The Daily Nole

65 Days Until FSU Football: Fred Flowers Enrolls at FSU in 1965

Ross Obley/FSU athletics

65 days are left until Florida State football opens up the 2018 season. As part of the offseason, we’re doing a countdown that highlights players, games, and specific moments from FSU football history.

On Friday, it was the 1966 Florida-Florida State game that ended in controversy.

For the No. 65, we’re going a different route than the typical countdown piece. Today, we highlight former FSU baseball player Fred Flowers, who became the first African-American to wear an FSU athletics uniform.

Florida State University began to admit African-American students in 1962, though obviously the national conversation about race and the blatant racism in North Florida meant that the number of admitted applicants was small to begin with. Flowers was a standout baseball player in Tallahassee who decided that he would break down a social barrier, enrolling at FSU in 1965 and being the first African-American to don a uniform.

This event obviously has implications to the present day. Florida State’s football team is predominantly black, as are multiple other teams on campus. A huge discussion around Willie Taggart’s hiring involved his race and how FSU became the only FBS school to have a black athletic director, head football coach, and basketball coach.

It’s become so commonplace that we barely even think about the monumental task presented to athletes like Fred Flowers when they first enrolled at FSU. They faced public pressure, social isolation, and a generally hostile southern town — not unlike places across the country. But they persevered, and while there is still progress to be made in the discussion on sports and race, we have come a long way from that initial development in 1965. You can read more about Fred Flowers and his legacy on Florida State’s campus here.

This writer has had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Flowers speak about his enrollment and what he experienced as an athlete at FSU. He is a very thoughtful and interesting speaker who knows how to capture a room with his words. His perspective was invaluable, and Mr. Flowers was a true embodiment of the term “student-athlete“.

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