A 2-time All-American, 3-time All-ACC performer and a 4-year starter, former center Clay Shiver said being a Florida State Seminole was something that he was born into. Shiver was born in Tallahassee before moving to Tifton, Georgia at the age of 6.
His brother, Stan, was a 4-year starter at safety for FSU and was tied for the team-lead in interceptions with a man named Deion Sanders in 1987. When it was time for Clay Shiver to pick a college in 1991, the choice was easy.
“Tallahassee is where I was born and my family lived there for 14 years,” Shiver said. “I knew the city, I knew the coaches. We had grown up with my parents taking us to games, so it was kind of in the blood. The first time I remember crying was when I had an ear infection and my dad took my brothers to a Florida State game and I had to stay home with my mom.”
After being redshirted in 1991, Shiver was given the starting center role and tasked with making sure the shotgun snaps got to future Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward in FSU’s new “fast break offense”. In each of Shiver’s four years as a starter at FSU, the Seminoles not only finished in the top 5 in the polls, but they also ranked in the top 5 nationally in scoring offense.
“I was fortunate – we all were – to be able to play with the Charlie Wards and the Warrick Dunns and some outstanding receivers,” Shiver said. “As long as we did our jobs up front, we were going to be really successful.”
In 1993, Shiver helped Florida State and legendary head coach Bobby Bowden capture the school’s first national championship. That year, Florida State defeated six ranked opponents and overcame a November loss to Notre Dame before topping No. 7 Florida in the regular season finale and No. 2 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
Florida State would finish fourth in 1994 while Shiver was named a first team All-American by the Football Writers Association and Scripps Howard. As a senior in 1995, Shiver was dubbed a consensus All-American, but the Seminoles appeared in the midst of a disappointing season.
After losing to Virginia and Florida during the regular season, FSU’s streak of nine consecutive 10-win seasons and top-5 finishes appeared in jeopardy as the Seminoles trailed Notre Dame 26-14 in the fourth quarter of the Orange Bowl. FSU however, scored the game’s final 17 points as senior quarterback Danny Kanell threw touchdown passes to E.G. Green and Andre Cooper. The streak remained intact and Florida State finished the season ranked fourth.
“We didn’t want the streak to die to have double-digits wins,” Shiver said. “I think it was probably the team pride that allowed us to gather back together and go out on a winning note against Notre Dame.”
Shiver thinks he and the group he played with began a tradition of great offensive linemen at FSU which includes All-Americans like Jason Whitaker, Tra Thomas, Alex Barron, Rodney Hudson, Bryan Stork and Tre’ Jackson.
“We were kind of work pale guys – more undersized — and I think some of the guys they’ve had since then were maybe better athletes,” Shiver said. “When we won awards up front or when I did, I knew I couldn’t do it without Lewis Tyre, who was a 4-year starter at guard next to me or Greg Frey, who is an offensive coordinator at Indiana and Jesus Hernandez, who is a very successful businessman in South Florida. There was Forrest Conoly, Patrick McNeil and I could name a couple other guys, but that’s kind of who we were and with Brad Scott’s tutelage and Jimmy Heggins following up after that ’93 season, that really helped produce a legacy of great offensive linemen.”
Shiver graduated from FSU in fall of 1995 with a degree in Management Information Systems. Despite the litany of big games, championships won and individual accolades for Shiver, he said his fondest memories at Florida State consisted of the friendships he made.
“I think for most of the players, it’s not the big games or the championships; those things are fun, but the memories are based mostly in the teammates you had,” Shiver said. “Practicing, playing and living together, you’re like a family and I miss that more than anything.
“Even talking to guys who go on to the pros, that’s what you miss most about the college atmosphere,” he added. “Once you get in the NFL, things constantly change with guys getting cut, traded, moving around, it’s kind of a revolving door. When I look back, I think about how close-knit we were as people and as teams and I think that was a big part of our success.”
Following his career at FSU, Shiver was selected 67th overall in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. In three years in Dallas, Shiver played in 43 games with the Cowboys which included 25 starts. Shiver went on to have brief stints with the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers before retiring from the NFL in 2000.
In 2001, Shiver was honored for his time at Florida State and was elected into the FSU Athletic Hall of Fame. The legendary Bobby Bowden would call Shiver the greatest center he ever coached.
“I didn’t have a lot of interaction with Coach Bowden my first few years, but as you become a starter and a veteran and a team captain, you interact a little more. What struck me about him was his concern about the condition of the team,” Shiver said. “The conversations I had with him went beyond football.
“People think of the winningest coach of all-time especially now with the coaching atmosphere, you would probably think of somebody really concerned with the wins and losses,” he added. “He was; he wanted to win and he instilled that championship attitude in his teams and his concern when you’d sit down with him went beyond that. I coach a small high school down here and that has always stuck with me is how he cared about people’s lives and how they were being molded.”
The small high school Shiver was referring to is Boca Christian where he will be entering his fifth season as head football coach. Prior to taking over the 2A program, Shiver was involved in ministry work and still does some business consulting. Shiver said during his first practice, he had only six players. This season, Shiver expects to have about 23 players. Over the last three years, the program has enjoyed the best three seasons in school-history.
“My first practice at the school, the team had no wins the year before and only scored four touchdowns from what they told me; we’ve really seen a program being rebuilt,” Shiver said. “I tried to stay out of coaching for a number of years because I seen the toll it took on so many families and I didn’t want to go down that road, but this has been great for us.
“I don’t feel pressure to go out and win a state championship; it’s about molding young men,” the former All-American added. “This part is fun and I get to put together some executive ideas and championship practices and see if these things can work in the classroom and with a small team. We’re light years from where we were.”
For the Shivers, Boca Christian is literally a family atmosphere. Shiver’s wife of nearly 16 years, Ty, is the cheerleading coach at the school and their oldest son Jake, 13, attends school there. Shiver and his wife have three other kids: Joel, 11, Isabel, 8, and Sophia, 3.
Shiver said he met his wife, who is a former FSU cheerleader, in Tallahassee, but after his collegiate career had ended. Shiver was with the Cowboys at the time and Ty happened to be from the Dallas area.
“I played at Florida State and she cheered for Florida State and the kids get a kick out of it,” he said. “It’s kind of a storybook romance.”
The Shivers only find the time to return to their alma mater about once per year, but Clay Shiver said he’s grateful for the time he spent in Tallahassee.
“I’m very thankful for my time at Florida State and to the Seminole family,” he said. “It’s very personal to me because I was born there and spent so much time there. I’m thankful for the teachers and the coaches who had a part in my education. Having people ask what it was like to play at Florida State — in the NFL and even to this day — it proves to me that it is a special place.”
Be sure to follow former All-American center Clay Shiver on Twitter @clayshiver.