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Season of progress for FSU’s Justin Motlow

The Seminole Tribe’s Justin Motlow focuses on the ball during Florida State’s 2015 season. Motlow saw his first game action this season for FSU, which finished with a 10-3 record.   (Photo courtesy of Perrone Ford, Florida State Sports Information)
The Seminole Tribe’s Justin Motlow focuses on the ball during Florida State’s 2015 season. Motlow saw his first game action this season for FSU, which finished with a 10-3 record. (Photo courtesy of Perrone Ford, Florida State Sports Information)

TALLAHASSEE — A year after he became the first Seminole Tribal citizen to make the Florida State University Seminoles football team, Justin Motlow took his trailblazing a step further.

This season Motlow saw his first game action for FSU, which finished with a 10-3 record and ranked No. 14 in the country.

Motlow, who did not play in any games in 2014, made his debut Sept. 5 in a 59-16 opening day rout against Texas State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

“It felt amazing. It hadn’t happened since high school,” said Motlow, whose last action in an official game was in 2013 at Tampa Catholic High School where he racked up more than 1,000 receiving yards and helped lead the Crusaders to the state semifinals.

Motlow said he was in the Texas State game for just one play in a blocking role at wide receiver, but he did not take the brief appearance for granted.

“Another small milestone was reached. Now I’m on to the next one. It finally happened,” Motlow said.

Making it into a game was among Motlow’s goals this season. Similar to 2014, he spent most of the year on the scout team facing Seminole defensive starters in practice. He said he improved a lot this season and gained a better grasp of the team’s playbook.

Motlow also appeared in one other game, a 52-13 win against Chattanooga on Nov. 21 in FSU’s home finale as the team wrapped up its second straight season without a loss at Doak Campbell. He saw action on special teams for one kickoff.

Motlow hopes to earn more playing time next season.

“That’s ultimately always the goal. We’ll see what happens based off the spring,” he said.

Because of renovations to their home stadium, FSU’s spring game will be held April 9 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

If Motlow and other walk-ons around the country need additional inspiration, they only have to look at the national championship game in January when Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, a former walk-on whose 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame is similar to Motlow, caught two touchdowns against Alabama.

“He’s good,” said Motlow, who joined FSU out of high school as a preferred walk-on. “That’s what I was thinking that could be the case; he was sort of in the same scenario.”

FSU was not far off from an undefeated regular season and a spot in the playoffs. The Seminoles no doubt would have liked a mulligan following a last-second loss to Georgia Tech, which only won three games. In early November, the Seminoles and Clemson were tied with eight minutes left before the Tigers pulled in front on their way to the national title game.

FSU fell to Houston, 38-24, on New Year’s Eve in the Peach Bowl.

As for the 2016 season, Motlow will enter the campaign as a redshirt sophomore and have three years of eligibility left.

He expects the Seminoles will be stronger.

“We played a lot of young guys this year,” said Motlow, who is in the midst of changing majors from business to another field.

One caveat to the 2016 schedule for Motlow is a game Sept. 24 at the University of South Florida in Tampa. This season Motlow was among the players who did not travel to away games in the regular season, so making it onto the travel squad would be another significant step, especially if it includes a game in his backyard.

“It would be amazing to be home in front of all my family,” he said.

 

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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 kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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