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Quote:Don't look now: Rix is getting better

By Randy Beard

TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER


Florida State offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden can't put a finger on the precise moment he noticed a change taking place, he just knows the Seminoles won't have the same starting quarterback this season.

That's how much Bowden has come to believe in Chris Rix's ability to be a leader on and off the field.

"He's by far the most consistent performer we have on this team, offensively," said Bowden of the player who is about to become FSU's first four-year starter at quarterback. "That speaks volumes for the progress I think he has made."

"I think the biggest thing is he has matured," FSU quarterbacks coach Daryl Dickey said of Rix. "He understands what it takes in terms of preparation, what it takes to get involved, be involved and be around it ... I think the maturity level has made him understand the importance of timeliness and showing dedication to teammates and making sacrifices."

Even Rix acknowledges he has adjusted his approach, if not his attitude, to more effectively handle the demands and expectations that come with being FSU's starting quarterback. For one thing, he's learned that rewards such as national championships and Heisman Trophies can't be taken for granted.

"I think the perspective that I had then, being young, and being immature, you just felt like it would just happen," said Rix of his first couple of years. "Guys had done it in the past. Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke had gotten (FSU) there.

"But you've got to work for it. You've got to earn it. I've had to work just to get at the point I am right now."

Rix's teammates have noticed the effort he's made to become a better quarterback and teammate.

"Whether it's throwing for 300 yards or handing it off 30 times, it's not all about the glory for him and he realizes that," said center David Castillo during FSU's media day. "He honestly wants to do whatever it takes to win a national championship."

Having already thrown for 7,525 yards and 60 touchdowns in his college career, there is plenty of evidence Rix can be a difference-maker. Most FSU fans, however, would be happy if he can just put all the fumbles, interceptions and egocentric moments of the past three seasons behind him.

If there was a turning point last season, it likely occurred in November's thrilling 50-44 overtime victory against N.C. State. That's the night head coach Bobby Bowden began a post-game press conference by conducting a media poll. "Everybody in favor of taking Chris Rix out in the first quarter, raise your hand," Bowden said after that game. "Mine was up. Mine was up ..."

A week later Rix hung tough in another scorefest, helping FSU clinch a 38-34 victory over Florida in Gainesville with a 52-yard touchdown pass to P.K. Sam in the final minute.

When Jeff Bowden finally had time to assess the 2003 season, he realized that Rix had put together a solid campaign as a redshirt junior - the preferred starting point for an FSU quarterback. "I realized that he did an awful lot for us to get where we were. That gave me a lot of confidence in Chris throughout the summer and going into the fall," he said. "I'm really comfortable and confident in him right now."

The one thing still missing on Rix's regular-season resume is a victory over Miami. He has been the quarterback in four of FSU's five consecutive losses to the Hurricanes, including the heartbreak of a 16-14 setback at the Orange Bowl.

With another shot at Miami set for Labor Day, no one has to tell Rix that the Seminoles' motto this season - It's Time! - is particularly meaningful.

"If and when we beat them, I will be the first person to say that we haven't done anything yet," said Rix. "That's one step. We've got 10 more of these to play."

That realization alone could make all the difference for all the Seminoles.


:wave: :wave: :wave:


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