Before every home game, 82,000 football fans sit in the stands waiting anxiously for the start of the game. They arise and cheer at the appearance of a Seminole riding a horse. The rider holds an 8-foot-long spear, with a flame at the end. With excitement, chopping and chanting, the crowd watches as the spear is planted into the field, with a booming "Uhhhhhhhh … WHOO" from the stands. Chief Osceola has arrived.
"I think its one of the outstanding traditions in college football," said '80 FSU alumnus Mark Vaughan.
In 1947, the student body selected the Seminoles to represent Florida State University. One hundred other names were nominated, including the "Crackers," "Fighting Warriors" and "Statesmen."
In 1958, "Sammy Seminole," a new mascot, was introduced. At basketball games, in 1969, "Chief Fullabull" made appearances. With the request of the leaders of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Fullabull was retired within a year. After 14 years of existence, Sammy Seminole was officially retired, as well.
"I think the Seminole is a great mascot and very influential on the school's overall morale when it comes to school spirit," said FSU sophomore Mike Boyle.
The founder of the Chief Osceola tradition is '65 alumnus, Bill Durham. He thought up the idea in 1962 during his sophomore year while participating on the Homecoming committee. At the time, the idea was easily dismissed by administration, boosters and the University.
Durham sat down with Bobby Bowden once he became head coach and shared his thoughts to increase school spirit. Bowden and wife loved the idea.
"That first year Ann Bowden was very helpful in opening the negative criticisms of the program," said Durham. "We had to do a lot of fighting, and we made it through."
The historical Osceola was not a "chief." He was, however, a real person and led warriors to fight against US troops in the 1930s. Osceola was a very passionate and influential man. Above all, he was determined to resist conquer. The name "Chief Osceola" was given to Renegade's rider in 1979.
"Chief Osceola is an important tradition at Florida State University because he represents a powerful past that has built us up to what we are today," said FSU freshman Adam Kramer. "The ingenuity of the Seminole tribe and their strength as warriors is something we strive to emulate in our community today."
Many rumors have been exchanged regarding the requirements of Chief Osceola. Some include heritage, experience and secret locations in which he and Renegade are kept before game day.
"I heard a requirement to be Chief Osceola is that you have to be in a frat," said FSU freshman Anna Hamlett.
Each Osceola of the past has fit the requirements of being male, maintaining a grade point average (of at least a 3.0) and being of high moral character. He must also have exceptional horse riding ability, and more specifically, must learn to ride without a saddle. The same routine displayed today was used 29 years ago.
The current Chief Osceola is Josh Halley, an FSU senior, and an accounting and finance major. He is the 13th person to carry on the tradition since it began in 1978, and this season is his third year riding as Chief.
Raised in Tallahassee, Halley became interested in becoming a part of the tradition while at a football game. His senior year of high school, Halley approached the Renegade Team at the stadium and began asking questions. Soon after, they sent him an application.
The team came and watched Halley ride. He also went through the interview process with Durham and Booster members.
The application process took about six months between initially hearing back from them to the time Halley was told he was going to do it. Upon finding out he would apprentice, Halley was more than excited.
"I was ecstatic," said Halley. "I've been an FSU football fan since I was knee high. This was dreamlike."
Besides staying on Renegade, Chief Osceola must plant the spear into the ground signaling the start of every home football game.
The task is harder than it looks. Halley has to remain calm, and Renegade must trust him. Practice consumes anywhere from 15 to 30 hours weekly, depending on the season and condition of Renegade.
Regardless of initial letdowns, past mascots and rumors, the tradition of Chief Osceola will remain for years to come, providing excitement and symbolizing the university for FSU fans everywhere.