NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Alabama State head football coach Brian Jenkins participated in Friday’s press conference promoting the 2015 Hornets’ season opener at Tennessee State.
Jenkins and Hines joined Tennessee State head coach Rod Reed and Tigers’ athletic director Teresa Phillips in discussing this year’s game, the Hornets’ first in the Music City since 2000. The Hornets played in the first two John Merritt Classic games in 1999 and 2000. While the Hornets lost both contests, ASU won the last meeting between the teams last season in Montgomery, 27-21.
The press conference had its share of ‘friendly fire’ comments from all involved.
A record crowd attended the inaugural John Merritt Classic game in 1999, and Hines let the TSU faithful know Alabama State will arrive in full force Labor Day Weekend.
“Hornet Nation is excited about coming to Nashville,” Hines said. “I field phone calls regularly (from fans asking) about hotel rooms and how can we get tickets…We’re going to bring a crowd. We’re going to try and pack our side of the stadium. We’re going to bring the band. We’re going to bring the Stingettes. We’re going to bring the Honey Beez. We’re going to bring everybody. There may not be anybody left in Montgomery.”
The festive, friendly atmosphere at Friday’s event will be in stark contrast to gameday just over six weeks away. While Jenkins has great respect for Coach Reed and the Tigers, the pleasantries will end come September 6.
“It’s still going to boil down to those white chalk lines and that green pasture,” Jenkins said of the natural grass playing field at Nissan Stadium. “We’re going to lineup and we’re going to have to play this game. He knows like I know we’re going to smile and laugh now, shake hands now and tell jokes. But come that Sunday, but come that Sunday, the boxing gloves are going on. We’re going to have to put the mouthpiece in, and the bell is going to ring and we’re going to lineup and fight. I’m looking forward to it.”
The game will be the season opener for both teams and the inaugural game for Jenkins as Hornets’ head coach, who is making his second appearance in three years in the John Merritt Classic. In 2013, Jenkins led Bethune-Cookman to a 12-9 victory.
“This is a wonderful time. I’m really looking forward to playing in this game,” Jenkins said. “It’s an honor to play in this game, the John Merritt Classic,” Jenkins said. “I used to hear about it a lot from family members when I was a young lad coming up.
To have an opportunity to again play in a game that represents such a legend is phenomenal. I’ve been in this game before…I’m very comfortable with the atmosphere we are walking into.”