The year was 1997, and Kez McCorvey was just a couple years into his professional football career.
The former All-America wide receiver had returned to Florida State during the offseason when he experienced what he describes as a "life-changing" event.
"I became a Christian," McCorvey explained during a break in the youth camp he was directing in Tallahassee on Friday afternoon. “The first people I told were my coaches. I came and told Coach Bowden, Coach Van and Coach Richt.”
Coach Bowden, of course, was legendary FSU head coach Bobby Bowden. Coach Van was former longtime strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger. And Coach Richt was former offensive coordinator Mark Richt.
That recollection was poignant for McCorvey as he reflected on what has brought him back to Tallahassee yet again.
After coaching wide receivers last season at Middle Tennessee State and spending most of the last decade coaching in the CFL and on the collegiate and high school levels, McCorvey is serving dual roles in his return to Tallahassee.
In April, he was hired as the new head football coach at St. John Paul II Catholic School. One month earlier, he took a position as an area representative with Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“That was the main reason I came back to Tallahassee -- to work with FCA,” McCorvey said. “I just really felt God pointing me in that direction. Pointing me to full-time ministry. Pointing me to serving this area. That’s why I came.”
McCorvey has been drawn to FCA since he started participating with the organization two decades years ago. Shortly after that talk with his college coaches, McCorvey started going with Bowden to FCA speaking engagements. He often would introduce the coaching legend and then watch and listen to the power of Bowden's testimonies.
“I felt like I was at home,” McCorvey said.
There's some symmetry to McCorvey's return. It comes exactly 20 years after he became a Christian, and it will allow him to share the lessons he has learned since that time with coaches throughout the region -- just as Bowden, Richt and Van Halanger did with him during his playing days.
“I have a place in my heart for coaches,” McCorvey said. “I know what coaches can do for athletes. I had great coaches, and I didn’t really understand that until I left this place right here, and I got a chance to go play at other places -- how much of an impact these guys had on me.
“When I left here, I really felt love. I really felt like these guys cared about me. Not that I always agreed with Coach Bowden -- I didn’t. But when I look back in hindsight, I can see that man really cared about me.”
Now, he's trying to pay it forward.
In his FCA position, McCorvey is working to help high school and middle school coaches in all sports -- not just football -- understand just how important their influence can be on young athletes.
“Not only do coaches impact kids for next year, but they impact kids for 30 years from now,” McCorvey said. “And those players go on to impact their kids as well. That’s what we’re trying to do -- build our community up.”
On Thursday and Friday, McCorvey teamed with two other Florida State greats -- Andre Cooper and E.G. Green -- for their first Nole Legends wide receiver camp. They have future youth camps planned for Orlando (June 30-July 1 at Faith Christian Academy) and Pensacola (July 7-8 at Booker T. Washington High School).
While the camps are not directly affiliated with Florida State, there are Seminole connections all around.
— Nole Legends Inc. (@NoleLegends) June 23, 2017
Former FSU star Marvin "Snoop" Minnis stopped by at the end of Friday's camp. Former Seminole defensive back Leroy Smith, who is the new head coach at Jefferson County, brought six of his players to participate. Former FSU safety Kyler Hall, who is now the head coach at Live Oak Suwanee, sent players over as well.
And when the camp goes to Pensacola Washington, the head coach there is McCorvey's former FSU quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward.
“I think there’s a community of trust," McCorvey said. "They trust that they can send their guys out to me, and I’m gonna do my best to help them become better football players and hopefully influence them in a way that helps their overall program.”
The focus now is on wide receivers, but McCorvey said they plan to expand their offerings to other positions, drawing upon the expertise of former teammates and other friends in coaching.
One name at the top of the list will be former FSU and NFL offensive lineman Clay Shiver, who now coaches football and serves as a leadership coach in South Florida. When McCorvey was head coach at a high school in Fort Lauderdale a few years back, Shiver helped him run a camp at his school.
“That was awesome,” McCorvey said. “He definitely impacted the players as far as their skill set, but he also impacted them spiritually as well. And that was awesome. Awesome!”
McCorvey, who was a fifth-round pick of the Detroit Lions and was inducted into the FSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005, will certainly be busy with his new endeavors. When he's not running camps and traveling to various schools as part of his FCA work, he'll also be leading the football program at John Paul II.
After taking the job two months ago, he's begun meeting with players and holding summer workouts.
“I’m actually in football and sports bliss,” McCorvey said with a smile. “I get a chance to go and speak to all the coaches (at other schools). We get a chance to talk about the kids and the relationships and how Christ impacts that. And then I get to come coach football and impact kids some more.”
For more information on the Nole Legends camps, visit www.NoleLegends.Life/camps, call 800-418-1187 or email NoleLegends@yahoo.com.