Justin Motlow makes history with touchdown catch

Florida State wide receiver Justin Motlow makes a diving touchdown catch Nov. 18 against Delaware State. Motlow is the first Seminole Tribe member to play football for FSU, and is now the first Seminole to score a touchdown for FSU’s Seminoles. (FSU Sports Info – Ross Obley)

TALLAHASSEE —  As Justin Motlow answered questions from the media, the Florida State University senior talked about his first college touchdown catch and the ensuing euphoric reaction it generated from his teammates, but central to Motlow’s postgame comments was a bigger picture: his appreciation for the Seminole Tribe.

In the fourth quarter of a 77-6 homecoming win against Delaware State on Nov. 18, Motlow –  a wide receiver and the Tribe’s first FSU football player – became the first Seminole Tribal member to score a touchdown for the Seminoles when he made a diving, 12-yard catch in the end zone.

“That is just the most amazing honor you could ever feel,” Motlow said. “I’m so proud to represent my Tribe. I don’t even know what to say. The first member to score a touchdown, let alone just play, it’s an exhilarating feeling. It just makes me so happy.”

Being able to have a positive impact on younger Tribal members would also make Motlow happy.

“I have a platform that gives younger Tribal members a chance to look up to somebody and I want to make the most out of all this just to show all the young Tribal members that anything is possible,” he said. “I never thought I’d be sitting here right now and I want to show them that they can do whatever they want to.”

Being a role model doesn’t come easy. After a standout high school career at Tampa Catholic, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Motlow arrived in Tallahassee in 2014 as a preferred walk-on for the Seminoles football team. A roster spot was guaranteed, but certainly not playing time. In the ensuing years, Motlow became a hard-working, loyal member of the scout team, whose players go up against starters in practice, but seldom see game action. Last season he earned a scout team MVP award and moved up to No. 2 on the regular offense’s depth chart at one of the wide receiver spots, but until Nov. 18, Motlow’s playing time in his FSU career consisted of brief action in just a few games. Never had a pass been thrown to him, but beforehand he figured the Delaware State game could be an opportunity for extended playing time.

“I knew if everyone came here today and did what they had to do I would definitely get a chance to play,” Motlow said. “Once I got in, I just wanted to make the most of it.”

With FSU comfortably ahead on an ideal sunny autumn early afternoon in front of 70,599 fans, Motlow entered the game late in the first half. The first ball to come his way was a short, low pass across the middle from quarterback J. J. Cosentino early in the third quarter. Motlow dove for it, but didn’t catch it.

“I was a little upset because it was my first-ever career pass intended to, but I knew it was early in the game and I was going to get one more chance and if I got that next chance I was not going to mess it up. Luckily, I didn’t,” he said.

Motlow received three more chances to make catches, and he snagged all of them. Later in the quarter, his first catch as an FSU Seminole came on a short dump pass Cosentino in Delaware State territory which Motlow turned into a 12-yard gain with a quick cutback to his left that froze a defender in his tracks. That play led to a field goal and a 63-6 lead,  In the fourth quarter, Motlow made a catch for one yard pickup. On the next play, Cosentino, from the Delaware State 12-yard-line, lofted a high, soft pass into the corner of the end zone. Fully stretched out, Motlow caught the ball and held on to it after bobbling it while he landed on the turf and into Seminole Tribe history.

“I came off the line and right when I came out of my break, time kind of stood still and I saw the ball in the air,” Motlow said. “I just knew this was my big opportunity and I knew I wasn’t going to drop it for anything. I made the play and I was just the most excited I’ve ever been.”

He wasn’t alone in his excitement. “It’s great for him and the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” said FSU alum and Tribal member Kyle Doney, who watched from the sideline. “He’s put in a lot of work and he deserves the touchdown that he got, and it wasn’t an easy one either. That was pretty cool.”

Motlow’s touchdown catch came in the same game that featured a halftime homecoming ceremony in which the Seminole Tribe’s royalty – Miss Florida Seminole Randee Osceola and Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Kailani Osceola – crowned FSU’s homecoming chief and princess. While they were the center of attention at the break, the second half spotlight shined on Motlow. After being hoisted into the air by lineman and former Tampa Catholic teammate Corey Martinez in the end zone, Motlow was met with enthusiastic congratulatory hugs, high-fives and head pats from teammates as he returned to a jubilant sideline.

“Our team was so excited for him. He is a great kid,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.

“The entire team, I feel like, was psyched up. Just four years of hard work and it seems like it all paid off in this big moment,” Motlow said.

The touchdown gave FSU a 70-6 lead, but it meant so much more than another score in a lopsided win. In addition to the Seminole Tribe significance, the TD catch also brought plenty of happiness to a team whose season hasn’t gone as planned. FSU was a preseason favorite to contend for the national championship, but losses to Alabama, Boston College, Clemson, Louisville, Miami and North Carolina State left the Seminoles struggling just to make a bowl game, any bowl game. Motlow’s catch provided a refreshing jolt of good news.

“To be able to walk out there and score a touchdown on senior day like that for him, you don’t know how happy that makes me for him,” said Fisher, who added that the catch was rewarding for him as well. “That was a great catch and something he’ll remember forever. That’s some of the greatest rewards you ever have coaching.”

Motlow finished with three catches for 25 yards and one memorable touchdown. He met his parents – Lisa and Clarence Motlow – on the field right after the game ended.

“I was extremely happy, but they were almost in tears,” he said. “They were so happy.”

In a pregame ceremony for FSU’s senior players, Lisa and Clarence accompanied their son onto the field. Although he has one year of playing eligibility left, Motlow said this was would be his final season. He plans to graduate in the spring with a degree in sociology and return to the Tampa area. He’ll be coming back with more than just a degree.

