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4,000 miles to make a dream come true

A walk-on from California who grew up an FSU fan gets the thrill of his life: a series as Seminoles QB.


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000

TALLAHASSEE -- Stephen de la Motte had been hoping to wear a Florida State jersey since he saw Charlie Ward on television when he was 11.

The native of San Luis Obispo, Calif., not only suited up for Saturday's game against Duke, the freshman walk-on played nearly the entire fourth quarter as quarterback for his beloved Seminoles.

Who would ever have thought?

With backup Marcus Outzen suspended for his involvement in a fight Friday night, coach Bobby Bowden opted to play de la Motte, the fifth-string quarterback, rather than to waste a year of eligibility for scholarship players Chris Rix and Jared Jones.

"I have always wanted to play at Florida State since I was a kid," de la Motte said with a huge smile. "Tonight was a dream come true for me."

With 9:36 left in the fourth quarter of FSU's 63-14 win, de la Motte replaced Heisman Trophy candidate Chris Weinke in the backfield. The 18-year-old threw two passes, completing neither.

The story of de la Motte as an FSU player started in 1993 when he sent coach Bobby Bowden a letter, explaining how badly he wanted to play for the Seminoles. That correspondence made them pen pals, which blossomed into a player-coach relationship.

"I'd write to (Bowden) every season," de la Motte said. "I'd even tell him about how my baseball season was. He'd write back to me and say that he was glad that I was interested in Florida State."

Hailing from central California, de la Motte decided to go to college 4,000 miles away in Tallahassee to try out as a walk-on quarterback. He even told offensive coordinator Mark Richt that he was willing to be a ball boy, just as long as he could be a part of the team.

The freshman did not collect the footballs during Saturday's game. He instead was throwing them to the team's wide receivers.

"It was awesome to walk out onto the field for the first time," de la Motte said. "I was just trying to stay focused."

"Like I told him downstairs, "Who would have ever thought it?' " Bowden said. "That's one of the great things about football."

Saturday might have been the last time de la Motte sees playing time during a game for another two years. Saturday night was his night, however, as his childhood dream became a reality.

It was seven years in the making.

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