Florida A&M University Developmental Research School came into the 2006 season with heavy hearts after the loss of former player, David Gibson, who died in a car accident Jan. 8 near Atlanta.
After Gibson’s death, the team decided to dedicate the season to “Pro,” which was Gibson’s nickname.
Signs reading “PRO” were up in memory of the fallen Baby Rattler every time they took the field.
But by the end of the season, the team had found a better way to honor Gibson; the 1B state championship win over Victory Christian Academy (Lakeland) 14-10 Dec. 1 at Dolphin Stadium.
“The loss of Gibson kept our players focused and brought us closer as a team,” said DRS head coach Ira Reynolds. “We were able to use the tragedy to our advantage as extra motivation going into the season.”
The Baby Rattlers were able to battle back from a 10-0 second-half deficit and take the lead with two second-half touchdowns.
The first came on a 21-yard fumble recovery by senior defensive lineman Jeremy Thompson. The second drive was started after a 45-yard interception return by senior strong safety Johnathan Ferrell on the Victory Christian 21 yard line.
Junior Richard Watson capitalized on the turnover with a 14-yard touchdown run which gave the Baby Rattlers the lead for good.
“I was just handling my responsibility on defense, so I just made a play on the ball,” Ferrell said.
Ferrell finished the game with two interceptions that stopped Victory Christian’s drives.
“A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff for having us prepared throughout the season,” Ferrell said.
“Games against 3A schools earlier in the season prepared us for our playoff run.”
Winning the state championship gave DRS some closure after Gibson’s passing.
“It was important for us to win state because we dedicated the season to him,” Ferrell said.
Senior quarterback Mychael Bradham never had the chance to meet Gibson, but he knew how important it was to help the team finish on top.
“I transferred from Godby (High School) over the summer. I knew the mark he left here, and I took it upon myself to be a team leader on and off the field,” Bradham said.
Being the quarterback, Bradham said he knows this is his team and he must guide the team in the right direction.
“I told myself and my teammates that we aren’t leaving Miami without the state title, and that just pumped up the guys to win,” Bradham said.
With the win, the Baby Rattlers won their first title since three-peating in 1976, 1977, and 1978.
“This win is not just for FAMU DRS but the whole FAMU family, the students, faculty, and alumni,” Reynolds said. “FAMU has a rich tradition of being a close-knit family, and it is a honor bringing the title back to Tallahassee.”
FAMU DRS returns most of its players on both sides of the ball next season including standout running back Richard Watson.
“When we receive our rings, that will give us extra motivation to repeat next season,” Reynolds said.
“For our players to overcome adversity and win this year should make it easier for next year. But we must still work hard and approach every game as we did this year.”
Former FAMU DRS standout Sam Madison who currently plays cornerback for the New York Giants will speak at the ring ceremony in January 2007.