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October 6, 2011Names of Florida State football legends such as Warrick Dunn and Peter Warrick rattle off the tongue of Wake Forest's Brandon Pendergrass as he reminisces about his favorite players as a kid.
"Florida State was my team growing up," Pendergrass said. "I watched all of the national championship games. Everything Florida State I was all about it."
As a senior at Royal Palm Beach Pendergrass rushed 150 times for 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns on his way to earn the Lou Groza High School Award as the best player in Palm Beach County and was also named All-area player of the year.
Surely one day he would join the pantheon of Seminole greats, but the closest he ever got to don the garnet and gold was through his cousin and ex-FSU running back Davy Ford, and playing against the Noles.
Like Pendergrass, Wake Forest's Kyle Wilber grew up dreaming of playing for the Seminoles.
"I was a big Florida State fan, seeing them on TV," Wilber said. "[I] always wanted to go to a game. Never got to go to a game until 2006. It was a great experience growing up being a Florida State fan."
As a senior at Apopka High School he was named Florida Class 6-A All-State Third Team, receiving offers from the likes of Nebraska and Wisconsin. Surely his dream to be a Seminole would come true.
Just like Pendergrass, Wilber never got the offer he had always waited for.
"I guess me and Brandon weren't good enough," Wilber said.
Pendergrass and Wilber along with 28 of their Demon Deacon teammates from Florida were overlooked by the Seminoles.
With Saturday's game against No. 23 Florida State (2-2, 0-1 ACC) drawing near, so does one last opportunity for Pendergrass and Wilber to make the Seminoles wish they had offered them. Wilber said that is their intention.
The two seniors redshirted in 2007, but saw the Deacs beat FSU 24-21, and were able to play as redshirt freshmen in Wake's 12-3 victory in 2008. Things went south the next two years, including last season's 31-0 shutout at the hands of the Noles.
Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe knows this is a big game for the Demon Deacons (3-1, 2-0 ACC), and especially for the 30 players who hail from the Sunshine State.
"I think the kids from Florida probably have a little more sense of urgency in a game like this, because if you're a Florida kid you would want to be recruited by Florida State, by Miami, by Florida," Grobe said. "If you're not you probably dream about playing against those guys, so for them it's probably a little bit higher on the scale, but in the big games the issue is you might make too many mental mistakes."
Grobe loves the players' excitement, but said they need to stay focused on their assignments, and block and tackle. Wake Forest cannot afford to inflict itself with foolish errors against the faster, stronger and more talented Seminoles.
Florida State may have the edge in size, stature and number of blue chip recruits, but Wilber knows the Deacs especially his fellow Floridians on the team will not be short on effort.
"Every Florida player will have a little extra for them," Wilber said. "Again we weren't good enough for Florida State. I love Wake now, but Wake we're always ranked last in the ACC and they're talking about maybe we should just kick Wake Forest out of the ACC, put them in Conference USA or something. It makes you feel kind of sorry. We're not. We just have to go out there, and play the game that we know how to play, and try to beat Florida State."