Florida State University

Growing pains help FSU lineman Bobby Hart mature

Bobby Hart has matured these past few months. Heading into his junior year, the 6-4 310-pound offensive tackle seems ready to grab the starting job by the horns.

“Bobby’s actually my roommate so me and that guy, going back to high school [at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas] and playing with him I can see a lot of maturity. He’s taking things a lot more seriously,” junior wide receiver Rashad Greene said.

For the typical student-athlete, the junior year is when things should start to click and a player should start maturing. But it’s important to remember that Hart — who turned 19 on Aug. 21 — is not your typical student-athlete.

Whereas most 17-year-olds are worried about their junior or senior years of high school, Hart was balancing a college course load while also working his way into the Seminoles’ starting lineup.

Hart started nine games as a true freshman in 2011, including FSU’s Champs Sports Bowl victory over Notre Dame. He looked destined to become FSU’s next great offensive lineman.

Then reality set in during Hart’s sophomore year and knocked him down a peg.

Junior college standout Menelik Watson (42nd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft) arrived to unseat him, and Hart struggled quite a bit with the transition from starter to backup.

But he grew from it, thanks to his own maturation and the support of his father.

First, Hart needed to learn how to accept coaching. After being pegged a five-star prospect — one of the top five linemen in the country — by the time he was 16, Hart had never received real criticism. And he had certainly never been on the receiving end of a tongue as a sharp as FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett’s.

“The way Coach Trickett talked to me and everything, I let it get up under my skin. It would just irritate me, but now it doesn’t bother me how anyone talks to me,” Hart said. “[Now] I know they’re talking to me for a reason.”

Hart also relied heavily on the support of his father, who — despite wanting the best for his son — also didn’t pull his punches when Bobby needed some tough love.

“My dad’s been awesome. My freshman year he was behind me when I was playing. My sophomore year he was behind me when I went into my slump or my lack of playing,” Hart said.

“He didn’t sugarcoat it. He let me know I wasn’t doing the things that I needed to put myself into the [right] position, so when things happened my sophomore year, I was mad and everything, but he just let me know I had no one to blame but myself. I feel like that made me a better person.”

His teammates agree.

“Bobby’s doing great,” left tackle Cameron Erving said. “He’s an intelligent young man and it’s just getting back in the flow of things. You know you don’t play a lot of football for a year and then you come back it’s going to be different. Bobby’s been working really hard; we’ve done a lot of things together. I’m confident in what he can do. It’s just all about what the coaches want.”

FSU’s coaches want Hart to be the mauler they expected him to be when he signed. And now, perhaps for the first time in his young career, Hart is ready to deliver.

It might be easy for FSU fans to think that the junior season is about the time a player should reach his expectations. But at just 19, Hart is still well ahead of schedule.

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