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Burt Reynolds quit football after Lee Corso encouraged him to pursue acting

Reynolds’ FSU career was short, but when he did hang up the cleats, the Sunshine Scooter was in his corner.

Boston College v Florida State Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

We lost an acting legend when Burt Reynolds passed away Sept. 6 at the age of 82.

But we also lost a college football figure. Reynolds played for Florida State back in the 1950s, and maintained a strong connection to the program. He’s got an apartment complex named for him outside Doak Campbell Stadium, donated money to various FSU endeavors, and reportedly had a clause in his movie deals that required him to be shown wearing Noles gear.

The Noles honored him before their second game of the season against Samford by parking the car made famous by Reynolds in Smokey And The Bandit.

While he was in college, he roomed with future College GameDay co-host Lee Corso, who had a touching note of tribute after news of Reynolds’ death.

There’s also this incredible old-school footage of Reynolds cutting up with former FSU coach Bobby Bowden:

And that time he helped call the Sun Bowl back in the 1970s.

But the commonly told story of why he stopped playing football after an injury-plagued career, featuring operations on both knees and a lost spleen due to a car crash, is interesting. Reynolds said in this 2007 interview ...

... that after getting burned in coverage by a NC State receiver in a 1957 game in what ended up being the game-winning touchdown, he realized that football was no longer for him. The urban legend was that he quit at halftime, but that isn’t true, per Reynolds.

My roommate, who was Vic Prinzi and Corso and I had a meeting [after the game], and I said ‘I think I’m leaving because I’m not the ballplayer I was and I hate to see the hole open and I’m a step slower.’ And I said to them ‘I’m gonna go off to Hollywood and become a moviestar.’ And instead of them laughing hysterically which they should have done and saying go get a job. They both said, ‘well call us when you do.’

Corso tells the story a little bit differently, downplaying his own role, but calls Reynolds a close friend in good times and bad:

Reynolds went to New York for a bit before enrolling in a junior college in South Florida and took acting classes. He landed his breakthrough role in Deliverance in 1972.

So in a way, we can thank coach Corso for launching Reynolds’ movie career with a little moral support when his friend was down on his luck.