ior Rattler football players are ready to start this weekend’s homecoming game against Savanna State University with a whole new outlook.
Many senior students walking around the Florida A&M University campus this week will find their last homecoming a little emotional. For the 22 senior football players who will step into Bragg Memorial Stadium Saturday, that goes double.
Although many seniors have played in a homecoming game before, this one is special, for it will be their last time playing for that unique homecoming crowd of thousands of excited students, faculty and fans.
That “big sea of orange and green,” as senior wide receiver Rod Miller said, is something that has stuck with him. Miller, 25, a physical education student from Sarasota, remembers his first experience as a player stepping on the field to see a packed homecoming crowd.
“I was very excited. You have no idea what you are about to experience,” Miller said. “You really feel the affect of the larger than normal crowd.”
Senior quarterback Ben Dougherty admits that when there is quadruple the number of people in the stadium, as there is for most homecoming games, he performs better. Putting on a good show for the fans is something that stays on his mind, second only to getting that homecoming win.
It is a known fact that a victory in a homecoming game is a must. Senior players on the team know this well enough.
“The homecoming game is the Big Kahuna,” Miller said. For Miller, Dougherty and senior offensive lineman Fletcher Williams, homecoming week starts not on Monday, but Saturday evening after the homecoming game. For the three seniors, a victory is first and foremost.
“It’s all for nothing if you don’t win.” Dougherty said.
With winning on the minds of the senior Rattlers the approach to homecoming week is business as usual.
“You do your job first and then have fun,” said Williams, 23, a computer information systems student from Pensacola.
“For me, it’s just a regular week of work. It’ll hit me on Friday,” Williams said about the fact that it will be his fourth and last time playing in a FAMU homecoming game.
The team’s rigid practice schedule prevents players from being overly involved in the actual homecoming festivities. Williams said he would like to go to certain events, such as the Dorm Step Show, and Miller would like to see the band and some of the halftime show if he wouldn’t “get killed trying to take a peak out of the locker room door.”
However, both must wait until after the game is over to let their guard down. Although Williams said his homecoming celebration would start during the game, Dougherty and Miller expect to begin theirs afterward. Miller and Williams said the team’s after-game celebrations would include taking the quarterback out no matter what.
“The quarterback will be kidnapped,” Miller and Williams joked.
More than ever, the hope is that all their hard work will be worth it, as often times it is.
Last year’s homecoming showed the Rattlers take on Norfolk State University and win, 60-10. That homecoming win left the players as well as the fans with excitement that would stick around.
“We were ridin’ high from that weekend, and it helped us the next week against Florida Atlantic University.” Dougherty said.
He hopes this year’s homecoming game will do the same thing for the team by “getting them on track.”
For Dougherty, Miller, Williams and many other senior players, walking out to play in front of a packed homecoming crowd for the last time will be an event to remember.
“To come out and see all that orange and green makes your eyes water. And it will be more special because it is my last,” Miller said.
Contact Meghan Lishamer at email@example.com.