Thirty years ago, Florida State was atop the college football world. The Seminoles were coming off an 11-1 season the year before, had one of the country's biggest stars in Deion Sanders and, for the first time in program history, opened the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
"There was a lot of enthusiasm," said Griff Siegel, who served as the director of development at Seminole Productions at the time. "And I was tasked with building that enthusiasm around Seminole Nation."
The result was a legendary song, an unforgettable music video, a brutal loss and three decades worth of stories, laughs and clips of John Brown taking a bite out of a 45-pound weight.
Now, on the 30th anniversary of the season that inspired "Seminole Rap," we talked to nearly two dozen people who helped put the project together -- for better and for worse.
We are the Seminoles of Florida State
Dedrick Dodge, Florida State defensive back: First, let me say it was a bad idea.
Mark Rodin, head of Seminole Productions: The Chicago Bears had done "The Super Bowl Shuffle," and FSU was No. 1 for the first time, so there was all this hype. So the idea was, let's do our own rap video.
Siegel: Prior to working at Florida State, I'd been a football coach at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale. One of the alumni was a guy named Stefan Humphries, who was a guard for the Chicago Bears and was the drummer in the Super Bowl Shuffle. So that was the inspiration.
Rob Wilson, Florida State sports information: [Griff] pitched it to Coach [Bobby] Bowden right before he was leaving for Europe with his suitcases in his hand, and Coach OK'd it.
Bobby Bowden, Florida State coach 1976-2009: Ann and I went to Europe that year. Before I left, someone who did it came to me and wanted me to do my part. I said, "I'm not going to do a rap." I left and went over to Europe.
Brian Terrell, co-director: Bowden was often about more than football, and he wanted the guys to really have fun. He thought it was unique, and he thought if they were going to have a good time doing it, just let them do it.
Dave Neal, production assistant: The fact that Bobby Bowden allowed them to do it shows what kind of coach he was -- good or bad. But it showed how he felt about that team. He knew they were a confident bunch, and he didn't want them on their heels. He wanted them to be who they were.
Bowden: When I came back, they already had it done. I hated to cancel it because I was afraid it would hurt the morale of our players because they were all excited.
Wayne Hogan, former FSU sports information director: He said, "If I shut this down, I'll have a mutiny on my hands." So he had to grin and bear it.
Siegel: We had a little boom box and a cassette tape, plopped it on [Bowden's] desk and played the song and watched his eyes glaze over. But we asked if we could do a music video. He said OK.
I just want to do the Seminole Rap
Dodge: It was brought to me by a public relations guy. He heard that I used to entertain a little bit.
Siegel: Somebody said they knew a guy on the team who knew how to rap. I spent my formative years in Oklahoma, and at the time, there weren't a lot of rappers in Oklahoma. So they said, why don't you meet with [Dodge] and see if he can help you polish up the lyrics. His only request was that he got to write his own part. And you can see in the video Dedrick was by far the best one. He knew what he was doing. He had some style to it.
Terrell: [Dodge] asked me for some input on the lyrics, and we sat down together, but he was just a talented songwriter. In fact, I thought his part in the video had the most interesting lyrics.
My name is Dodge
They call me the Blade
As deadly to receivers
As the ace of spades
Come across the middle
You run into me
You better come quick
Because it won't be free
Dodge: We had some creative guys, and we helped others. It was a unified deal. It wasn't like Griff or I wrote every rhyme. Deion had a lot of input on his. Sammie had a lot of input on his.
Siegel: Mark and I met with [musician] Reg Furlough and told him what our vision for the thing was, and he got it right away. And at the time, as a side note, he was doing the soundtrack music for The Weather Channel. That was his main gig, was producing all the music that played behind the streaming of all the weather across the country.
Fred Chester, audio engineer: Reg and I put together the music for the rap -- the beats and everything. They set up a recording session for the players to come in and add their voices to it. I remember Peter Tom Willis was the quarterback, and he came in, and on one side of his head, he had his jersey number sculpted into his hair.
