Bragg Memorial Stadium, home of Florida A&M University’s football team, is starting to look more like normal, as the players and coaches are finally back practicing together as a team since their 2020 season was postponed.
College football is slowly creeping back up across the country and Willie Simmons, head football coach for the Rattlers, has put together a plan for his players and coaches to start back working out safely. The Rattlers still have that bad taste in their mouths from last season, and are inspired to become Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions before they proceed to the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2021.
There is a slightly different feeling in the locker room for the players, not only because of the new and improved renovations to Galimore – Powell Field House, but because of the circumstances that have been applied for safety precautions due to the coronavirus. Players and coaches must take a COVID-19 test every two weeks and receive a negative result to be active and in the field house. In addition, there has been a never-ending supply of masks given out by the equipment staff, one meant to be worn on the field and one meant to be worn off the field. With only eight players allowed in the locker room at all times, constant social distancing is practiced within the field house and locker room, as well as during on the field activities.
New strength and conditioning coach Cole Forney has been pushing the Rattlers but taking it slow because safety is important as the players have been in quarantine for a while.
“We have started to squat, working more slower eccentric squats, trying to get some guys’ range of motion back. We do our fourth quarter program in the morning for conditioning. Hopefully in the next couple weeks we will start transitioning into more strength activities. The kids are doing great, they work so hard when they get here, I have been so impressed by that,” Forney said.
Blake Simpson, wide receiver and defensive back for the Rattlers, said he is eager to get back to playing the game he loves.
“I am glad to finally be back on the field playing the game I love. It was tough not playing football this fall for the first time in over a decade. I will continue to keep working hard toward achieving my goals — accolades in which I have set concerning football since a very young age. I can only control what I can control and aspire to make the best out of this situation. Us Rattlers are still hungry and will not be satisfied until we are crowned champions,” Simpson said.
Red-shirt freshman linebacker Makel McClenton said he was hurt by the postponement of the fall season as he had high hopes for himself and his team.
“Coach Simmons has been taking this situation very well. He has been using this time to teach us how to be accountable and has been focusing on making sure his players are becoming upstanding men in the community, classroom as well as on the football field. One thing I am looking forward to most for this upcoming season is having the ability to compete after this long quarantine period, as well as having the ability to not only prove myself but show the world that my team is the best in the MEAC,” McClenton said.