Aaron James is a very familiar name to Tuskegee University football fans.
He was the starting quarterback of the 2000 HBCU national champion Golden Tigers team that went 12-0 and won the SIAC championship.
Now in his first year as head coach, James is preparing Tuskegee for a return engagement in the conference championship game after falling short last season to Benedict College.
“We’ve got to start strong and fast. Our first game is against Fort Valley State in the Red Tails Classic, that’s our concern at this point,” said James, who served as TU’s offensive coordinator in 2022. “Last season left a bitter taste in our mouths, but we had a young team that fought all the way to the championship game. This season, our motto is ‘Finish The Drill,’ and that’s our end goal, the SIAC championship.”
James, who compiled a record of 42-5 as the starting signal caller between 1998 and 2001, is still getting used to being the leader of his alma mater but is excited for the opportunity and ready for battle.
“It probably won’t hit me until we walk out of the tunnel for that first game,” he says. “I’m still soaking everything in and getting these young men ready to play Fort Valley.”
Those players include several all-SIAC preseason picks, including defensive backs Zelly Aldridge and Antonion Kennon Jr., linebacker Vincent Hill (top 10 in the conference in total tackles), defensive lineman Jeremy Dees (top 10 in tackles for loss) and the conference’s leading punter Ryan Duff.
Offensively, wide receiver Antonio Meeks, who led the SIAC in yards per catch at 22.3 per reception, returns as well.
With that much talent, it’s no surprise the Golden Tigers were picked third in the new one-division format. And for James, that number suits him and his team just fine.
“Three is a good number – that was my number when I was playing,” he said. “We’re not really worried about the rankings, we’re going to do our job, finish strong and make sure we’re ahead of Number 3.”
In order to do that, James believes it will take a week to week effort. He’s sure his team will be proud of the results that follow.
“We want to start fast and finish strong,” he said. “Making it to the end and hoisting the trophy up is what we want. We look forward to looking back at a job well done, each week. It’s one game at a time.”