Last year’s Orange Blossom Classic press conference was in a large locker room where there had to be 75-100 members of the media, Jackson State entourage and curious onlookers. Friday’s press conference for the 2023 OBC was in a smaller space and had about half the members of the media.
The press conference had a completely different tone to it. Last season, much of the coverage was based on “What would Coach Prime do next.” Deion Sanders is a media darling. He has a social media presence and major media presence unlike any other. He brought a resurgent Jackson State football program along with him, leading in social media following in the entire country on any level in many areas. With Coach Prime’s transition to the University of Colorado, much of that media coverage had followed him.
What’s left at Jackson State is the perfect coach to fill the spot. T.C. Taylor understands what is expected of him at JSU as a former JSU star. He knows it well from a long time before Sanders was even considered as a coaching candidate for JSU. He bleeds JSU blue.
On the other side of the coin is FAMU’s coach Willie Simmons. Always calculated in his demeanor, Simmons speaks as a wise old coach though he is still relatively young in his 40s. No one quotes the history of FAMU football, its previous coaches, its championships and its traditions like Simmons. He has never had a single derogatory statement about another coach he has faced, nor has he used those opportunities to promote anything other than his athletes and FAMU football.
The calculated, honest, and informational opening comments of both Taylor and Simmons deferred attention away from themselves. Taylor thanked his administration and the OBC staff and media for being there to cover the event. Simmons thanked his administration, the OBC organizers and the sponsors who made the game possible.
“Very glad to be here at the Denny’s Orange Blossom Classic,” Taylor said. “Great event, great people will be in town this weekend, two exciting football teams here this weekend. I want to thank you to all the sponsors that put on a great event. Being able to participate in it the last couple of years in an event that…the winner in this game has gone on to compete for the SWAC east championship and SWAC championship. We’re excited to be here.”
Simmons echoed these sentiments in his opening statement
“Great to be here this morning. Very exciting time,” Simmons said. “The Orange Blossom Classic is a staple here in South Florida and we are excited again to be a part of it. We want to thank everyone who had a hand in making the Orange Blossom Classic one of the biggest classic in college football. Two great programs, south Florida sunny weather and Labor Day weekend. What better place to be than down here in the heartland of football, the great state of Florida.
It is refreshing to see two coaches speak with the maturity of a Power Five or professional football coach. Everything they said was to promote the game. There was no lack of gamesmanship in complimenting the other team, but these two men leading prominent HBCU football teams in a game on ESPN is itself a good look.
Simmons has been who he is since he began coaching about a decade ago. He is known as a mature and calculated football mind, despite his age.
Jackson State bigger than any individual, says Taylor
Taylor has been waiting in the wings and now he has the reigns and he never lets himself or the position be larger than JSU.
“It’s not just replacing Coach Prime. We talked about Jackson State, — it’s an expectation for Jackson State, not for one individual. He had a great run while he was here. The things that he did — not losing a conference game — but I’m replacing Jackson State. I’m the head coach of the football program. The expectation is to win and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.”