Where are they Now: Paul Piurowski

Where are they Now is a feature that started on Noledigest. This week Noledigest had the pleasure to speak with former Seminole great Paul Piurowski. Piurowski talked about his experience at FSU, his current profession, and his thoughts on the program.

What are you up to now?

PP: I work for US Warranty, which is a provider of contacts to the automobile industry. I have been doing that for about 12 years now. I have been living in Land o' Lakes for 17 years. I got into the US Warranty thing because I am friends with the VP of the company, Mark Macek. He played with me at FSU and was a defensive tackle. He talked to me for a while about joining up, so I eventually did.

How did you end up at FSU?

PP: Well, I went to Sarasota High School in Sarasota, FL. I was recruited by most of the schools in the south. I had most of the big time coaches at that time in my living room in guys like Bobby Bowden and Bear Bryant. Back then everyone went to Florida, so my mom was getting a lot of pressure from people in the community for me to go there. When I decided that I wanted to go to FSU, she was afraid to go to church that Sunday, so we decided to lay low that week and let people get over the decision. Bobby Bowden played a huge part in my decision to go there. You know, at the time FSU was just about an unknown. When they started recruiting me, honestly I had no idea where FSU was located. I had no idea they were the Seminoles and no idea they were Garnet and Gold. It kind of shows just how far the program has come and just how good they are at what they do.

You mentioned having Bear Bryant in your living room. How was that experience?

PP: I really don't remember too much about the conversation. I get asked that a lot. I will tell you the one thing I tell people and the one thing that has always stuck in my head. You know he always wore that hat. When he walked in, he had it on. When he came to sit down he went to sit it on the back of the couch, but it feel off and hit the floor behind it. My mom was trying to break her neck getting back there to pick it up. It was like the 10 commandments had been dropped. You had to be there to see the reaction of my mom. He was like, in his deep voice, let it lay..let it lay. It was a neat little experience.

You mentioned the fact that Bobby was the main reason you went to FSU. Can you talk about playing for him?

PP: He made the most impression on me during the recruiting process. My father had passed away going into my senior year of high school, and he reminded me so much of my father. My mom really liked him and liked the background he had. He made a real big impression on her. At the time I came to FSU he had started this reputation of being sort of a riverboat gambler and an up-and-comer. He was never the guy to get up into your face and scream at you, but he demanded a lot out of you. The whole time I was there I never heard him swear, but he did come close during the Nebraska game at halftime. The way he motivated was unique. The way he spoke to you, he just got his message through. I know it's kind of vague the way I say that. The best way I can say it is when your boss comes in and chews you out in a very nice way. After he leaves you sit there and wonder did I just get chewed out? The things he'd say you would never realize it until later on that day. Often times I'd be laying in bed and be like now I get it. The amount of wisdom he has is the biggest impact he makes on these kid's lives.

Can you talk about your time playing for FSU?

PP: Man, it's been so long. The 4 years there were about exactly what I thought they'd be. I wanted to be apart of a program that was up-and-coming. At the time the coaches were very innovative in what they were doing. Every year there we got better as a team and the talent level got better. My senior year we all really came together as a team. The majority of us had played together for 3 years, so we knew each others tendencies. We hung out together off the field. I don't want to say the coaches didn't coach, but they knew we knew the schemes and what was going on. We had a maturity about ourselves. Our defense was so great then. I think we gave up 6 points a game and didn't allow any points in the 4th quarter until the Orange Bowl. It was great being apart of the team then.

The game against Nebraska in 1980 is considered the game that made FSU. Ivan Maisel from ESPN lists your sack in that game as the 84th biggest play in college football history. Can you talk a bit about that game and what it meant to you?

PP: (laughs) I have heard about that from some of my friends. Coach Bowden has often said that about the game, that it put FSU on the map. We were still a cinderella story at the time while Nebraska was a big time program and maybe the most dominant of that time. The strengths of our team were the defense and the kicking game. We would set the offense up and they could usually take the ball in to score, but no one can argue those two aspects were our strong points. The stadium was what they said, a big sea of red. Their fans gave us a standing ovation after the game. I don't think it was done before and I don't think that has been done since. After we had gotten showered and were heading to the busses hanging out, some Nebraska fans came up to us a said they hated that they lost, but they don't mind seeing them lose to teams who knew how to play the game the right way. The biggest thing is that we earned respect. I loved playing on the road. I tell Caz this all the time. We go to Colorado today. When is the next chance these people will get to see you play again? I loved getting that chance to make an impression. It motivated me to play better. I wanted people to remember number 53 and say dang, that guy can play.

Did you play in the NFL after college?

PP: I got drafted in round 8 by the Cowboys. At the time I think the draft was 12 rounds. I got cut by them and was picked up the next day by the Dolphins. I got cut by them on the final cut down. So I went to the USFL and played for the Bandits, who were coached by Steve Spurrier. I played there for 3 years and blew out my back. I decided then it was time to move on and get a job. I got married to my wife who was a cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Bucs. She was from Tampa and my family was still in Sarasota, so that's why we ended up in Land o' Lakes. Playing for Spurrier was interesting. He is one of the most creative offensive minds I have been around. He is a little different than other guys. I would have to say he has the best ability of anyone to go into halftime and make complete changes to the game plan that would work. He was a good coach. Sometimes you'd wonder why he was saying some of the things he's say, though.

