And the sixth-year coach is hopeful players also have a better understanding of expectations as the university continues to investigate the unauthorized filming of a rap video, featuring some Rattlers players, in the team’s locker room.
Simmons held a team meeting Monday prior to his departure here for Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Football Media Day.
«We had a successful meeting,» Simmons told the Tallahassee Democrat Tuesday. «We continue to talk about the expectations going into this season and what we’re charged to do ― on the field, off the field, in the classroom.
«Our biggest thing is always thinking about our brand. The beauty of about football is that you’re part of something greater than you and we continue to remind our guys of that.
«No one is bigger than the program. We have to do everything with the program in mind and I think that’s something that resonates a little bit now.»
It has been a whirlwind few days for FAMU.
Simmons suspended team activities late last Friday, announcing his decision on social media, after a portion of an unauthorized music video was recorded in the Galimore-Powell Fieldhouse locker room for Real Boston Richey’s song,‘Send A Blitz.’
Following Monday’s team meeting, FAMU vice president and director of athletics Tiffani-Dawn Sykes reinstated the Rattlers’ football activities. The announcement did not mention or explain why the administration resumed football activities three days after the suspension.
Since the Rattlers were cleared to resume football-related activities Tuesday, it allows the team to eye the Aug. 2 training camp report date. The first practice is scheduled for Aug. 4 at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
FAMU quarterback Jeremy Moussa, voted the conference’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and safety Javan Morgan joined Simmons at media day and stressed the importance of moving forward.
«Football is our safe haven,» Simmons said.
«We’re looking forward to getting back on the field. A lot of focus is on what happens leading up to getting on the field. But merienda we hit the field on Aug. 4 for that first practice, it’s all systems go and we’re 100 percent locked in on what our job is. And that’s to develop ourselves mentally and physically.»
Big expectations surround the Rattlers.
They were voted to finish first in SWAC East and had a league-leading 10 preseason all-conference selections, led by Moussa. Southern was tabbed to win the SWAC West.
FAMU opens its season against the defending SWAC Champions Jackson State for the Denny’s Orange Blossom Classic at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, Sept. 3.
FAMU favored in preseason standings, Rattlers ready to live up to the hype
At FAMU there’s always a demand for excellence.
And now, that has elevated as the Rattlers are tabbed as the best team in their division.
Winning the SWAC East can lead to the Rattlers competing in the conference championship game with hopes of reaching December’s Cricket HBCU Celebration Bowl in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But the team isn’t looking too far ahead, Simmons says. The sole task right now is training camp and preparing for JSU.
«We always feel like it’s the perfect time to win,» Simmons said of the Rattlers’ top division prediction. «But we can’t look down the line to December. It starts with being locked in at our first practice. We’ve put the distractions behind us and we’re laser focused on what we have to do.
«This is by far the best football team top to bottom that we’ve had since we’ve been here at FAMU.»
Moussa is expected make a big jump as he enters his second year as a NCAA Division I starting quarterback with a year in FAMU’s system under his belt. He finished with 2,732 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and ten interceptions, earning an All-SWAC Second Team selection in 2022.
But he’ll have to perform well with a new-look receiving corps after All-American Xavier Smith graduated and was signed as an undrafted free agent to the Los Angeles Rams.
But Moussa says he puts this type of pressure on himself.
«Those are the same aspirations I have for myself,» Moussa said. «If I approach it and do my job each play and stack good games, I’m going to be where I want to be at the end of the year. We have new guys that are going to have some elevated roles.
«[David Manigo] and [Jah’Marae Sheread] are going to be staples. I’m also excited to see [FAMU transfer wide receivers Jamari Gassett and Marcus Riley]. Day-Day Oxendine. Tre Davis. Nick Dixon. We expect big things.
«The only thing that’s going to stop us from achieving our goals is us. The responsibility falls on me to be the voice of the team.»
Morgan was one of FAMU’s seven players to make the preseason All-SWAC First Team. He compiled 42 tackles and led the Rattlers with four interceptions in 2022.
Morgan, a Tallahassee native and Florida High alumnus, is quiet by nature. But he said he enjoyed his media day experience.
Morgan is entering his final college football season as his senior class is vying to bring FAMU an HBCU national championship. Morgan’s class also has the distinction of never losing a game at Bragg as the Rattlers hold the second-longest home-winning streak (15) in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) behind Montana State.
«It’s Celebration Bowl or bust,» Morgan said. «We want to win all the big games in the process too. And of course the home games because we never lost there.
«That’s something we’re trying to keep and uphold.»
Morgan also wants to see his Dark Cloud Defense dominate and reach new heights as he ascends to the unit’s leader. FAMU was ninth in the FCS for total defense a season ago.
«We want to be the number one defense in the nation like we were,» Morgan said. «But it’s still the same thing every year. Everyone is working hard because that’s how we’re successful.»
Around the SWAC
Dr. Charles McClelland, SWAC Commissioner: «I’m extremely humbled about the growth and the popularity that has come. Our responsibility is to bring it all together ― put on quality championships, bring in corporate partners, television partners. The schools have been significant in our overall growth and elevation. I’m still in awe that I’m commissioner and that overall enthusiasm that individuals have for our conference and our brand. It’s just a good day to be part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. SWAC is all about having a good time.
TC Taylor, Jackson State Head Coach: «A lot of people see blood in the water right now. But are guys are preparing and we have a really good football team that we’re excited about. We’re the two-time defending champs. We have the belts and if someone says different, they have to see us. One game everyone has marked on their schedule is the JSU game.
«The Orange Blossom Classic is an unbelievable atmosphere. It’s going to be electric. It’s a lot riding on that game. We’re looking forward to it. Coach Simmons is a great coach and he’s seeing it can be his year. But, we have some good players coming too. It’s going to be some sparks flying come the Orange Blossom Classic down in Miami.»
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