Bill Durham passing torch to son after 25 years
Chief Osceola and Renegade
By Bayard Stern
Having 80,000 sets of eyes on you is one thing. Doing it riding bareback on a rearing Appaloosa, holding an 8-foot flaming spear, with flags waving, the crowd screaming and the football team running behind you may just be "the best feeling in the world," said Lincoln Golike, the current Chief Osceola.
Only 12 people, all FSU students, have experienced that emotional and exciting ride. This is the 25th year that a horse and rider have represented the Seminoles and led the team onto the field at all home games. Renegade and the rider, Chief Osceola, have not missed a home game since they started in 1978.
Bill Durham designed, developed and paid for the program, and he's directed it from the first year. From purchasing and maintaining the horses to picking and training the riders and support workers, Bill Durham has had his eye and hands on every aspect of the program, including getting the horse to the stadium.
There have been many hurdles along the way, especially at bowl games where the tradition isn't as accepted. Game officials and opposing coaches have sometimes not wanted the horse and rider on the field. Once in Tallahassee the horse didn't make it to the field, at least not in the horse trailer.
"One year the truck broke down on the way to a game," remembers Allen Durham. "Dad had to ride the horse from the civic center to the stadium."
Chief Osceola and Renegade didn't happen overnight. When Bill Durham was a student at FSU in the '60s, he was on the homecoming committee and suggested the Seminoles have a horse and rider on the field. The administration quickly dismissed the idea. Bill Durham didn't. After graduating, he was still involved with FSU, and he had a vision of what he wanted.
Bill Durham met with Ann and Bobby Bowden one night and suggested the idea as a way to raise school spirit, according to Allen Durham. Bobby Bowden and Ann already had a similar idea, and it all came together.
"My wife ... thought up the idea of getting a horse and a rider, which began the Renegade and Osceola theme," Head Coach Bobby Bowden remembers. "Bill Durham is the one who got the horse and carried it out and kind of took it over, which is good because he is doing an excellent job."
Durham is retiring this year and passing the torch to his son, Allen, a former Chief Osceola.
"It has evolved into one of the greatest traditions in college football," Allen Durham said.
"My dad has always made it clear that Renegade and Chief Osceola would not be used for commercial gain other than to promote Florida State University and the Seminole Tribe," he said. "We get calls all the time from people who want to use Osceola and Renegade to open up a new business or appear on TV commercials to promote things other than Florida State, and we will not do that."
The current rider is FSU student Lincoln Golike from Denton, Texas. He has ridden horses since he was 3 years old but admits this experience is like nothing else.
"Just the honor of people coming up to you at the game is incredible," said Golike. "The blessing that God has given me is something I can't explain.
To have every eye in the stadium on me and the horse when that spear goes in the ground and everyone goes crazy is the best feeling on earth."
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