Athletics | September 8th, 2021
FAMU Football Is Officially Back
By: Roni Graham
Photo courtesy Instagram (@famufb)
Football for Florida A&M University is more than just a sport and with the start of the season against Jackson State, it’s finally back in full effect.
The deep roots and history of the game is an experience students cherish long after their time at FAMU. The meaningful traditions that come along with the football games each fall ignite an unexplainable euphoria for the students and the season postponement last year due to COVID-19 has spiked anticipation. For students and alumni, football games are the moments for their beloved citrus orange and rattler green apparel, a time to become awestruck hearing the Marching 100 at halftime, and the ultimate FAMUly reunion.
A Year Of Adversity
This is something many current students have yet to experience with the necessary safety protocols that were put in place last season. With the previous fall season suspended, the football team and coaching staff faced unprecedented adversities. According to FAMU Athletics, as of May 25, the projected net profit/loss coming from the department was $33,183. The financial deficit also caused a 7% salary decrease for the athletic department staff.
With an anticipated return and the university’s move from the MEAC to the SWAC, this season is a seeming start of an exciting transition.“It’s a move that’s long overdue,” said head coach Willie Simmons on Cut Day Sports. Simmons also emphasized that the move would allow the Marching 100 to travel more to represent the during away games.
As the home opener for the team will be held on September 11 against Fort Valley State, fans will experience a newly-revised Bragg Stadium. Renovations to the stadium’s infrastructure have taken place and the university is prepared to welcome 100% capacity.
“It’s been about 600 days since we played our last football game.”
Xavier Smith, a wide receiver from Haines City, Fla., is overwhelmed with eagerness as he prepares for the season. “Something I really missed during last fall was just going out there Monday through Saturday and having the opportunity to simply compete with my teammates,” Smith said. “It’s been about 600 days since we played our last football game.”
Smith dealt with an injury that required him to sit the spring season out. The effects of not playing last year had a mentally drastic impact on him. “It was hard knowing that I wasn’t able to go out there to play and give my all. I had to sit and watch. It was definitely hard,” Smith continued.
TraQuan Butler, a cornerback for the team, feels like the upcoming season is a time for redemption. Butler said, “I’m ready to show everybody I’m [that] guy. I’m just ready to show everybody that Traquan Butler is a baller too.”
Although the passion for performing well is evident, what football means to these players exceeds the work done on the field. Butler has plans to continue in the athletic field after his time is done at FAMU. “This is an opportunity. An opportunity for school…and life. Being prepared to be a professional trainer, or going to the league. That’s my dream.”
The Rattler Tradition
Students are ecstatic to represent their HBCU this fall. The ticket buyers of this season will help curtail the financial losses and bring in much relief to manage the departmental costs. Already, more than half of the presale tickets for the Florida Classic game against Bethune-Cookman have been sold.
Jasmyn Lucius, a junior health science student at Florida A&M University will be attending her first college football game. During her freshman year, Lucius wasn’t able to be present at the games due to social anxiety. “I was scared to come out of my shell… and I still wasn’t able to do so with the fall 2020 season being put on hold because of the virus,” Lucius said. Now, she is looking forward to being able to experience her first college football game and finally show her rattler pride.
Titilayo Okuwa, a 2020 graduate of the university, recently traveled to Miami for Sunday’s Orange Blossom Classic — a nostalgic reminder of her undergraduate time. “The games were a really good time to go out and have fun and destress from school,” Okuwa said. “I love the band, I loved seeing SGA and the royal court come around … and the cheerleaders, and just have a good time together.”
The culture and love of the game for a great number of players started while younger. Cameron Sapp, a quarterback for the team, has family ties to Florida A&M University. “Playing for FAMU means a lot to me. I grew up going to and watching the Florida Classic,” Sapp said.
The quarterback recognizes the deeper significance of this game, especially now with the recognition that historically black colleges and universities are finally receiving. The Jacksonville, Fla., native continued, “Many greats have come and gone before our times. The spotlight is on HBCUs right now so being able to perform means alot to me and the culture.
With that in mind, coaches and players are ready more now than ever to bounce back. FAMU football is back and FAMU college spirit is alive.