Kent Schoolfield returned to Tallahassee for a few days in early 1976.
On a whim, he stopped at Florida State and introduced himself to Seminoles’ new football coach Bobby Bowden.
“Coach didn’t know me from paint on the wall,” Schoolfield said.
Schoolfield, a former standout receiver at Florida A&M in the late 1960s, was coaching at Miami Central following his college and NFL careers.
Wanting to coach at the collegiate level, Schoolfield had mailed 100 resumes to programs nationally.
In Tallahassee to drop off his girlfriend/future wife at FAMU, where she was a student, Schoolfield made a last-minute detour to FSU with his resume.
“Coach Bowden had about 10 million resumes on his desk,” Schoolfield said.
One conversation with Bowden changed Schoolfield’s career path in coaching and helped set history at FSU.
After Bowden telephoned FAMU coach Jake Gaither and asked for a recommendation, Bowden a few weeks later hired Schoolfield as the Seminoles’ receivers/tight ends coach.
Schoolfield, 71, who has enjoyed a successful and varied coaching career over the last four decades, was the first African American assistant coach on Bowden’s staff at FSU 42 years ago.
“He really did a good job for us,” Bowden said.
Cal Jones and Larry Holton were among the first two African American assistant football coaches at FSU in the early 1970s under previous Seminole head coaches Larry Jones and Darrell Mudra.
FSU’s 1976 roster featured nearly 40 African American players.
Schoolfield, semi-retired and living in Columbus, Ohio, where he teaches tennis and soccer at a local Boys & Girls Club, credited Bowden for understanding the importance of inclusion and diversity.
“Coach Bowden had to come in and basically win guys over,” said Schoolfield, who coached receivers at FSU for five seasons and, among his later stops, included a stint as offensive coordinator at FAMU under Ken Riley.
“He was able to do that because of his fairness, his discipline, his goals and an insight of what he was trying to create for the program. All these things that happened four, five decades ago and have built on what is happening today.”
New FSU football coach Willie Taggart continues to hire his staff.
The two major differences from the previous regime under Jimbo Fisher are age and color. The average age is 10 years younger and six of the seven hires are African American – compared to three African American assistant coaches in 2017.
Schoolfield was nicknamed “Cool School” by FSU players. Known as possession receiver in college, Schoolfield stressed disciplined route running and ball skills.
Kurt Unglaub, a white receiver on the 1976 FSU team from Leon High, still employs drills today in youth camps he learned from Schoolfield.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better wide receivers coach for the blend of receivers we had,” said Unglaub, who had a team-high 33 catches for 655 yards and four touchdowns in ’76.
“We respected each other. It was never a color issue at all. It was always about respect and what you did. He believed in catching the football first and then worrying about what you did after that.
“That was perfect for us,” Unglaub said and laughed, “because most of us could catch it, but we couldn’t do a lot with it after that.”
Heisman Trophy winner and former FSU quarterback Charlie Ward, who visited socially with Taggart Friday at FSU, praised Taggart and the university’s leadership.
Ward also stressed the importance of mentoring, creating a positive experience for student-athletes and preparing them for life outside of football.
“I am happy Coach Taggart is giving opportunities to African Americans who are qualified to serve and help young men,” Ward said.
“Florida State is a school I think really wants the best people in there, regardless of color. You have to be able to deal with different people. I think it speaks volumes of Florida State. I am grateful and glad we have that.”
Schoolfield enjoyed a accomplished career that spanned nearly five decades.
As a player, he was a member of the 1969 FAMU team that played at Tampa Stadium against the University of Tampa is the first intrastate battle between black and white schools in Florida – the Rattlers won 34-28.
As a coach, Schoolfield is thankful for Bowden’s role in his career opportunities.
Their conversation that day in Tallahassee centered on life, philosophies and goals.
“There were not many African American coaches at that time (in 1976),” Schoolfield said.
“When you played another team, before the game you looked for the other guy who was like me on the other side of the field. Those friendships and bonds … there are still about a dozen guys I still stay in contact that I met during that time.
“I always wanted to get into coaching and it worked out well. That (1976) was my introduction in college, and I owe everything to coach Bowden.”