Stubborness pays off for FSU’s Maguire

Sean Maguire just won’t take a hint. Won’t read the clues. As a matter of fact, yes, you are going to have to hit him over the head with a hammer before he gets the message.

There have been a multitude of signs that he and Florida State were a mismatched pair, an Oxford on one foot, a Birkenstock on the other. And, yet, look who will be triggering the offense for the Seminoles on Thursday in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl — the quarterback who just won’t go away.

First, Maguire arrived in Tallahassee and in his redshirt season, he was sharing a meeting room with E.J. Manuel, Jake Coker, Clint Trickett and some other freshman named Jameis Winston. How does anyone take in that assemblage and say, “You know, this really looks promising?”

Manuel and Winston are in the NFL. Coker transferred to Alabama, where he is involved in the college playoffs. Trickett moved on to West Virginia. Good and hopeful soldier that he was, Maguire stayed put.

Transfer? That wasn’t a verb in Maguire’s personal playbook. “My family doesn’t really like the approach of ‘go run from competition,’” he said.

It was the start of this season, though, when the jerking around of Sean Maguire became something of an art form. Certainly, his time had come. Hadn’t he showed himself in 2014, stepping in for the suspended Winston and winning a huge game against Clemson?

And, yet, along came a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, like a pretty new face at the high school dance, a quarterback-come-lately flashing his pedigree and experience. Thus, Everett Golson won the starting job when the season began.

Dude, it looks like they’re really trying to tell you something here. And, still, Maguire wouldn’t listen.

The news hit him kind of like the flu, he said. “It was like a 24-hour thing. You were feeling terrible, but at the same time you realized the season could change in a heartbeat,” he said.

When Golson was sidelined by a concussion following the wild loss to Georgia Tech, FSU turned to Maguire. He threw for a career high 348 yards and three touchdowns against Syracuse and didn’t faint away in a losing cause in his first road start at Clemson.

Golson’s head got better and FSU’s Jimbo Fisher went back to him to start against N.C. State. OK, now, Maguire was starting to get a little irked.

“(The benching) was tough,” he said. “I had a talk with Coach Fisher and he said, ‘Listen, you’ve got to be ready.’ I didn’t think he was going to be too hesitant to make a switch.”

Fisher wasn’t. When Golson struggled early in that game, it was up to Maguire to lead a comeback from a 17-7 deficit.

Apparently that is when everyone else got the message that Maguire was going to be more difficult to dislodge than a popcorn kernel from a back molar. Golson was out and, in fact, did not make the trip to Atlanta, his short career at FSU finished, while he was reportedly tending to a personal matter.

Facing Houston in the Georgia Dome will be a quarterback who, for all the roadblocks, is 5-1 in all appearances and 3-1 as a starter. Maguire completed 62.1 percent of his throws this season, with nine touchdowns to two interceptions.

Along with a few wins, Maguire has earned a measure of appreciation from his teammates and the staff for the way he handled the Dow-like fluctuations of his career. The fact that he didn’t start any fires in the locker room counted for something.

“This may sound stupid, but not winning the job is a whole lot like breaking up with a girlfriend. There has to be almost a grieving process — you just get it over with,” Florida State co-offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Randy Sanders said.

Taking a bit of advice from Sanders to heart — “Don’t go trying to prove that you should have been the starter from Day One; don’t go out there trying to win over the team or the crowd.” — Maguire has tried to put the experience of being a roller-coaster test pilot to work for him. Didn’t kill him, so it must have made him better, right?

Being a junior, Maguire’s inter-roster competing days are not over. FSU has one talented and elegantly-named redshirt freshman in the wings — Deondre Francois — as well as a coveted recruit — Malik Henry — set to register for classes next month.

Is he ready to go through another trial by practice field? “That’s fine, they can compete all they want,” Maguire said.

It’s when he’s asked if, in his mind, he is the starter next season, that Maguire issues the most eloquent of one-word responses.

There is no couching of intent. No political nods to the talent around him. He neither hems nor haws. Just a very hard and firm, “Yes.”

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