The Daily Nole

FSU Senior Moments: A.J. Westbrook

Mitch White/FSU athletics

Unlike so many classes before them, Florida State’s group of seniors in 2018 did not go out on a high note. The Seminoles finished just 5-7 on the year and missed a bowl for the first time since 1981.

Still, there were a number of seniors who stuck with the program through thick and thin and that alone, is enough to earn recognition. On Monday, we recollected on the career of defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas. Today will be the final piece that recognizes an individual.

A 3-star prospect from Daytona Beach, safety A.J. Westbrook wound up starting games in each of his final three seasons in Tallahassee. Westbrook was never the most heralded or accomplished FSU defensive back and had struggles with consistency throughout his career.

Over the course of that career however, Westbrook appeared in 37 games. He was first forced into action in 2016 following the injury to star safety Derwin James. Westbrook’s career ends with 25 starts to his name at both safety positions.

Westbrook will leave FSU with 144 career tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 career sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Here’s a look back on the five best moments of his career:

5. Fumble Recovery Leads to Independence Bowl Score
Dec. 27, 2017

After winning its final three games of the regular season, Florida State needed to beat Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl to run its streak of consecutive winning seasons to 41. With FSU leading 16-6 late in the first half, a key turnover helped turn the contest into a rout. Facing 3rd-and-10, Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs found Ito Smith on a short throw. Smith was stripped by Stanford Samuels III and A.J. Westbrook promptly fell on the fumble at the Golden Eagles’ 24-yard-line. Four plays later, James Blackman found Auden Tate for a 10-yard touchdown to give FSU a commanding 23-6 lead in an eventual 42-13 victory.

4. Westbrook Stands Out in Orange Bowl Win
Dec. 30, 2016

Upon taking over for the injured Derwin James, then sophomore A.J. Westbrook was a noticeable liability early on. As the season went on, his improvement was noticeable and that culminated in one of the best performance of his career. In a thrilling 33-32 win over No. 6 Michigan in the Orange Bowl, Westbrook finished the night with eight tackles, which was second only to Matthew Thomas, including 0.5 stops for loss and one pass break-up.

3. First Career Sack
Oct. 1, 2016

A.J. Westbrook recorded 1.5 sacks in his career and his only solo sack came on North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky in a 37-35 loss to open October 2016. Westbrook’s sack came on third down early in the third quarter and forced the Tar Heels to attempt a 51-yard field goal, which was ultimately missed by Nick Weiler. The sack would be Westbrook’s only tackle of the day.

2. First Career Pick
Sept. 8, 2018

Westbrook was a senior before finally grabbing his first career interception. With FSU trailing Samford 16-14 in Week 2 and the Bulldogs near midfield, Westbrook stepped in front of a Devlin Hodges pass and returned it 33 yards into Bulldog territory. Unfortunately, the Seminoles were unable to capitalize on the pick, but they did rally to win the game, 36-26. Westbrook finished with five tackles in the win.

1. New Life at Louisville
Sept. 29, 2018

With Florida State trailing 24-21 at Louisville to conclude September 2018, it was an alert play by Westrbook that ultimately gave FSU new life. With the Cardinals in the FSU red zone and the clock ticking toward two minutes, Louisville inexplicably decided to pass on first down as quarterback Jawon Pass fired toward his tight end. Westbrook was able to read the play and step in front of the pass and give the Seminoles the ball back. FSU would march down the field to take the lead on a 58-yard touchdown throw from Deondre Francois to Nyqwan Murray. Without Westbrook’s alertness, the game-winning touchdown pass in a 28-24 victory may not have been possible.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply