Golden Torch 2003

FSU Hosts Golden Torch Gala To Recognize Top Student-Athletes

Former FSU And Current All-Pro Linebacker Derrick Brooks Is Guest Speaker



Nov. 2, 2003

By Rob Wilson

The 2003 Golden Torch Gala had an even more impressive flair this year judging from the number of flash bulbs that went off throughout the dinner. Florida State’s unique celebration of their top student-athletes is always a special affair with a black-tie dinner and a chance to see teammates and coaches in an uncommon atmosphere. But rest assured the flash bulbs were all pointed at one person on this night.

Former FSU academic and athletic All-American and current NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks was on hand to give the key note address to the best of the best in terms of student-athletes at Florida State. Brooks, who is also a member of the FSU Board of Trustees and former NFL Man of the Year for his work with charities, has so many titles and accomplishments that one doesn’t know which to put first. But for FSU’s student-athletes on Monday night it was his role as a former Seminole student-athlete that resonated loudest with the group.

“I was blessed with being a good student at a very young age,” admitted Brooks at the start of his speech. “But my parents told me right away that it didn’t do much good to be intelligent and make good grades if you didn’t have a plan to use it…I didn’t do a lot of the things that some people did in college. I managed my time. I made sure I studied when I was supposed to, so going out and partying had to wait until I got that done. I remember once that I refused to leave Mark Meleney’s (FSU’s Director of Academic Advising) office until he figured out a way for me to sign up for 19 hours one semester. He asked me how I was going to pass that much and I said just find me the classes and the schedule. I was determined to graduate in three and a half years. And I did.

“To be honest,” Brooks continued. “I was weighing whether I wanted to go to school on an academic or an athletic scholarship in high school. I actually could have made money using just my academic scholarship. So, I didn’t come to Florida State thinking about the NFL. I came to FSU to get a degree. I didn’t want to be one of the athletes who was left with nothing after his playing days are over.”

Brooks speech ended with an admission of being reprimanded by his father in front of his 5th grade class that kept the large audience riveted to their seats. Until the all-star left the podium and tried to get to his meal. A steady stream of FSU student-athletes posed for pictures with Brooks who beamed with pride the entire night.

Brooks joined a number of important people to recognize the top student-athletes at the13th annual event sponsored dignitaries by the FSU Athletics Department along with the Seminole Boosters. The Gala is recognized as one of the few ceremonies of its kind in college athletics. Dr. T.K. Wetherell – President of FSU, Dave Hart, Jr. – Director of Athletics, Andy Miller – President of Seminole Boosters, Dr. Karen Laughlin – Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Mark Meleney – Director of Athletic Academic Support, and head coaches from all sports, were in attendance. Several other University Trustees, Vice Presidents, Faculty Members, and Booster Board Members also attended the event.

Men’s cross country runner Shawn Patterson was the overall Male Golden Torch Award winner with a perfect 4.000 grade point average for the 2002-2003 academic year. Five different women earned a perfect 4.0 gpa during the 2002-2003 academic year and they tied for the overall Female Golden Torch Award. The winners were: Margaret Colley and Tonya Rasor, from swimming & diving; soccer players Jennifer Garcia and Erin Preston, and Mihaela Moldovan from tennis. The team award for the highest GPA went to the women’s tennis team with a 3.686 cumulative team grade point average. It was the seventh year in a row that the women’s tennis team won the award. The men’s team Golden Torch Award went to golf for having the highest GPA over the past academic year.

Individual Golden Torch Awards were given to the student-athlete on each team with the highest grade point average over the 2002-2003 academic year. The winners were:

Sport Athlete Major Coach
Baseball       Aaron Cheesman   Finance & Real Estate   Mike Martin
Basketball     Holly Johnson  Communication  
  Orenn Fells  Sport Management    Leonard Hamilton
Cross Country Elaine Skislak Psychology Bob Braman
  Shawn Patterson Biological Science  
Football       Wyatt Sexton Communication            Bobby Bowden
Golf           Caroline Larsson Biological Science   Debbie Dillman
  Andrew Lewis  Sports Management Trey Jones
Soccer         Jennifer Garcia Communication Disorders Patrick Baker
  Erin Preston Business  
Softball       Natasha Jacob Exercise Science Dr. JoAnne Graf
Swim/Dive Margaret Colley  Accounting Neil Harper
  Tonya Rasor Psychology  
  Matt Wheeler Public Relations  
Tennis         Mihaela Moldovan Communication            Lise Gregory
  Romain Jurd  Public Relations         Dwayne Hultquist
Track          Carrie Crandall Elementary Education Bob Braman
  Garrett Johnson Political Science  
Volleyball     Jennifer Anderson English Education Todd Kress


The members of the Atlantic Coast Conference Honor Roll were also recognized at the Gala for their achievement of maintaining a 3.0 gpa over the course of the previous year. Over 40 percent (161) of the overall student-athlete population at Florida State earned the distinction. In addition, eight of 17 teams ranked 1st or 2nd in the number of ACC Honor Roll members