Deondre Francois has been knocked to the turf plenty of times this season.
It’s what he’s done after he gets back up that’s been vital to Florida State trusting the redshirt freshman with command of its offense.
Francois, the ACC’s Rookie of the Year, has matured quickly and shaken off the physical punishment taken during a grueling but remarkably effective first year as the Seminoles’ starting quarterback, and he is focused on guiding them to victory against Michigan on Friday night in the Capital One Orange Bowl.
“I learned how to be a follower, follow other guys like Dalvin [Cook] and Roderick Johnson, and some of the other guys on the team that have been there,” Francois said. “That helped me become a better leader.
“Coming in as a redshirt freshman, I was held to a high standard to lead, and I feel like next year I’ll be held to the same standard to lead. It won’t be any different.”
Francois, who was born in Little Haiti before moving with his mother and siblings to Orlando as a child, is cherishing the opportunity to see members of his family while playing in Miami for the second time this year.
Francois played two years of high school football at Olympia High in Orlando but transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton for his senior season, where he was coached by former FSU quarterback Chris Weinke.
Francois also spent a lot of time during his youth in South Florida with his aunt and uncles in the Miramar area.
“It’s just a blessing to be here,” Francois said. “I never thought I’d make it this far, but now that I’m here I’m trying to soak in every moment of it, try to have fun.”
Francois became FSU’s starter after senior Sean Maguire, who finished the 2015 season as the starter, sustained multiple preseason injuries.
Many figured that Francois (6-2, 205 pounds) had the physical gifts that could make him a prolific quarterback at a program that was a year removed from losing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
Despite having no prior experience at the college level, Francois put together a tremendous debut by throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Seminoles erase a 22-point deficit for their largest comeback win ever against Mississippi.
That led to a season in which Francois has passed for 3,128 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions while rushing for 187 yards and four more touchdowns.
He is the third freshman quarterback in school history to surpass the 3,000-yard mark in a season, joining Winston in 2013 and Drew Weatherford in 2005.
Resilience has been one of Francois’ most valuable attributes.
FSU enters the Orange Bowl having allowed 34 sacks this season, which ranks 108th in the nation.
Francois has been dropped 32 of those times.
Michigan ranks second in the nation in sacks with 44 behind FSU’s 47, and second in total defense behind Alabama.
FSU has had success, however, against top-10 defenses this season.
The Seminoles faced three of them during the final five games of the season (Florida, Clemson and Boston College) and averaged 36.7 points per game.
“Whether it’s on the quarterback-designed runs or the scrambles, he does get out, and he’s a tough kid,” Michigan defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow said. “He takes a lot of shots, doesn’t go down, and he’s trying to pick up the tough extra yards that a lot of quarterbacks wouldn’t really want to pick up.”