Burt Reynolds, one of the most famous actors in American history, passed away on Thursday at age 82. And while Reynolds is best known for his freewheeling, hellbent badass onscreen presence, he might never have leaped into Bandit’s Trans Am had he been just a little bit better football player.
Reynolds played football at Florida State for three years. In 1954, his freshman year, he rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, and caught four passes for 76 yards. (He was also a roommate of future FSU coach/ESPN talking head Lee Corso.) Those stats were enough for the FSU coaching staff to predict big things for Reynolds, but a car crash cost him his spleen and two years of football. When he returned to the field in 1957, he was only a shadow of the player he’d been. And on October 12, 1957, he gave up a long touchdown in a loss to N.C. State, and decided his days of football were done.
Here’s the story on that day and on Reynolds leaving Florida State for Hollywood, as told by the man himself:
“I’m leaving. I’m not the player I was,” Reynolds told his teammates. “I’m going to go off to Hollywood to be a movie star.” And he went and did exactly that. But he remained close to Florida State for the rest of his days, often hanging with legendary coach Bobby Bowden and patrolling the sidelines as decades of Noles rolled on.
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