Downpour doesn’t deter FAMU students

Photo of fans braving the rain at Saturday’s game Photo courtesy: Ashley Bigbee

‘Dark clouds have gathered” was the message displayed on Saturday on Florida A&M University’s social media page. A historic call to action for all Rattlers had overshadowed Tallahassee, as the 2023 SWAC Championship game brought hours of heavy rain to Bragg Stadium.

Cloaked in bright ponchos and logo hats, the No. 5-ranked team’s support system verbally expressed its unwavering support. Rattler fans spent most of the SWAC season defending the team on social media and in the silver stands — from Hard Rock Stadium in August to Louis Crews Stadium in November as they won the SWAC East.

The fans weren’t backing down, and neither were the students. Even without the classic crowd on Perry Street, the site of the early game day tailgates, and the swamped student section — FAMU’s most robust fan base still supported the team even from the sidelines.

India Gay, a senior public relations student, knew that as a member of the communications team for FAMU athletics, she “would be working this game rain, sleet or snow.” She worked with the football team and previously worked in the player development department. “They worked hard for this. Sleepless nights, early mornings, the least we can do as supporters is show up for them,” Gay said. And show up, they did. More than 14,000 people watched from the stands, according to the Charlotte Observer. Gay was not the only one who knew how important this opportunity was.

After three years of being the new team in the SWAC, FAMU has had a hard time trying to fit into the new division — especially when Deion Sanders was leading a stout Jackson State team. Many fans from rival SWAC schools led to debates on X, formerly. known as Twitter.

Fellow HBCU alumni wanted the team to lose its “cockiness.” In times like these, when harmful wishes flood social media, every picture is a statement.

Photo of fans braving the rain at Saturday’s game Photo courtesy: Ashley Bigbee

“Making it to the SWAC championship is not something that happens every year, so I feel like it was important to still capture those special moments,” Taylor Kendrick said. As a video intern for the FAMU athletics media team, Kendrick spends his days documenting the scenes that lead up to a championship season.

Regardless of what the fans must sit through — the team must play through it all. Starting early that morning, a constant downpour intensified as the 4 p.m. start time got closer. With two lightning delays, everyone in Bragg Stadium was at the mercy of the rain.

“It was definitely hard-working in those conditions. That makes the players want to win even more,” Kendrick said.

“The rain didn’t deter me just like it did not deter our football team,” Justin Lloyd said. As a three-year member of The Marching 100, Lloyd has first-hand experience with the physical toll it takes on someone to play through the rain. “Working in those conditions was very tough, to say the least. It’s cold and wet, and nobody likes to get sick,” Lloyd said.

When describing the condition while working, Lloyd said the atmosphere in the stadium pushed him forward, “We knew it was an important game and we had to show up. It should be acknowledged, especially since it has been a long time since FAMU has seen a team this special.”

Gay was never worried about the weather adversely affecting the players. “As an athlete, you have to know how to get riled up regardless of who’s in the stands,” Gay said.

As the football team worked toward the SWAC Championship, recognition must be given to the fans and the dedicated students who work to make FAMU a star on and off the field. The SWAC Championship was not just for the team but for everyone who withstood the rough rain and fought through it to show the world that this was FAMU’s time.