“First Seminole Indian to ever score a touchdown,” Fisher said.

Randee Osceola, Kailani Osceola proudly crown school’s chief, princess

Miss Florida Seminole Randee Osceola, left, places the turban on FSU homecoming chief Dionte Boddie while Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Kailani Osceola crowns homecoming princess Emily Galant at halftime of the Florida State football game Nov. 18 in Tallahassee. (Kevin Johnson)

TALLAHASSEE — Before the start of Florida State’s homecoming football game, Randee Osceola and Kailani Osceola sat in the Seminole Tribe’s Micco Suite in the upper tier of Doak Campbell Stadium. They looked down at Bobby Bowden Field and realized their time to shine was only a half away.

“We’re so nervous, but we’re really excited,” said Randee Osceola, Miss Florida Seminole, about crowning FSU’s homecoming chief and princess at midfield in front of more than 70,000 fans.
“Just like the [Princess] pageant, but just bigger,” added Kailani Osceola, Jr. Miss Florida Seminole.

Similar to what they did all weekend with official duties, the girls – Randee from Immokalee and Kailani from Trail – executed the crowning with poise and grace Nov. 18. Randy placed a Seminole turban, made by the first Miss Seminole Connie Gowen, on chief Dionte Boddie while Kailani crowned princess Emily Galant with a tiara.

The ceremony culminated a whirlwind few days for Randee and Kalani in Tallahassee. They had a private lunch with the homecoming court, participated in the homecoming parade through the campus’s streets, watched an energized pep rally, attended a gameday awards breakfast with FSU President John Thrasher and the school’s alumni association. They even met wide receiver Justin Motlow a couple days before the first Seminole Tribal member to play for FSU football scored a touchdown.

“They treat us like we’re royalty and it’s been a lot of fun meeting people, and honoring and representing the Tribe up here,” said Randee, who added that the homecoming experience exceeded her expectations.

John Thrasher, FSU president, told a roomful of alumni during the breakfast that the university appreciates its relationship with the Tribe.

“Please convey to the Seminole Tribe our deepest appreciation for the incredible relationship that we share with the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” Thrasher said while acknowledging Randee and Kailani. “It’s a special relationship. I hope you all know that every single commencement the Tribe sends a color guard to be present at our commencement ceremonies. They do such a fabulous job. There are so many things that we a blessed to have that relationship. We promise to continue to treasure it and honor it with great respect.”

Before they entered the stadium for the game, Randee and Kailani gladly posed for photos with a large contingent of Navy sailors from the USS Florida (Gold) SSGN. After taking an elevator ride up seven floors, Randee and Kailani entered the Tribe’s Micco Suite and immediately saw a large framed photo on the wall of 2011 Miss Florida Seminole Jewel Buck.

“I want to be up there. It’s so cool,” Randee said.

After she graduated from Immokalee High School in June, Randee could have started her college career at Barry University in Miami. However, she viewed her responsibilities as Miss Florida Seminole with such great importance that college was put on hold for a year in order so she could give her full attention to representing the Tribe.

“So far it’s been a lot of fun, learning about the Seminole Tribe – because you can never learn enough – and also learning about other tribes,” said Randee, who will compete in the Miss Indian World pageant in the spring.

When her duties as Miss Florida Seminole are finished, Randee plans to start college and major in psychology and then come back and work for the Tribe. Her path could include helping children or people affected by substance abuse.

“As long as she goes back to school after her reign, that’s what we focus on,” said Princess Committee Chairwoman Wanda Bowers, who accompanied the girls along with their mothers Geraldine Osceola (Randee) and Melody Osceola (Kailani).

Miss Florida Seminole Randee Osceola, left, and Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Kailani Osceola wave to the crowd of 70,599 at Doak Campbell Stadium during homecoming ceremony at halftime of the Florida State football game Nov. 18 in Tallahasee. (Kevin Johnson)

Randee said attending Barry is still a possibility, but she’s also considering applying to FSU thanks in part to the impressions made from homecoming weekend.
Ditto for Kailani.

“I was thinking about going to the University of Hawaii Manoa to study fashion design, but now that I came on this trip, I’m rethinking my plans and coming over here to Florida State University,” Kailani said. “What really attracted me was the unity they have and the spirit and the pride they show in the Seminoles.”

Both girls said they were grateful for being able to participate in homecoming.

“Very eventful and exciting,” Kailani said. “I want to thank the Tribe and the Princess Committee for letting me have this opportunity to be a Princess and represent the Tribe in any way possible.”
As Trail’s first-ever princess, Kailani doesn’t take her responsibilities lightly.

“A lot of girls have told me they look up to me and they want to run next year. I’m proud to be a role model to people in Trail and every reservation out there,” she said.

“Never had a princess from Trail and we’ve never had an Otter, and she’s an Otter,” Bowers said. “Trail is a small community and they’re all thrilled for her.”

Randee and Kailani each wore different patchwork clothing for each function they attended.

“The one I’m wearing on the field [at the homecoming game] was made by Tammie Billie and she mimicked the patchwork on the football players jerseys. I told her I’m going to wear this on game day,” Randee said.

Tammie Billie also made the patchwork clothing Kailani wore at the game. Kailani’s other patchwork clothing was made by Oneva Smith and MinnieLou Billie, while JoJo Osceola and Francine Osceola made the other patchwork clothing worn by Randee.

Homecoming gets circled on the princesses’ calendar early in their reigns.

“This is kind of the highlight of their year,” Bowers said. “They’re anxious to come up here every year. As soon as they win, that’s when they start talking about coming up here.”

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