Aside from Candi Fisher, there might not be a person who knows Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher better than John J. Bagnardi.
During football season, he may spend more time with the coach than does his wife.
Since Fisher took on the position of head coach for the football Seminoles two seasons ago, Bagnardi has morphed into Fisher's constant companion.
The Florida Highway Patrol lieutenant is Fisher's official "body guard." He has been serving as a public officer within the FHP since 1982.
When former FSU head coach Bobby Bowden retired after the 2009 season, so did veteran coaching escort Major Billy Smith. It opened up a spot for the apprentice, Bagnardi.
"He did it for 46 or 47 years," Bagnardi said of Smith. "He kind of showed me the ropes when I came to Tallahassee from South Florida. I started helping him out and just kind of naturally transformed into this position."
But the position has become much more than what used to be just a field escort on Saturday afternoons.
"It's really transformed from being a status thing to more of an overall team-security thing," Bagnardi said. "It's a bigger picture now with the transformation of society. I travel with the team everywhere they go. I go to all the functions, and am also here to speak with the players when they have questions about things in general, overall life."
Seminoles fans surely recognize Bagnardi each Saturday. He's the one escorting the coach across the field for the traditional after the game.
He has a few peers doing equally high-profile work. Florida coach Will Muschamp and UCF coach George O'Leary both have similar personal security.
"Of course it does have its perks," Bagnardi said. "I think it's also a great recruiting tool for the Highway Patrol. I think it's very important to have a professional and positive image, as you are seen on a national level, and I feel that I represent all of the troopers, along with the other state police agencies, so it's important for me to put on a professional image."
Does he have any juicy, behind-the-scenes stories?
"Not really," Bagnardi said, "OK, we did have a funny story last year at the Champs Bowl. Security was pretty tight going in and out and they were pretty tough on our equipment folks not showing the correct credentials every time they went in and out even though they had been in a dozen times. … And then we come in at halftime and there are two drunks in our locker room who I ended up throwing out, so that was kind of funny."
Bagnardi has seen Fisher in a variety of settings, but he says the really doesn't have a different demeanor when he's put in different situations.
"He's a phenomenal individual. We asked him to speak at our highway patrol commencement for our last graduation class and he's one of the best speakers we have ever had," Bagnardi said. "So to say that he turns on and off the switch, I think it's on all the time."
When prospective college football recruits visit the FSU campus, they often return with a report of how the visit had the feel of a family atmosphere. It's a common refrain from visits to campuses around the country, but Bagnardi says it's the truth at FSU.
"It's about family for Coach Fisher," he said. "It's about building good young men, representing Florida State University and we're very proud to stand next to him. If you notice when he speaks, football is secondary to raising young men."
Chris Hays is the college football recruiting coverage coordinator for the Sentinel. He can be reached at email@example.com.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times