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Tribe honors FSU football’s strong season

A large wooden tomahawk was presented to Florida State football coach Mike Norvell on Nov. 25, 2022. From left to right are FSU athletic director Michael Alford, Norvell, Kyle Doney, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard, Richard Osceola and Renegade team owner Allen Durham. (Courtesy photo)

Florida State University’s return to prominence on the football field this past season didn’t go unnoticed by the Seminole Tribe and one of its biggest supporters of the team.

After four straight losing seasons, FSU finally resumed its traditional winning ways by posting a 10-3 record that included wins against LSU, Miami, Florida and a Cheez-It Bowl victory against Oklahoma.
Richard Osceola, from the Brighton Reservation, wanted to come up with a way to recognize the successful season, so before the Seminoles game against Florida on Nov. 25, 2022, he joined two other Seminoles — Brighton Councilman Larry Howard and FSU alumnus Kyle Doney — in presenting head coach Mike Norvell with a life-size wooden tomahawk. The giant axe was made from wood in the swamps in Ochopee by Miccosukee-Seminole artist and master carver Leroy Osceola.

Richard Osceola said axes have a significant history in Native American life, including the ancestors who used them to build huts.

“We always have an axe in our traditional life and our Native ways,” he said.

In 2010, Richard Osceola, left, and former FSU player William Floyd, right, presented FSU head coach Bobby Bowden with a giant tomahawk during the week of the coach’s final game at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. (File photo)

Osceola said the presentation was made akin to the team’s tradition of putting tomahawk stickers on the helmets of players to recognize athletic and academic achievements. This season marked Norvell’s third at the helm. The Seminoles finished ranked 11th in the country.

“He brought the program back. We have a lot of young players. We have a strong program,” Osceola said.
Osceola said Norvell thanked him and the Osceola family.

It wasn’t the first time Osceola has presented a FSU football coach with a tomahawk. He did the same gesture with Bobby Bowden before the legendary coach’s final game at the 2010 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, an idea that came from former FSU player William Floyd.

FSU President Richard McCullough receives an Osceola turkey feathers framed arrangement Nov. 25, 2022. From left to right are Kyle Doney, Kirsten Doney, FSU First Lady Jai Vartikar, McCullough, Tomie Motlow, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard and Richard Osceola. (Courtesy photo)

In addition to coming from the Ochopee swamps, the tomahawks traveled near or over waterways with historical importance to Native Americans, such as Lake Okeechobee, the Kissimmee River, St. Johns River and Suwannee River, Osceola said.

Osceola planned to give a tomahawk to Jimbo Fisher when he was the FSU coach, but that idea ended when Fisher abruptly left the program in 2017 to coach Texas A&M.

In addition to the tomahawk presentation, another cultural presentation was made by Osceola, Doney and Councilman Howard. They presented a framed arrangement of feathers to Richard McCullough, who has been FSU president since August 2021. The feathers are from an Osceola turkey that was hunted by Richard Osceola’s cousin Robert Youngblood.

From left to right, Renegade team owner Allen Durham, Kyle Doney, Tomie Motlow with head coach Mike Norvell’s daughter, Mila Norvell, and wife, Maria Norvell. (Courtesy photo)

“He’s a game hunter with bow and arrow,” Osceola said.

The framework was done by Jason Thomas from the Brighton Reservation.

“He did a nice job,” Osceola said.

Tribal members Kirsten Doney, a 2021 FSU graduate, and Tomie Motlow were part of the presentation to the FSU president.

Allen Durham, who oversees the Renegade team that helps fire up the crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium, was a part of the tomahawk ceremony.

Osceola said he’s already looking forward to the upcoming season. FSU, which has done well in attracting transfers, is ranked No. 4 in ESPN’s “way-to-early” rankings for the 2023 season. The Seminoles open the season Sept. 3 against LSU in Orlando.

Osceola, Kyle Doney and Councilman Howard also met with longtime FSU radio play-by-play announcer Gene Deckerhoff at the Florida game. Deckerhoff retired after the team’s spring game in April 2022. He had been the voice of FSU football since 1979 and the men’s basketball announcer since 1974.

From left to right, Kyle Doney, Richard Osceola, FSU longtime play-by-play radio announcer Gene Deckerhoff, and Brighton Councilman Larry Howard. (Courtesy photo)
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