The Florida A&M University Rattlers will close out their home schedule and give the crowd a chance to say goodbye to 28 senior players on Saturday against the North Carolina A&T Aggies.
The final home game of the season will serve as “Senior Day.” The team will honor departing seniors, including quarterback Curtis Pulley, record-tying return man Leroy Vann and defensive tackle Cameron Houston.
Houston recently made his presence felt on the field with a game saving tackle on fourth and one against Morgan State University in a 31-28 victory for second place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“After working so hard in that game and it all just coming down to that final moment there was a lot of excitement going on,” Houston said. “I was very happy.”
Houston is just one product of a system designed to turn boys into men as well as football players.
Florida A&M head coach Joe Taylor stresses the importance of personal growth as well as growth on the football field and it shows in the commitment of his players.
“I think you can tell the difference in the program when Coach Taylor came in,” Houston said. “We began to get the mentality of a winner. It’s just been a real big change since coach Taylor got here.”
He brought the team its first nine-win season since 2000 in his first season last year. Now he is embracing the thought of his players moving on with their degrees. For Taylor, the joy lies in watching young men grow as individuals.
Taylor dismissed questions about the departures adversely affecting his team.
“When you see guys getting to be seniors, that means the program is successful,” Taylor said. “The bottom line is you have to go to class, you have to get the grades to become a senior. Some people say, ‘Oh my goodness, look at all those seniors!’ That’s a great thing.”
As for replacing the key departing seniors, Taylor didn’t show any amount of worry. He is confident the recruiting is solid and young players will step up to fill the void.
“Certainly there’s some outstanding young men, juniors and sophomores,” Taylor said.
“The best recruiter is winning. We’ll do it as we always do, some we don’t accept because it is about researching. It’s important to have character [and] to be a student. The athleticism is second.”