When the national college football pundits and prognosticators zero in on the squads in this Saturday evening’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship, they may overlook the outsized role that the streets of Apalachicola have on the game.
But it’s certainly not being lost on the locals.
Two of the key defensive players for both teams, Florida State University defensive tackle Joshua Farmer and University of Louisville linebacker T.J. Quinn, both sophomores, have deep roots in Apalachicola, as well as Port St. Joe.
So there’s going to be a loud and proud contingent of relatives and friends from the area at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina to watch as the fourth-ranked Seminoles, and the 14th-ranked Cardinals, battle it out for the ACC title.
Leading the charge for Farmer will be his older brothers Tyler, Direek and Greg Jr., and sisters Juan and Natasha Jones, and Jazmyne Farmer, all of whom are driving up for the big game.
On the Quinn side there’s his parents Terry and Tina Quinn, his sister Madison, his aunt Barbara Floyd and her daughter RyAnna Lockley, and Lockley’s brother-in-law Tremaine Lewis.
And while they won’t be in attendance, the entire generation of grandparents of both Farmer and Quinn are deeply intertwined.
Quinn’s grandmother Marion Green was close personal friends with Farmers’ late grandmother Pearlie Rochelle, and together they raised their families on Ninth Street in Apalachicola.
And Port St. Joe was never far from the picture, as it was where Quinn’s late grandparents Al and Billy Quinn, Sr. lived, and where Farmer’s grandmother Ruby Lee Farmer lives.
“Him and Josh knew each other from their youth,” said Farmer’s aunt Carol Barfield.
She said that during the summers Quinn, who grew up in Valdosta, Georgia and was a standout for Lowndes High School, where his father – a four-year letterman in football at the Louisville in the early 1990s – is now assistant football coach, would stay with his grandmother Marion Green and spend lots of time with the extended family, especially with Barbara Floyd and her late sister Patricia Jones.
Farmer’s parents Pauline and Greg both passed away when the children were young, and after that Joshua went to live with his Port St. Joe grandmother Ruby Lee Farmer. It was then that he played football for the Tiger Sharks; his FSU page in the program lists Port St. Joe as his hometown although he finished his high school career as a three-year starter for Gadsden County.
Older brother Tyler, a standout basketball star for the Seahawks, relocated in his freshman year to Tallahassee to play for Lincoln High School. He went on to graduate from Tallahassee Community College, played for Coastal Alabama Community College in Monroeville and now is assistant varsity basketball coach for Brandon, in the Tampa-St. Pete area.
Every morning the two brothers pray in a group chat, and Tyler knows about all there is to know about his young brother’s accomplishments.
“He’s exceeding expectations,” said Tyler, an understatement given that the red-shirted sophomore’s 31 tackles and five sacks earned him second-team All-ACC honors.
He said the six-foot three-inch Joshua came into college at about 265 pounds and has since put on 40 to 50 pounds to now weigh in at 308.
“He’s having a huge, huge year,” said Tyler. “Our defense is amazing. If we can score 21 points, we’ll win. Our defense won’t give up that much.”
While RyAnna Lockley isn’t as expert a football fan as Tyler Farmer, she said she’s “getting to know it a lot more” as she follows her cousin’s season.
“He feels pretty good,” she said. “He definitely stepped up this season.”
That too is an understatement, as Quinn’s 75 tackles and one interception also earned him second-team All-ACC honors.
It should be quite a game, and with deep roots in Franklin and Gulf counties it will be all the more exciting for local fans, as Louisville, with only one loss this season, a 38-31 upset by the Kentucky Wildcats, take on undefeated Florida State in their effort to secure their first ACC championship.
“It drives us,” Quinn told the Associated Press. “That’s something that nobody can ever take from you — being the first team to win a championship. With everything we’ve been through this season, to just see the reward that we can possibly get. We just can’t let the pressure get to us.”