Friday, December 31
Warrick wants title that eluded FSU
By Shelley Smith
Special to ESPN.com
NEW ORLEANS -- His voice is soft and he drops his glance as he ponders the question:
"Was it worth it?"
"Yes," he says confidently and looks up. "Without a doubt, yes it was."
|Peter Warrick says coming back for his senior year was worth it.|
Even with all the controversy -- the arrest, the suspension, the
subsequent shutout in the Heisman and Biletnikoff races, the public
scrutiny and humiliation -- Florida state's highly talented but much
maligned flanker Peter Warrick says coming back for his senior year -- win
or lose in Tuesday's national championship game -- was worth it.
"I'm a better man now," he says. "I made some mistakes, I did things
other people say they've done, I got caught. Things happen for a reason. I
think I know now that nothing in life is free and nothing worth having
Warrick could have left school after his junior year and avoided all
these questions and question marks -- cynics say at least he would have had the NFL money to pay full price for the clothes he "bought" at Dillards. He could be playing on Sunday, perhaps getting ready for the playoffs with a new team and a new goal. His life most likely wouldn't be under such the judgmental microscope it has been since his arrest and his every action and explanation certainly wouldn't be analyzed by the masses. He'd be just another talented football player.
But Warrick is hardly that. There is something about him that tells you
there is more within his soul than the desire for money or fame or starring for somebody on Sunday. He's a player and he's a winner and, to him, that's what counts the most. It's a quality you don't find in many players -- even talented players. What Warrick has is drive and desire and the intangibles that won't allow him to settle for less than the best. And that's why he hardly could forget what happened before the Dillards scam was even conceived -- the loss to Tennessee in last year's national championship game, a game in which he wasn't much of a factor, if at all.
"Losing that game and playing the way I did was something I had to try
and fix," he explains now. "I knew nothing would be guaranteed, that it
was a long shot that we'd get a chance to fix it, but I had to try."
He says that feeling was amplified as he watched how quarterback Chris
Wenke battled through months of rehab after suffering a near paralyzing
neck injury, which kept him out of the Tennessee game. If Wenke was coming back -- or at least trying to come back -- well, he thought, he could, too. Besides, he reasoned, had Wenke played against the Vols, he probably would have caught more than one pass for 7 yards and the Seminoles probably would have won the game.
"Seeing him fight to get back was inspirational," Warrick says. "It
killed him not to play in that game. It killed us that he couldn't play in
that game. If he was coming back, I was coming back."
Warrick couldn't possibly have foreseen the nightmare he was about to
enter. When he was caught in the Dillard's scam, he essentially gave up
any chance of winning the Heisman Trophy or the award named for a former FSU wide receiver -- Fred Biletnikoff -- that seemed so fittingly his.
America is forgiving, but not that forgiving it appears.
"What I did cost me a lot," he says. "And I think that's what makes
this game even more important to me. I wanted redemption after last year's
loss, but with what I did and what it cost me, I want it even more, now."
If the Seminoles win, he says, he can truly put the past behind him.
And if they lose, well, he still can, but it won't be as easy.
"As they say," he says and grins, "winning solves everything."
It won't bring back the individual honors that he certainly won with
his on-field actions and it won't bring back the reputation he once held
off the field, but it will bring further justification that all the
sacrifices made the decision he made the right one after all.