After the final buzzer sounded, Brian Jenkins Jr. stood on the bench at Legion Field in Birmingham, looked right into Tolly Carr’s camera and boldly proclaimed a new day.
“It’s over with. We the SWAC Champs.
We the best in the SWAC.
They wanted us, they got us. It’s over with.”
Obviously, the young man was jubilant after Alabama A&M’s 28-10 win over rival Alabama State in the Magic City Classic. Especially since it came against the program that fired his father, Brian Jenkins Sr., a little over a year ago.
Jubilance aside, a quick scan of the SWAC standings shows that AAMU is currently behind Alcorn State (6-2) and tied with Jackson State (2-2) in the East. So Jenkins is factually wrong.
But what is clear is that this Alabama A&M team, while still experiencing its ups and downs, has already undergone a makeover. First-year head coach Connell Maynor likely has quite a bit to do with that.
He Ain’t New To This
Maynor is a name familiar to HBCU fans on the East Coast for sure. A native of Fayetteville, NC he made a name for himself as a player, leading Winston-Salem State to the 1987 CIAA championship as a freshman. He then went to rival North Carolina A&T and led it to a MEAC title and won player of the year there. After a solid career as an Arena quarterback, he returned home to help Fayetteville State become a CIAA power as an offensive coordinator.
He took over as WSSU’s head coach in 2010 and then went on a run that took the program from a one-win team the year before to an NCAA runner-up by his third year. Maynor’s teams at WSSU not only won, going 45-7 in his four seasons, they punished teams with flair and swagger that flowed from the top down.
That’s easy to do when you are dominating. Not so much when you are in the middle of the pack. That’s where Maynor stayed at his next stop in Hampton, where in four years is teams failed to place better than third. HIU never seemed to be a natural fit for the coach, and his teams never quite found that tenacity that he instilled at WSSU.
Given a chance to coach in real football country (sorry North Carolina and Virginia) it looks like Maynor’s career has been given new life at a school hungry for football success. Football is ingrained in the way of life in Alabama and AAMU wants to get back into the conversation in the SWAC.
From Rival To Comrade
Hiring Jenkins as running backs coach might have been his top move so far. Before the ASU stint went sour, Maynor and Jenkins were regarded as the top of the crop of new-school HBCU football coaches. Much like Maynor at WSSU, Jenkins took BCU from a MEAC after-thought and turned it into the conference’s most consistent program during his stint there.
“Coach Maynor his really come and set the groundwork and has really been pushing the staff and the players,” Jenkins said after the Magic City Classic win. “And really just been drilling positivity into us and getting us to understand what we can accomplish.”
It also helped him land Jenkins, Jr., an energetic and high-octane player who has turned heads as a freshman so far. He has 32 catches (4th in the SWAC) for 362 yards, two scores and a big chip on his shoulder.
Alabama A&M won’t be SWAC champs this year. Even if it was the best team in the conference, it couldn’t because of old academic issues that placed the program on a postseason ban. And it still has a lot of work to do to catch up with the Alcorn State’s of the world. Still, if you are a fan of this program you have to be optimistic about the spirit the team has competed with so far and hope that Maynor is building a program that will quickly rise to the claims of its talkative young receiver.