Can you talk about Caz playing for FSU? Was he always going to be a Nole, and was baseball a legit option for him?

PP: I think he was. He started going to games with me as soon as he was able to sit still. I am sure that played a part. He tried to keep an open mind throughout the process. I actually thought he was going to go to Auburn. We went to the Auburn/Georgia game. I was very impressed by it. I feel bad saying that but I was like man this is something special. He ended up making another trip to Florida State and hung out with Drew and some other guys. They convinced him to get it done early and commit, which he did. I was happy that he chose FSU, but I also had some mixed feelings because I didn't want him to be compared to me in any regards. MLB was a legitimate factor for Caz. Towards the end I was thinking he was going to go that route. I left the decision up to him, but I also helped him in some ways. What helped sway him was we spoke to a bunch of people and teams, We weighed the pros and the cons of the decision. It came down to him that if he wasn't going to go round 1, he didn't want to be drafted at all. I don't think he regrets the decision, but from talking to him he has stated that he missed hitting the ball. He didn't like playing defense too much, but he loved hitting. I am sure he is not missing the 500 mile bus rides and playing in front of 10 people.

What are your thoughts on his position change?

PP: He came to me in that time after the UF game and before the bowl game. He was home for a weekend and mentioned that he was going to look to make a change. It kind of shocked me to be honest with you. He said he was getting too big to be a tight end and didn't know if he was going to be able to keep the speed necessary to excel at that position. He wants to get to the next level and felt this move would be the wisest decision for him to get there. He thought as a tackle his pro potential was better. I told him lets talk to Bobby and the new coaches and let them evaluate you and your decision. We met with Bobby about it. He thought it was a good idea for him. I said to him that this is a team sport and I wanted to make sure it wasn't a knee jerk reaction. Bobby gave it its blessing, and I told him with that it was a good decision. He also told us with Coach Trickett coming in we would look back in a few years at this decision and agree that it was the right decision. Change is not easy at all, but I think Caz has done a pretty good job so far. He has adjusted quicker than I thought and I was impressed with some of the things he was able to do. He kept his footwork and has natural ability. He is pleased with the decision so far.

How often do you make it back to FSU?

PP: I was able to get there just about every weekend this summer. The wife told me that you could tell how much I was gone with the way the lawn looked. We are at every home game, and we usually go to all the away games too. We fly out tommorrow(Saturday) morning for the game in Colorado. I just like getting there and see how things are going.

What's your opinion on the coaching changes?

PP: I was saddened to see the coaches let go. I am sure Coach was upset about it with his son being one of the coaches. But the changes needed to be made. These changes are the best for everyone involved. I have met the new coaches. I was impressed with them from spring practice #1. I have been at the practices pretty much from then on, and there have been no let up. I have seen more things with these coaches than I have seen with the program in a while. There is more excitement and a higher sense of urgency. These guys are 100% into utilizing the time they have with these kids and getting the best they can from them. Chuck Amato is a fiery guy. I have known him for a long time. He brings that back to FSU. Dexter is a quiet guy. Lawrence is a great coach. Both of these guys have a ton of experience. Jimbo's reputation precedes him and speaks volumes. With Rick Trickett, practice is no longer for the faint of heart. My wife usually likes to go to some practices. When I got back from the first one she asked me how it was. I told her I didn't think she could handle it. I had to tell her if she liked watching her baby boy get spanked by this older man, then she could go. She ended up coming with me to one, and hasn't been back since (laughs). Everyone talks about Trickett and his military background. I don't know much about the military, but they like to break kids down and get rid of the weak ones. After that they build you back up and would do anything for you. I told Caz to not take anything he does personal because he wants you to get better. I said when he stops doing it then you have something to worry about. What I am most proud of is the fact the majority of these kids have hung tough and become mentally stronger. That may be the biggest difference.

What are your expectations of FSU this year?

PP: I came in thinking we might lose to Clemson. No one wants to hear that, but it was a big possibility. The scheme is new and some of the kids are young. I thought they would learn from that game and go on to have a good year I am looking at 9-3, and I am sticking to it. Listen, this is a transition year. People may not like that, but its fact. We might surprise some people and beat some teams we shouldn't. We are a better team than last year, I know that for sure. There is a ton of parity going on right now, and I love it. The 85 scholarship limit has a lot to do with it and it's good for the game. Back in the day FSU could load up on studs for a 2-3 deep with kids who could play anywhere in the country. Now these kids realize they can go to the Louisville's and Rutgers' and start early. Instead of having 2-3 strong teams, now there are 10. Any team can win in the top 20.

Do you stay in touch with any people you played with?

PP: Yeah, I still stay in touch with some people. Guys like Jimmy Jordan, Sam Childress and another dozen or so guys. I speak with them now and then. I see Ernie Sims at the games and Ponder too. It's nice that their kids play at FSU too.

What did it feel like being inducted into FSU's Hall of Fame?

PP: I thought you had to die to get into it (laughs). Seriously, I was tickled pink by it. It's an honor and it feels incredible. A lot of great, great athletes have gone through this program and it says a lot that they felt I was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. I was just happy to get a scholarship out of high school, let alone being part of any Hall. I am just happy to be what I was. Incredible doesn't say enough.

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