Florida A&NM University’s football team took the field in front of spectators for the first time in over a year this past Saturday. The Rattlers suited up for their intra-squad scrimmage as Bragg Memorial Stadium was open to a maximum of 500 people due to COVID-19 restrictions.
FAMU football has been on the rise since the hiring of head coach Wille Simmons in 2017. Simmons has led the Rattlers to an outstanding record of 15-7. When asked about the performance of the team, Simmons said that he was pleased with the players’ effort.
“I thought the guys did a great job of competing, it felt like football,” Simmons said. “I am very excited about where we are headed as a football team. There is more work to be done but we are definitely on the right track.”
The FAMU football team has not seen action since the 2019 season when it finished 9-2 in regular season play and a conference record of 7-1. This led to the team being dubbed the “Black College Football National Champions.”
The key members from that memorable team such as former quarterback Ryan Stanley and former linebacker Elijah Richardson have graduated. The team is looking for its next emotional leader and playmaker as the Rattlers head toward the 2021 season.
“The spring is all about finding who the next crop of guys are,” Simmons said. “Great programs don’t rebuild, they reload. So hopefully we are reloading as we continue to work toward next season.”
With that being said, the Rattlers produced explosive plays from players who are not as familiar to the ear.
Third-year running back Eddie Tillman III, who suffered a broken hip in 2019, exploded through the gap for a 45-yard touchdown that showed his promise after over a year of physical therapy and hard work.
“It felt amazing to be back out there, it felt good to show everybody what I can do,” Tillman said. “I was having fun. I finally got the opportunity to show that I am back where I left off.”
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Sanders took the first chance he had to show his team and FAMU fans that he is more than capable of making plays.
“I have truly been waiting for this,” Sanders said. “Last year I was frustrated but it wasn’t my time. Catching the ball comes naturally to me so all that I have to do is stay focused and control what I can control. I had fun and having fans in the stadium to watch was a great experience.”
The Rattlers look forward to improving and working on the necessary aspects to ensure another winning season this fall. On Sept. 5, FAMU will take on Jackson State and newly hired head coach Deion Sanders as FAMU begins its first season in the SWAC.