Actor Burt Reynolds, a one-time Florida State running back and ardent Seminoles fan, was mourned and remembered by sports personalities after his death Thursday at the age of 82.
“Burt was a lifelong friend, who was extremely close to me for the last 64 years,” ESPN College GameDay host Lee Corso, who was Reynolds’ roommate at FSU, said Thursday. “We have always stayed in touch, through the good and the bad times of our lives, talking about once a month for as long as I can remember.
“It was just two weeks ago that we were talking about the upcoming college football season and the Noles. Burt, better known as ‘Buddy’ to his friends, loved FSU football, and no matter how big a star he became, he never forgot his friends from the FSU football family. I will forever remember our conversations and the true friend that he was.”
Reynolds played halfback at Palm Beach High School, where his teammate was future New York Yankees manager Dick Howser, before going to Florida State in 1954 on a football scholarship.
Reynolds ran for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 carries in his freshman season, and also had four catches for 76 yards. But he suffered a knee injury that cut the season short and missed the 1955 season after surgery.
He returned to Florida State in 1957, but a car accident cost him his spleen and reaggravated his knee injury, ending his college football career. He dropped out of FSU and, after working odd jobs in New York, returned to Florida, where he became a drama major at Palm Beach Junior College.
He received an honorary degree from Florida State in 1981.
With macho good looks and a wise-guy attitude, he returned to his football roots in 1974’s “The Longest Yard,” playing a former star quarterback who organizes fellow prisoners into a team to challenge the guards. In 1977’s “Semi-Tough,” about pro football players, he starred as wide receiver Marvin “Shake” Tiller. He also starred in box-office franchises such as “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run.”