The devastation of Hurricane Michael affected numerous individuals in the Tallahassee area, but it is safe to say that the Florida A&M football team persevered through adversity by successfully competing despite the emotional toll.
Last Saturday, the Rattlers secured the No. 1 spot in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, defeating the North Carolina A&T Aggies 22-21 after a game-winning field goal, giving them a 4-0 conference record.
Despite the hurricane, the Rattlers fought through adversity, managing to stay locked into the game while worrying about the effects Hurricane Michael had on their homes and families.
“We had two guys that probably got affected by the storm more than anybody else,” head coach Willie Simmons said after the game. “One was Zach Saffold, whose grandmother lives in Panama City and the other is Azende Rey, who grew up in Walton, whose family is around the Port Saint Joe area. Those guys had a lot on their heart this week trying to focus on their family’s safety, personal items, home, and things of that nature while trying to get ready for the football game.”
In spite of everything, wide receiver Azende Rey was an important factor in the win, having two carries and eight receptions for a total of 81 yards with one touchdown.
Offensive lineman Zach Saffold, a junior business student from Panama City, had to deal with the most adversity on the team after his grandmother’s home was destroyed and is completely unlivable at this point in time.
Panama City was devastated by Hurricane Michael inflicting unexplainable damage, causing thousands of people to lose everything and hundreds of thousands still without power or running water.
“The diligence, generosity and countless hours’ workers and volunteers of recovery teams coming from across the south to help restore some normalcy is truly amazing,” Saffold said. “They’re doing everything they can to slowly rebuild the city as quickly as possible and thankfully everyone I know are alive and well.”
Hurricane Michael brought many challenges to the football team such as causing a 12-hour bus ride and having to be put in a locker room with no A/C or power at the North Carolina A&T stadium.
“We had to sleep in the recreation center, which isn’t the most comfortable place for privacy,” linebacker Cameron Burton, a senior psychology student stated. “We also changed our practice times last minute, practicing on Monday and Tuesday which is normally our day off, then had to pack our bags to get ready for the game. When I came home there wasn’t any lights or water so I had to look for my stuff in the dark and drive through the city back to campus with no street lights on.”
Even through harsh conditions, coaching staff and administration did the best they could to keep the team safe and taken care of during the storm.
After a bye for Week 9, the Rattlers will face the Morgan State Bears on October 27 at 4:00 p.m. which will broadcast on ESPN3.
The players will take advantage of this time off to catch up on rest and get ahead of school work as coach Simmons stresses the importance of academics and embraces the aspect of a student athlete.