Just 22 miles from the campus of Florida A&M University is a small town called Quincy, FL in neighboring Gadsden County. In the center of that town is the former Quincy Shanks High School, where Florida A&M head coach Willie Simmons broke several state records on the way to an All-American high school career as quarterback.
Since Simmons’ return to the Tallahassee area in 2018, he has tried to maintain the tradition of playing his first Fall scrimmage at Corry Field in Quincy, the place where he cut his chops as an elite quarterback before being recruited to Clemson to play for the Tigers. This year the full squad, referees, support staff, and training staff made the traditional trek.
“To bring the team here and let them see how I grew up and where I attended high school and play on the field that we made memories on is a great feeling,” Simmons said. “I’m pleased with the scrimmage. We got some good things done on both sides and some things to clean up on both sides. We’ll watch the film and see where we can get better.”
Florida A&M comes in to the season riding a nine-game winning streak. After falling last year to the University of North Carolina and Jackson State, FAMU steadied the ship and rattled off nine consecutive wins, looking stronger in their last game than any time in the season. The team fully expected to be selected for the NCAA FCS playoffs, but were snubbed for team with lesser records.
There are high expectations for this Florida A&M squad
For the Rattlers, expectations are as high as ever. The SWAC chose FAMU to win the eastern division, while FAMU quarterback Jeremy Moussa was selected the preseason offensive player of the year. With a reloaded defense, the Rattlers look to have an even more dominant defense than last season.
Saturday’s scrimmage was spirited. Some key players were held out of the scrimmage in order not to impede preseason preparedness. Still, Ja’Mahrea Sheread showed that he is fully ready to fill the shoes of lead receiver with the departure of All-American Xavier Smith. Sheread scored an early touchdown to ignite the Rattler offense.
FAMU’s “Dark Cloud” defense looked sharp. They were all over the field and forced turnovers including a scoop-and-score near the end of the scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Ryan Smith’s squad has a goal of bettering last year’s output, which was dominating in several of the Rattlers’ wins.
“There are a lot of guys who would love to be out here scrimmaging today. They would love to be in the 110. Even guys that played for us last year aren’t able to be in the 110. We want that excitement every time they take the field and we’ve just got to be able to channel it the right way and lock in when it’s time to play. ..If you’re not fired up to play this game, then something’s wrong with you,” Simmons said.
The Rattlers have about 17 more practices as they prepare to face the Jackson State Tigers in the Orange Blossom Classic on Sept. 3 in Hard Rock Stadium. It will be the season opener for the Rattlers and second game of the season for JSU, who plays SC State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Atlanta in Week Zero.
FAMU new scoreboard and PA system project nears completion
For the last few years, FAMU has struggled with a functional game clock. The school pulled the trigger on a total upgrade to include a PA system. Previously the Rattlers had hired a professiona sound company to provide PA services, but the new system will be in-house. The massive north end zone scoreboard dwarfs it’s predecessor. In addition, the new scoreboard is much more elevated than the previous model. The new scoreboard and PA system will be first used at home on Sept. 16 as the Rattler have their home opener against the University of West Florida Argonauts.
That game will be “Ken Riley Day,” as Florida A&M has officially named the field after the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Famer. The football facility will henceforth be referred to as Ken Riley Field at Bragg memorial Stadium.