St. Petersburg, Florida -- It's been 40 years since a 180-pound quarterback named Charlie Crist led the Green Devils onto the field at St. Petersburg High School. Yet the lessons Crist says he learned on Stewart Field helped shape who he is today.
Crist recently returned to Steward Field and told 10 News football honed his leadership skills, taught him teamwork, and taught him the importance of being color blind.
"None of that mattered, just what you could do on your own merit and could you run fast, could you tackle, could you throw the ball well, and it was all based on that and it taught me how important that was," Crist says.
"You also have to rely on your teammates. You've got these guys that are blocking for you and if they don't block for you, you can't drop back and through a pass or your running back isn't going to have an open hole to go through," he adds. "So, everybody has to do their job in order for you to have success as a team. It's the same thing in a campaign, same thing as the governor of the state, you've got to have all your secretaries, all of them, working hard and hopefully inspired by the leader."
A class of 1974 graduate, Crist played linebacker and then quarterback in high school. He says at one point he dreamed of playing in the National Football League and even started receiving interest from some college programs before getting injured during his junior season.
Crist did play two years of college football as a walk-on at Wake Forest before transferring to Florida State University. Once at FSU, he gave up football and focused on student government and preparing to attend law school.
Today, Crist is back on the campaign trail running for his old job. He's also out with a book explaining why he left the Republican Party and joined the Democrats.
"The leadership of (the Republican) Party, as Jeb Bush said himself, is now perceived as anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-environment, anti-education. I mean it's a nightmare what they've become."
Despite changing his position on everything from an embargo on Cuba and off-shore drilling to amnesty for illegal immigrants and the Affordable Care Act, Crist insists his core values have always been the same. Even when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage, Crist says he's always been a "live and let live kind of guy."
"It's very straight forward. I mean, I was a Republican and I was trying to be a good teammate to that club, right, and I really felt like a round peg in a square hole and it was hard, those kinds of things."
Crist says he now feels more comfortable than ever, insisting he's quick to let his critics' harsh words and insults roll off his back, even brushing off rumors of his sexual preference.
"In the last governor's race, they talked about the fact that I had fathered a child out of wedlock and then on the other hand that I was gay. I mean, they couldn't make up their mind about how they were going to come at me, so does it bother me? I don't let it bother me ... people talk about people that are in the news and that's just part of it."
Squarely focused on a return to Tallahassee, Crist is not about to make any bold predictions like his boyhood idol Joe Namath did before Super Bowl III. But as the 57-year-old threw a spiral 30 yards down field to 10 News Reporter Preston Rudie at Stewart Field this past Sunday, he said never count him out.
The perfect pass was clear Crist still has game.