
Must be the bald look.
In the season opener against Duke, Gardner had a full set of hair and only one reception for minus-6 yards. A week later, his hairline was missing, but his playmaking ability was not.
Late in the third quarter, Gardner pulled down a 32-yard pass from quarterback Chris Rix in the back of the end zone that extended FSU's dwindling lead to 19.
"I was supposed to run a takeoff, and Rix looked like he was scrambling, so I just waved my hand to let him know that I was still there (in the end zone)," Gardner said. "I had, like, a little 5-9 DB on me, and I'm like 6-2, so just throw it up there and I'll catch it."
Gardner, who has been hampered for the past two weeks with a mild right shoulder separation, finished with four catches for 61 yards and one touchdown.
With veteran wideouts Anquan Boldin and Robert Morgan sidelined with season-ending knee injuries, the Seminoles have had to rely on an inexperienced receiving corps for most of its offense. Against Duke, several open receivers dropped passes that could have blown open a 6-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter.
That was not the case Saturday, as nine players caught passes.
"In the Duke game, our receivers took the day off, and today they came back and had a good day," coach Bobby Bowden said. "Our receivers looked like they took the challenge and did a little bit better tonight."
For Walker and Gardner, looking better on the field also entailed looking better without any hair.