Florida State football wouldn't be the same without the Tomahawk Chop, Renegade's pre-game ride, the fight song and that famous profile of Osceola in a full-throated war cry. You've probably heard a story behind all of them, except the Osceola icon.
Who did it and when is a story worth telling—after all, that Seminole Indian image has become one of the most well known logos in the sports world. But let's begin with the latest chapter first, because there's a bit of breaking news in the FSU community.
A revised version of the logo will be unveiled April 12 at the spring game, according to a senior member of FSU's athletic brain trust that we spoke with. The YouTube teaser video above is an obvious "Change Is Good" message. Hey, fans, progress happens.
There are two main reasons driving the update, said our source. First is simplifying the design to make it easier to embroider on garments, with an ultimate goal of more revenue for the program. Second was a request by the Seminole tribe to make Osceola appear a bit more friendly and less savage. An image making the rounds on the web, which may or not be the new version, shows a jovial Osceola who looks to be cheering a touchdown instead of leading braves into battle.
An Icon Is Born
The very first rendition of the Osceola icon was a rough layout done around 1970 by John Roberge, a FSU former student working as a designer/illustrator in the school's print shop (official name: FSU Duplicating). Assistant A.D. Hank Schomber, who Roberge had known from their student days in the 60s, requested an icon that Boosters could use on merchandise. Roberge produced a simple concept meant for presentation only, but the Boosters ran with it. The "rough" soon found its way on to T-Shirts being sold around Tallahassee. Roberge recalls being surprised to see his unfinished design on shirts for sale in the lobby of the Florida Theater.
A year or so later he'd have a chance to revisit his original sketch of Osceola. That was in 1971 when Bill Peterson left FSU for Rice after 11 years and a 64-42-11 record. A new regime moved in with Larry Jones as head coach. Roberge remembers a "big guy, who looked like a former football player" came to the shop requesting some kind of spirit logo. Thinking back, Roberge recalls the name as Bob Bickerstaff, who was on FSU's training staff at the time.
With the new assignment, Roberge went back to the drawing board and transformed his rough illustration into Florida State's now famous brand identity.
"I didn't have a model. The image was based on something I saw in cowboy and indian movies when I was a kid. You know, when the indians were about to go on the warpath, you'd usually see a close-up of a warrior letting out a loud war cry. That's what the original image is depicting."
So much for the rumor that Tommy Wright, composer of FSU's fight song, had served as a model for the Osceola profile, if only his nose. "Never met the gent," says Roberge. "Certainly was never acquainted with his nose."
By 1973-74 the logo went from limited use to high profile, appearing in programs and media guides, on cheerleader attire, and becoming the midfield fixture at Doak.
No Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow
With countless millions rung up over the years by merchandise bearing the trademarked logo, you'd figure the man who created it would profit a few cents on every dollar. "I think I got $25 from that first sketch," say Roberge. And after that? "Nothing really, since I was working for the university when I updated the logo."
In a surprising twist to his untold story, Roberge swears he has no regrets about not cashing in. "Not really. Besides, I don't feel connected to the logo since it was so long ago."
After working at FSU, Roberge had his own design firm for a few years, and later became a graphic artist/illustrator/editorial cartoonist at the Tallahassee Democrat, where he stayed for 20-plus years. He still lives and works as an artist in Tallahassee.
Meanwhile, fight song composer and former FSU prof Tommy Wright still receives royalties whenever his tune is used commercially, according to the story in the link above.