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Motlow, FSU wrap up season with Orange Bowl victory

The Florida State University football team, including Seminole Tribal citizen Justin Motlow, center, celebrate the team’s 33-32 win against the University of Michigan on Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. (FSU Sports Info – Mitch White)

When the Florida State University football team visited Hard Rock Stadium for the first time this season, Justin Motlow was among the players that didn’t travel with the team for its one-point win against the University of Miami in October, but the Seminole wide receiver from Tampa suited up when the squad returned for the Orange Bowl.

All the pieces seemed to form a perfectly symmetrical Tribal triangle Dec. 30: a Seminole playing for the Seminoles in Hard Rock Stadium.

“That was pretty special to play in a stadium that the Tribe has a lot to do with,” Motlow said.

The outcome was pretty special, too. FSU nipped the University of Michigan, 33-32, in one of the bowl season’s most entertaining games in front of 67,432, which included Motlow’s parents Clarence and Lisa and older sister Jessica. Motlow described the victory as “the most satisfying” in his three years with the program.

FSU arrived in Hollywood on Christmas Eve and began practicing on Christmas Day at Nova Southeastern University. “It was great to practice there during the winter. You can’t beat South Florida during that time of the year,” Motlow said. Orange Bowl week wasn’t all about the game and practices. Before facing Michigan, FSU participated in extracurricular activities that included a visit to Dave & Buster’s restaurant and a beach outing with families.

As for the game, FSU built a 17-3 lead after the first quarter but Michigan roared back and took a 30-27 lead with 1:57 left in the fourth. FSU answered with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Nyqwan Murray with 36 ticks remaining. Michigan blocked the extra point and returned it for two points, but coach Jim Harbaugh’s squad fell one point shy of victory.

After dropping bowl games the past two seasons, the Seminoles (10-3) will no doubt take momentum from the victory into next season when they are expected to be one of the top contenders for the national title. Motlow said the victory in the Orange Bowl helps provide an even brighter outlook heading into spring football and next season.

“Expectations are a little higher,” he said.

USA Today ranks FSU at No. 1 in a preseason poll. A lot should be determined right away when FSU meets Alabama in the season opener.

Similar to the previous season, Motlow spent the 2016 season on the scout team’s offense. As a wide receiver, he faced FSU’s starting cornerbacks in practices. Motlow earned one of the scout team’s MVP honors at the team’s awards banquet.

“Our defensive coordinator said it was one of the best scout teams he’s ever coached,” Motlow said.

In 2015, Motlow saw brief action in two games. This season he didn’t appear in any games, but he said he is continuing to improve.

“I had the same role. I felt personally I got a lot better,” he said.

Motlow arrived at FSU as a preferred walk on in 2014 and became the first Seminole Tribal citizen to play for the Seminoles. In terms of playing eligibility, the sociology major has two years left. In terms of memories, the Orange Bowl victory will last a lifetime.

“To be able to celebrate with your teammates at the end was one of my special moments,” Motlow said. “All the hard work we had to go through, it was really a proud moment that it all paid off.”

Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at