Former Dolphins DB Surtain coaching up FSU secondary

4-5 minutes 8/26/2023
Orlando Sentinel Correspondent
TALLAHASSEE — Coming off a 10-win season, Florida State was able to retain an overwhelming majority of its offensive and defensive talent. And coach Mike Norvell only had to fill an opening for a defensive backs coach.
Norvell chose Patrick Surtain, who had won three state championships at Plantation American Heritage and spent a year on the Miami Dolphins’ staff in 2022 but had no college coaching experience.
“It starts with relationships,” Norvell said. “The football IQ, the experiences, You see a man that cares about people, and he cares about the staff. … What he’s been able to do here in eight months, it’s been really, really special.”
From Norvell to the defensive staff to a large group of veterans and freshmen in the secondary, Surtain’s acclimation has been a smooth one. Surtain’s voice isn’t a loud one on the field in practices but one that resonates because of relationships built but also who is saying it — an 11-year NFL veteran.
When he arrived at FSU, Surtain inherited a talented defensive backs room. The Seminoles added one of the ACC’s top cover corners in Fentrell Cypress, a transfer from Virginia, adding to a rising star in Azareye’h Thomas and Wekiva High star Renardo Green. The safety group is less experienced but features Shyheim Brown and Akeem Dent.
Building a connection with FSU’s players wasn’t difficult.
“Just had to be myself,” Surtain said. “Be a no-nonsense guy. And let them know that you haven’t made it yet, you still have a ways to go. And coach them hard but love them even harder. They respected that. They respected my pedigree, what I did and the guys I put in the NFL. I just had to come in and earn their trust.”
Seminoles in the secondary smile when asked about Surtain, his personality and how he has helped them grow.
“Coach Surtain always says, ‘This is an imperfect game played by imperfect people,’ ” Thomas said. “… A lot of DB coaches, they try to be pretty with it. I feel like coach Surtain is straight to the point, straight to the technique and all about the basics.”
There were also questions about how Surtain would recruit. But in just the last few months, FSU has landed two of the top prospects in the class of 2024 in safety KJ Bolden and cornerback Charles Lester.
While Norvell could have opted for a defensive backs coach with more coaching experience, picking Surtain has delivered early dividends.
“There are two characteristics that are an absolute necessity in any person that comes and works on this staff,” Norvell said. “They’ve got to be led from the heart. Relationships have to matter. And then they have to be willing to pour everything into the guys they have on a daily basis, not just who they are on the field but making sure that in every area that we’re willing to give all to help our players achieve what they can achieve. And Pat is a wonderful example of that.”
Lovett’s road back
Fabien Lovett missed FSU’s bowl game due to injury, and the star defensive tackle also missed five regular-season games. But he’s getting back into game shape ahead of the opener on Sept. 3 against LSU in Orlando.
“He’s really been ramping up here this last week as we’ve been getting closer to kickoff,” Norvell said. “Looks really, really good moving around. Definitely excited about that.”

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