The Rattlers walked out of Louis Crew Stadium in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday holding the trophy in their hands.
With an undefeated 7-0 conference record, the school had already accepted the SWAC Eastern Conference title.
Now the Rattlers are one win away from the coveted Celebration Bowl.
FAMU was chosen in August to lead the league during the SWAC Media Day ahead of meeting Jackson State University, which had lost its high-profile head coach and top players to Colorado University.
FAMU started the season with a mini-scandal after the release of an unauthorized rap video that was shot in part inside the team’s locker room. The fans were on the edge of their seats before the season opener. And those prayers were answered because now the title is theirs.
Scoring back and forth with Alabama A&M in the first half Saturday, the Rattlers held onto the lead with a punt return for a touchdown by defensive back Lovie Jenkins. Good luck followed at the start of the second half with touchdown after touchdown, courtesy of Kelvin Dean, and FAMU cruised to a 42-28 win.
Wide receiver Christopher Sanders II believes each small feat was a product of every player wanting that win.
“This is really one of the first years that we really have an official chance to make something happen in the SWAC,” Sanders said, “as long as we come together.”
Part of the large hype this season has garnered comes from the devoted students working to push the Rattlers, even from the sidelines in Huntsville. Taylor Allen, a professional MBA candidate, has been working with the team for many seasons and was proud of Saturday’s win.
“There’s an unexplainable feeling of satisfaction coming this far when you know the sacrifices the boys and the support staff make just to make it to the next week,” Allen said. Allen is no stranger to being around the team, traveling with them to Miami for the Orange Blossom Classic as well as reflecting on what winning means to the team.
“When we celebrate our ‘victory Saturday’ it’s quick cheer because we’re always focused on that next win,” he said.
Tiffani-Dawn Sykes, FAMU’s first-year athletic director, was on hand to hold the Eastern Conference trophy in the locker room.
With a nod to FAMU head coach Willie Simmons, Colorado head coach Deion Sanders even showed support through comments on Simmons’ social media page. Even school’s once chief rival is celebrating the Rattler wins; can the fans do the same?
Jeffery Hood, host and live show producer for FAMU’s sports talk show “The Playmakers,’ believes it’s natural for fans to be on the fence. “I feel like that’s because all fans are always in and out depending on how the team looks at that moment, but I think we should have more patience,” Hood said.
Hood’s analyses of FAMU’s team over the season led him to believe FAMU was always going to dominate the SWAC with a strong defense, but he believes the fans should trust their players. “Their point is valid, but there is no one better than FAMU football in terms of talent.”
With the team, the fans, and the school all on the same side, the SWAC Conference game awaits on Dec. 2 at Bragg Memorial Stadium.