TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Aug. 2) – The Florida A&M Rattlers took to the field at Bragg Memorial Stadium to officially open Fall drills on Friday night. In what was supposed to be an afternoon session, thunderstorms forced the later start time for second year head football coach Willie Simmons. A full contingent of players went through drills, skeleton session (7-on-7) and full team sessions.
Simmons was relieved to get the season officially underway.
“We’re further along than we left off in the Spring and that’s always a positive. The new guys are really doing a good job of grasping things and catching on. There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re seeing some really good things and it gets you excited about the potential of this team. Right now, that’s all it is potential. We’ve got to continue to work and continue to focus on the little things, develop winning habits. If we continue to do that then this has the chance to be a special team,” said Simmons.
The Rattlers finished 2018 with a 6-5 record, 5-2 in MEAC play. The season was overall a successful one, the first winning season for the storied university in nearly a decade. After a slow start in out-of-conference play, the Rattlers went on to win six straight, culminated by the defeating of the eventual 2018 national champion Aggies of North Carolina A&T in Greensboro. At the time the Aggies were the number one team in the country, a label the Rattlers would attain during the season. A collapse of fate would end the Rattlers’ rally with three consecutive losses, to end the season with the 6-5 mark.
Under the first year of Simmons’ leadership, FAMU regained respectability after reeling off seven consecutive losing seasons. The longest such streak in the history of the university. The success of 2018 did not go unrewarded though. 12 players were chosen to the MEAC’s preseason All-MEAC team. This would be the most selection in well over a decade.
With quarterback Ryan Stanley returning at the helm of the Rattlers and a solid understanding of the high-powered Willie Simmons offensive strategy, the Rattlers have increased the usage of the full playbook.
The team’s mantra this year is “Fight to Finish.”
“We’re making them understand what it takes to finish strong. We’re focusing on the little things. IT means taking care of what is in front of us right now. Not looking behind, not focusing on anything that happened last season, not looking down the line for what’s to come, but really emphasizing what we have right now. I think that’s what got us in trouble last year. We kinda started to look ahead at all the scenarios, instead of focusing on today and the journey. We’re really emphasizing that this year,” said Simmons.