After a long, tumultuous off-season spanning more than 648 days, Florida A&M University’s football team will finally be returning to the field on Sunday for the Orange Blossom Classic at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 season, and now the team will have to jump right out of the gates for its 2021 season opener in a highly anticipated matchup versus Jackson State University.
Although the team finished out their 2019 regular season with a record of 9-2, there seem to be some questions surrounding how well the team will respond after its long layoff.
First off, are the protocols implemented for COVID-19 strong and sustainable in order to ensure a safe and protective season without any outbreaks of the virus? FAMU defensive lineman Justin Cooks is confident in the protocols put in place.
“When it comes to COVID-19, non-vaccinated players must get tested daily except for Sundays. Additionally, we wear masks inside buildings to avoid the spread and take extra precaution,” he said.
One question that continues to be asked is: Who will replace Ryan Stanley and become the starting quarterback? On Monday, FAMU coach, Willie Simmons addressed the question on his show, “The Willie Simmons Live Show.”
“We basically have three starters at the quarterback position … Rasean McKay is the incumbent and he’s the only one who has significant game experience, but again he’s not the only one,” Simmons said.
Many will recognize Jackson State University’s head coach, Deion Sanders. When asked if there would be a distraction or extra emphasis put on this game because of the NFL Hall of Famer, FAMU defensive back Guysen Bohler said: “I’m going to go out and attack the same way I would every week. It doesn’t faze me one bit honestly.”
Not only will this game be broadcast on ESPN, the Rattlers will have more appearances on national television.
Putting a spotlight on FAMU’s football team is beneficial in a lot of ways. The biggest one yet could be the players’ exposure in these games that can propel them to be drafted by an NFL team. This has been an issue addressed in recent years where much of HBCU talent seems to be overlooked.