Mike Norvell, the former head coach of the Tigers football team, and his family are making the transition from living in Memphis to Tallahassee, after Florida State University (FSU) hired Norvell to become their head football coach. But there is much that they miss about Memphis.
Before becoming a coach, Norvell played wide receiver for the University of Central Arkansas from 2001-2005. While attending Central Arkansas, Norvell set the school record for the time with the most receptions in a career with 213 receptions. Meanwhile, off the football field, Norvell met fellow student, Maria Christina Chiolino, and they were married while both were still attending Central Arkansas.
When Norvell hung up his helmet and cleats after the 2005 football season, he coached at several colleges and universities before he was offered his first head coaching job at the University of Memphis in 2016.
The 2019 season was the breakthrough for Norvell, leading the Tigers to an 11-1 regular season record. The Tigers won the AAC West for the third consecutive year and beat the University of Cincinnati Bearcats in the AAC Championship Game, receiving an invitation to The Cotton Bowl. However, during the Conference Championship Game on Dec. 3, rumors were swirling that Norvell had accepted the head coaching position at FSU. On Dec. 4, Norvell officially accepted the job at FSU, and was unable to coach the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl where the Tigers lost 53-39 to Penn State, a Power-5 school.
Now at FSU, the COVID-19 pandemic has made Norvell’s first year at FSU much more challenging, as it has for every college football program in the country.
However, COVID-19 has not just affected Coach Norvell in preparing for his first season at FSU, but it has also affected his family and their move to Tallahassee.
“We are doing well,” said Norvell’s wife, Maria. “Things have been going here about the same as everywhere else — people just trying to find their way through this pandemic.”
Like everyone else around the world, people have all had to find things to do during COVID-19, and the Norvells are no different. They made the best of the situation with a lot of family time, getting exercise and adjusting to the situation this pandemic has put everyone in.
“We have up and down days as I’m sure many people have. In the beginning, it was very weird to just shut everything down and not go anywhere,” Maria said. “We all played basketball outside just about every evening and went on a lot of walks. We bought bikes and went on bike rides. We cooked a lot and had so many meals together as a family. Those times were very special.”
The Norvells were able to move to Tallahassee before COVID-19 hit, so they were able to find their home. However, they weren’t able to get a lot of things done before the pandemic hit, but that allowed Maria to find out something new about her husband.
“We moved right before things started getting canceled, so it did not really affect our move in the beginning,” Maria said. “It did keep us from having some work done in our house here for a while, but I learned that my husband is, in fact, very handy. He did so much work himself around the house because he finally had the time to do that.”
When the Norvells lived in Memphis, they were a part of the community, so they made many close friends whom they miss and think of often. The Norvells want to remain close to Memphis friends despite moving to Tallahassee.
“We will always support that great city and university,” said Maria. “We had some very good years there and met people I will consider friends forever. I miss my friends. I miss Germantown Cleaners. I miss the food.”
Maria added, “Oh, yeah, I miss Tom, the most beautiful tiger that’s ever existed.”
Maria is not the only one to miss her friends she made in Memphis — Coach Norvell feels the same way.
“We built so many friendships in our time there, and we miss seeing our friends on a regular basis,” he said.
From the crowds on Beale Street for College Gameday, hoisting giant cutouts of Norvell’s face, to the farewell signs at the conference championship against Cincinnati, Tiger fans have left a lasting imprint on the Norvells.
“We are just so grateful for the support of the city and the opportunity we had there for four years,” Maria said. “It will stay with us forever.”