Dave Roberts, FSU tight end: I wasn't a big-name guy. I was a communications major, so I guess they thought I could at least say the words pretty well.
Terrell: One of the guys didn't show up. We had to have a voice because we didn't have his track that night. So I stepped in and did the track for Dave Roberts.
Roberts: I was [a] late replacement. In any event, those moves and hand gestures are 100 percent real, as is all the crap I have taken for it over the years.
Chip Ferguson, FSU quarterback: I'll tell you what it showed me is -- I never listened to rap, and I don't listen to it now -- what you don't realize is, it sounds like somebody's singing fast, but you have to slow down and do it. Rapping's tough.
Neal: Some of these guys had no rhythm. None. They were some of the meanest, baddest, most outstanding athletes in the world, but they could not move. I think of Peter Tom Willis, who I'm still friends with. When I see him, it's hard not to think about the Seminole Rap video. And, of course, Odell.
I'm Odell Haggins, I'm back again
For all of the video's '80s cheese, there's one performance that is remembered for being historically bad, and Odell Haggins has never lived it down. After his playing days, Haggins became an assistant coach for the Seminoles, and it's a rite of passage for new players to critique his performance in the video. Even when he served as the team's interim coach last season, the video was shown on FSU's jumbotron in celebration.
(Note: Haggins, still on staff at Florida State, was not available to be interviewed for this story.)
Willie Taggart, current FSU coach: This training camp, we watched it as a team just to get a good laugh at Odell. That's not Odell's cup of tea there.
Wilson: He has absolutely no sense of rhythm at all. It was painful. Like, Deion's part took maybe seven minutes. Maybe two takes. Coming down the hallway, singing and doing his thing. Then Odell's was like two and a half hours of just agony.
Mark Richt, current Miami coach and former FSU assistant: I've watched it maybe once in the last 10 or 15 years. I remember Odell Haggins being in it and a lot of people giving him a hard time.
Hogan: In the SID office, a lot of the players just wander through there. They started telling us all these stories about Odell. We hadn't seen it being made. But they'd come in and just laugh and laugh.
Siegel: The guy's got a heart of gold, and what a pure spirit he is, but he could not get it at all. Sammie and Deion were ragging on him so bad. You've seen the part at the end where they're falling asleep on the couch making fun of Odell. That was real. We had to wait until he finished before we could leave, and it took forever. I don't know how many takes it was. It must've been 20 or more. And I think they just took different parts and put it together. I don't think he ever got it all the way through perfectly.
Sammie Smith, FSU running back: If you see the video, you see me and Deion there at the end cracking jokes and making fun of Odell.
Luther Campbell, rapper from 2 Live Crew and Miami superfan: Me and Odell are friends to this day. I talk to Odell at least once every two weeks. I always remind him he's a horrible rapper.
Dodge: We laugh with Odell. We're not laughing at him.
Haggins, to Seminoles.com in December: I wish I never did it because that's going to last me the rest of my life.
Campbell: Actually, since you reminded me, I'm gonna get on the phone and call him now and say I was just reminded of this horrible rap song you were in.
I guess that's why they call me "Prime Time"
If Haggins was the comic relief, Sanders was the player who brought the project credibility. Perhaps no one in FSU history has enjoyed such massive fame as "Prime Time," and his participation in Seminole Rap is arguably the biggest reason it has remained a cultural touchstone.
(Note: Sanders declined interview requests for this story.)
Wilson: He was such a bigger-than-life figure. A showboat, but in a good way. He was just so popular and so big and so full of life that it kind of fit us at the time.
Bowden: He was the star. He ate that kind of stuff up, boy.
Neal: I remember trying to track him down during the season to do an interview, and he was like, "If you can catch me after the game, I'll do it." And I'd see him dart out these doors. But when it came to this video, he was always accessible.
