Senior wide receiver Rod Miller and offensive lineman Fletcher Williams will return to the field this weekend against Nicholls State after serving five-game suspensions.
Both athletes say the suspensions were a result of them not being informed about the policies regarding academics and athletic penalties.
Miller and Williams say they have maintained above average grade point averages, and that the suspensions were a result of academic matters they could not control, not grades.
For Miller, 25, a physical education student from Sarasota, the suspension came a little over one week prior to the first game of the season against the University of Illinois.
“It’s hard,” Miller said. “You work so hard all summer to hear you can’t play.”
He was shocked, but not disheartened.
“It’s tough not being able to contribute,” Miller said. “You just want to help out the team any way you can.”
That included going to most practices despite Coach Billy Joe allowing him some time off.
“You just show up and tell (your teammates) things you learned over the years,” he said.
Also at the practices was Williams, 23, a computer information systems student also from Pensacola.
“I’m still a part of the team, you know,” Williams said. “I’ve sweated with those boys.”
He also said that he has supported the team through his presence at practices and by offering any wisdom he has collected over his past three years with the team.
“I’ve just been helping the young guys, anything they had questions about I helped them out.” he said.
When the Rattlers got off to an 0-3 start this season, Williams was there to tell them to stay focused. His return this weekend will mark the end of a year and a half away from the football field. The suspension came directly after his recovery from a knee injury sustained last season.
Quarterback Ben Dougherty shared his enthusiasm for the new additions in a press conference at the field house Tuesday.
“A different part of the season is starting,” Dougherty said. “They don’t want our offense on the field.”
He believes Miller will only add another dimension to the existing offensive talent, making it harder for the opposing team’s defense to focus solely on Miller, as happened often with last year’s match-ups.
“It’s going to be hard to stop Rod,” said Dougherty.
Dougherty believes that the team will be improved with both Miller’s and Williams’ re-entrances to the game.
“We are going to be just as dangerous as last year, if not more” he said.
As for the team’s performance and 2-3 record this season, Miller said the Rattlers have done well.
“We’re taking on five or six Division I-A teams,” Miller said. “No one else has tried to do that. It’s a good way to get noticed, and to begin to gain notoriety.”
Miller prides Coach Joe for taking that task on, as most coaches wouldn’t, and hopes that Florida A&M University will improve its status and increase scholarships in due time.
As for the rest of this season, Miller and Williams plan to contribute to a Rattler offense that can only gain strength.
“We haven’t played as well as we could’ve,” Dougherty confessed.
Now Miller is determined to “get in the game and make it a more dangerous offense.”
Williams says he “can’t wait to go ahead and kick some butt and score some points.”
Contact Megan Lishamer at email@example.com.