Florida A&M currently boasts the second-longest winning streak in all of major HBCU football and is making a push up the standings in the SWAC East Division.
The Rattlers’ five-game surge was almost unforeseen at the start of the year when the program was embroiled in early season a situation that left its roster in limbo.
Ahead of its Week 0 non-conference game at North Carolina in August, FAMU learned that it would be without 20 players, including star linebacker and potential NFL Draft pick Isaiah Land, after they were ruled ineligible because of reported compliance issues.
The saga was chronicled by UNINTERRUPTED, an athlete empowerment media operation led by NBA superstar LeBron James and Maverick Carter.
A 12-minute documentary entitled “Faith & Fight: FAMU Athletes Advocate for Change” follows Land, Xavier Smith, BJ Bohler, Jose Romo-Martinez, head coach Willie Simmons, and FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson.
In the production, Land described that he was told the game against UNC — a Power Five school — would potentially have an impact on his NFL draft stock.
“I passed all my classes,” Land explained “There was no way I could be sat down because of their mistakes.”
Bohler, another standout FAMU defensive player, explained that Simmons addressed the seniors who were contemplating, at one point, not traveling to Chapel Hill because of the roster situation.
“Coach Simmons called the seniors into a meeting that morning,” Bohler recalled, “He said, ‘Guys, this isn’t fair. This happened to me 19 years ago, and it’s still happening to this day.”
The documentary also recounted the team crafting a letter to Robinson expressing that “the student-athlete experience” and morale have been compromised because of how the school handled NCAA compliance.
“This was young people saying, ‘Hey, these are some of the issues we’re facing and we need to figure out what we’re going to do about it,” Simmons said.