Chester: Of course, Deion Sanders was the star of the show. When it came time for Neon Deion, he wasn't there. We waited and waited, and I think he was about four hours late coming to the session. And then he did his part.
Siegel: He loved the camera, and the camera loved him.
Dodge: Deion Sanders was a big part of bringing that confidence to our university. Miami already had it. We were trying to get there and narrow the gap.
Campbell: Deion was a Hurricane wannabe. Deion was trying to bring some credibility to a disaster. They had a coach that didn't have any idea what was going on in the world with young people, so Deion had to take it upon himself to say, "Look, we've got to be cool." Any way in the world we can keep up with Miami, we've got to do it. So let's make a corny video.
When we get loose, those others get tame
Siegel: In the state of Florida, Seminole Rap was No. 1 in 11 markets. It blew us away. We couldn't believe it. It only lasted a week, but it was still fun.
Wilson: You got to see the personality of the players. The casual fans loved it. But the opponents hated it. And apparently Miami just played it incessantly their entire preseason camp, just incensing their players. It was pretty ballsy of us.
Campbell: It was Deion Sanders and all them country boys from North Florida. All I remember was a bunch of Jheri curl juice flying all over the place. It was horrible. Just like everything else Florida State was about.
Rodin: Up until that game, it was really popular.
Bowden: The whole team, they did a good job, but it was something we should never have done.
Dodge: It was a good idea. We just did it at the wrong time, knowing what we know now. But we were young.
Hogan: It just blew up bigger and more grandiose than anybody thought, including me. And as soon as it really got a lot of airplay and people were talking about it, you started to say, "Oh, I don't know if this was a good idea." And then you go into that first game, and you just knew what was coming. It went from a fun project to a PR nightmare.
And if you make us mad, we'll score some more
Florida State's first opponent in 1988 was rival Miami. The Hurricanes had won the 1987 national title and beaten Florida State, but it was the Seminoles who opened the year atop the rankings. The Canes were mad. Then the video came out.
Roberts: The interesting thing was, 1987 was the start of the streak where we finished 14 years in a row in the top five in the country. There was just a lot of newness to the success of the program, and I think we got ahead of ourselves a little bit.
Neal: What was embarrassing to some of those guys is they really felt that they were going to beat everybody by 30 points. They didn't realize the impact that was going to have on the Hurricanes getting ready for the season.
Bowden: Ol' Jimmy Johnson was smart. He played it in his locker room all the time, and their kids jumped all over us.
Lamar Thomas, Miami receiver: I just remember guys walking around the dorm just being so pissed off. How can they disrespect us? Do they not understand we're the defending champions? We play them the first game, and we're going to kill them. It was set in motion when that video came out. It was personal.
Dodge: I think we would've lost anyway. We lost 31-0. I don't think there was any song that made them 31 points better than us.
Rodin: Everything got blamed. And everybody.
Siegel: It was certainly not meant as disrespect to any other team, particularly Miami.
Ferguson: They were always the outrageous team that did outrageous things, and I guess this seemed, for most people, like an outrageous thing we did. But we just penned a song and had fun doing it.
Leon Searcy, former Miami player, in "The U" documentary: That's what pissed us off was Florida State was just being us. We were probably a little upset they beat us to it. I think Florida State had no idea what they were in store for once that tape got out.
Thomas: We had Luther Campbell, we had all these things going, and it was like, we should've done that. It was like you poked a bear that wasn't even sleeping.
Richt: The video was fun. But it wasn't very fun after the first game was over.
Siegel: I was in the CBS truck when they played it at halftime. Originally they were going to show it pregame, but they bumped it to halftime. And by that time, we were already in trouble. They weren't sure whether to run it, but whoever was in charge said, yeah, run it. It just added to the pain of the situation.
Richt: When I get approached now by people who want to do certain things, whether it's a video or something that other people can use for motivation, I'm not interested in that. It changes the mindset of your team, and you work so hard on the mindset of your team. It usually doesn't go well.
