TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Coach Jelani Berassa is entering year five with the Florida A&M football team alongside quite a few in his position group.
The wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator recalls Xavier Smith’s arrival as a non-scholarship walk-on and David Manigo’s reserved demeanor. Berassa can also recount those early one-on-one conversations with Jah’Marae Sheread where the two discussed future aspirations.
‘Well … the future is now, and these young men are veteran playmakers who have earned every single thing they’ve been given,” said Berassa.
Sheread, an Athlon Sports FCS preseason All-American, is one of the cornerstones of the group, the coach said.
“When I recruited him here, we talked about everything that he’s doing now,” Berassa said. “He’s a starting receiver, one of our main playmakers, and the top punt returner in the country. We literally spoke these things. He manifested it and put the work in … he’s a good leader on the team and will be a big reason why we have a great season this year.”
The Rattlers also return Smith, a preseason SWAC First Team selection and FCS All-American who has high expectations going into 2022.
“Xavier is an all-around good person, and the work ethic that comes with his God-given ability is the product you end up seeing on Saturdays,” Berassa said. “He’s a first-team all-conference receiver and a preseason All-American. The expectations have already been set for him, but he’s the type of player who wants it all. And he’s going to chase it down and get it.”
Berassa also identified other contributors that “the world better watch out for” in Christopher Sanders II, Trevonte Davis, and a few others in addition to the current group.
Darian Oxendine, he said has “really developed his game” and is expected to have a breakout season. Kareem Burke and Michael Townsend — true freshmen — are “lights out with all the ability in the world.”
“We have a group of guys that can definitely get it done,” said Berassa. “They love the game and are really, really thirsty to win … it’s a recipe for disaster for everyone else.”