The Florida A&M season started in chaos and has developed into another year where the Rattlers again established themselves as one of the premiere programs in Black college football.
Since an 0-2 start that was stained by roster upheaval and a blowout loss in the Orange Blossom Classic to Jackson State, FAMU currently boasts a seven-game winning streak — the second-longest in all of major HBCU football — and is making a faint push for a postseason berth.
FAMU (7-2, 5-1 SWAC) knocked off Southern 30-16 last Saturday — it was the Rattlers 15th straight at Bragg Memorial Stadium and improved its conference record to a sterling 12-2 against conference opponents since moving from the MEAC.
The transition into the SWAC has been a rather smooth and surprisingly successful one considering prior to the Willie Simmons era, the program went seven seasons — from 2012-2017 — without a winning record.
And if not for a pair of losses to Jackson State each of the last two seasons, FAMU would be considered arguably the best team in the conference and in HBCU football. Since 2018, Florida A&M has gone 22-5 in conference games spanning both the MEAC and SWAC and is the only HBCU program to appear in the 24-team FCS playoff field.
They’ve forged this consistency by constructing a roster that has produced a Buck Buchanan Award winner in defensive menace Isaiah Land, All-SWAC member B.J. Bohler one of the best receivers in the FCS in Xavier Smith and NFL free-agent signee in Markquese Bell.
“I’m surrounded by a phenomenal group of coaches that pour into these young men every single day,” Simmons said Monday. “We have a group of guys who buy into what we’re trying to do every day and that’s what really what it boils down to.”
While the Rattlers may not win the SWAC East or make another trip to postseason play, it’s been the ability of the program — since Simmons’ arrival — that has allowed it to overcome everything from moving to a new conference to missing 20 players the day before a game and still excel better than most.
“We are thankful to have such a strong culture here,” said Simmons. “Adversity doesn’t affect us like some other teams, places — you name it because we do face our share of adversity. It’s our ability to keep our eyes on the prize and understand the brand we’re attached to and how important it is and go out every since day and represent that brand.”