Neal: That was a major beatdown. While some fans may have forgotten that beatdown, I certainly haven't. That was one of the best ass-whippings handed to an elite football team I've seen in a long time.
Terrell: I went back home to go work on the highlights show, and I'm putting in funeral music. I've got tears streaming down my face editing the thing.
Rodin: If they'd have won that game, that video and song would've been all over the country. Instead, it was buried for years.
Siegel: We played Clemson the following week, and ESPN showed it again. They put it on their pregame show.
Rodin: The 20-year anniversary, when it came up, someone called and asked for a copy. I asked [Bowden], and he said, "Nah, don't give it to them." I was like, "Well, it's on the Internet, Coach." But he still didn't want it out there.
Rodin: I know over the years, when Deion would make an appearance here, I'd say, "Hey Deion, do you want a copy of the rap?" And he'd say, "Nah, I'm good."
Terrell: This was the very first professional edition of the show we did called "Seminole Uprising." It was the preseason show. Show No. 1. We had our tape in the closet in our production office, and after the game, that show went missing with the Seminole Rap video on it. That's the master copy. So every time you see that thing, it's the copy of a copy of a VHS copy. I can't remember if the master ever turned back up.
Siegel: I wouldn't doubt somebody from the athletic department grabbed it and burned it.
We're havin' fun doing the Seminole rap
Thirty years later, the video remains a relic to '80s cheese and a reminder of the danger of offering bulletin board material to the opposition. But it's also part of Florida State history, a nostalgia act that spans generations.
Siegel: I talk to a bunch of kids now, and they really hate the sound of the song. It's not even remotely related to the current iteration of rap or hip-hop.
Roberts, now a lawyer in Florida: My wife probably showed it to my son, who's now a freshman, when he was in sixth grade. I was helping coach his team. I showed up at practice one day, and all the kids had it on their cell phones.
Ferguson: My kids are glad I didn't get into any kind of singing career. Or acting career.
Dodge: Kids think it's great. You show them your moves. I was with my man Terry Anthony. We were looking just like we were on MTV. We thought we were rap stars at that time. The kids, they're like, "Hey, Coach Dodge, he can rap." But none of those kids know that because of that rap, they hung 31 on us.
Thomas: I pull it up on YouTube to laugh about it. Knowing some of the guys now, they're Facebook friends of mine. I'll message them and cite a guy's line and add laugh emojis and 31-zip.
Smith: When you look back at the history of Florida State, that '87 season and '88 -- of course we got our butts whooped down in Miami -- but those two seasons were the catalyst to put Florida State on the national stage and have opportunities to win national championships a few years later.
Hogan, now director of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame: I think if we'd won that first game 31-0, it might still be one of the great hits of all time.
Rodin: When we had the player reunion back in April or May, [Taggart] asked us to put that on a loop in the background while the players were having their reunion. So at this point, it's 30 years in the past, you can joke about it.
Thomas: I tell people nowadays, that's what college football was all about. I have lots of guys that are good friends, a bunch of great Florida State players. Nothing but respect for those guys. We always felt like we battled, and the road to the national championship went through those two schools. That's why our guys get along. No one gets along with Florida guys.
Neal, now a broadcaster for SEC Network: I've done a lot of things in my career now, and I'd still put that on my wall of fame. No doubt.
Roberts: We ended up having a great year that year. That's the only game we lost. It's become a symbol of those times and those teams. All of us that played back then, we like to think we were a large part of getting the program going.
Smith, now a player development coach at Ole Miss: One of the lyrics was, "Our goal is simple: best in the land." It was just about Florida State getting its brand out there and our players having some fun and just enjoying the ride, man. That's what I try to share with our players here. This is a small window of opportunity you have to play the game that you love, so just enjoy the ride. Enjoy the platform and the opportunity, and have fun.