TALLAHASSEE, Fla (Aug. 1) – Today, the 220 Quarterback Club donated $32,000 to Florida A&M Football Coach Willie Simmons and the Rattler football program. Simmons has been expressing the need for an enhanced nutrition program that will allow the players to finish games and the season strong. The 220 Quarterback Club answered the call.
The group of retirees, mostly former FAMU employees, meet weekly for lunch. Led by its president, Eddie Jackson and about 20 members, the club presented the donation to Simmons, FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., and Director of Athletics John Eason, Ph.D. Several of Simmons’ assistant coaches also took part in the ceremony.
Support for the program has come from all over the Rattler Nation. The FAMU Student Government Association, FAMU National Alumni Association, National Rattler “F” Club and FAMU Foundation have all given separate donations to the nutrition initiative.
“In April, coach Simmons came to speak to the 220 Quarterback Club, and he said his first priority was a formal nutrition program for the team,” said Jackson.
“Little did I know that the response to the call would be answered in this manner. There were times early on where it didn’t look like we would cross the $10,000 mark, but in true Rattler fashion, folks began to open their checkbooks. And I am elated with today’s total.”
Jackson organizes guest speakers from the athletic programs and the University, in general, to inform the group about what is happening on campus. The draw for the group, though, was athletics. Coaches from all 16 of FAMU’s sports have visited the club to give information and spark campaigns to raise funds for their programs.
Eason was elated to have the support of the group.
“In my experiences at the collegiate level, there are always groups that assist the athletic department,” said Eason. “The 220 Quarterback Club is an excellent support organization. Members give and they help find solutions where they can. We are grateful that they continue to support our student-athletes and coaches the way they do.”
The group has also supported several academic initiatives on campus. They have provided book scholarships for outstanding students, and they also donated heavily to the FAMU Symphonic Band’s trip to perform at Carnegie Hall. They contributed more than $7,000 to that effort.
“We aim to be that positive group at every turn. We don’t criticize or get involved in any of the rhetoric going on,” said Jackson. “Our goal is to give in good times and not-so-good times. I am pleased that the group allows me to do what I do in being the president of such a pure group of givers.”
He also said the group has its challenges. “We’re older,” Jackson said with a laugh. “It’s not uncommon for some of our group to miss meetings because of ailments. But, when they think about what FAMU means and what FAMU has meant to them over the years, they come back as soon as they are able.”
The support for this initiative stretched far beyond the local group. People who heard about the undertaking sent donations to the FAMU Foundation in support of the effort. Kenya Sykes, an alum who lives in New York, organized a “Black Dollar Day,” in which the funds were donated to the campaign. Sykes organized her efforts using social media. It was a pleasant surprise for the 220 Club.
Sykes said her goal was to have a group that put up resources to foster solutions for campus. “We wanted our group to embrace smaller goals that our resources could make a difference. The nutrition campaign was a good project for us. We wanted our Facebook group to galvanize support and move the needle on issues, not just talk about them,” Sykes said. To date, her group has raised over $22,000 for needs on campus.
Paul Moore, former FAMU dean of the College of Education, sent donations to Jackson to add to the groups till. Ted Scott, a Tampa alum, also sends continual donations to the 220 Quarterback Club for the initiatives it undertakes.
Piggly Wiggly owner Roy Moore took the opportunity to expand on the range of the donation. Moore bought and delivered a new cooler/refrigerator to keep the products cool that needed to remain cool or frozen. For the presentation, he provided a display of the types of items Simmons said he required, which included protein shakes, protein bars, fresh fruit and nuts.
Jackson explained what motivated the group to push so hard for the program.
“Coach Simmons never once said we lost games because of our lack of nutrition program, but we read between the lines,” said Jackson. "When he came, he talked about one of our star linebackers who actually lost weight during the season. Losing weight meant losing mass and muscle down the stretch. We saw our team wane down the final stretch of the season and we figured the lack of sustained sports nutrition had something to do with it,” Jackson said.
He also said that today’s athletes are faster, stronger and bigger than they were during the Jake Gaither era and that they can’t eat the same way that Jake’s players ate because the competition is not eating the same. Technology has outlined best practices for maintaining strength and body mass, and it was the goal of the campaign to get the Rattlers on par with what the rest of the conference and FCS division were doing.
The 220 Quarterback Club has donated to multiple efforts and every sport at FAMU, including $10,000 to assist baseball with their batting cage and $6,000 to softball for their pitching machine. Jackson said that because of the universal support for this effort, it was the most gratifying.
“This is probably the most significant thing to happen to the 220 Quarterback Club. It’s not over, we’ve still got work to do,” Jackson said.