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In another time of need, FSU Football leans on its rock, Odell Haggins

It was more than 40 years ago that Odell Haggins first fell in love with Florida State University.

As a child growing up in Bartow, Fla., Haggins would wait with anticipation every Sunday night during the fall to watch the Bobby Bowden coach's show.

The program, which would feature Bowden and Gene Deckerhoff discussing highlights from the previous day's games and also feature Burt Reynolds telling old stories from the past, was a staple of Haggins' youth.

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Still today, he smiles as he remembers that the weekly highlight package always started with images of garnet-and-gold balloons being released into the air at Doak Campbell Stadium and Osceola planting his spear in the center of the field.

There was only one problem for the young Odell Haggins.

The Bobby Bowden Show didn't come on until 10 p.m.

On a school night.

"I used to sneak in the back to go watch it, because we had to be in bed by 8:30, 9 o'clock," Haggins recalled. "So my mom caught me watching it. She said, 'What are you doing up? You're supposed to be asleep. You've got to get ready for school the next day!' And I said, 'Mom, I want to go to that school right there.

"And she told me, she said, 'Baby. If you get your school work and you do what Mama tells you to do, one day your dream will come true.'"

It not only came true for Haggins, but it came true for Florida State as well.

After going on to become an All-America football player for the Seminoles in the late 1980s and then a brief NFL career, Haggins returned to coach at his alma mater in 1994, and he has never left.

When he shared that story Monday night, Haggins was sitting next to Deckerhoff and going through what had to be a surreal experience -- being the main attraction in the latest Florida State coach's show.

About seven hours earlier, Haggins had been introduced as the FSU football team's interim head coach -- for the second time in two years.

"God put me in this situation for a reason, because God knows in my heart what I think about our players and Florida State University," Haggins said during that press conference. "So both feet in, both hands, all gas, no brakes. Let's go."

The circumstances are slightly different for Haggins' second stint as head coach.

Last time, he was filling in following Jimbo Fisher's sudden departure with one game remaining in the regular season. This time, he takes over with three games left following the Sunday firing of Willie Taggart.

While the details have changed, Haggins said the mission is exactly the same: Letting the players know that he and the university are there for them, that they are loved, and that everything is going to be OK if they stick together.

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