Booker T. Washington, Coral Gables High, Hialeah High. Graduates from these and many other area high schools will be among the Florida A&M Rattlers when they take on Miami in the season opener at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday.
Twenty-one players on the Rattlers roster hail from the Miami area. Even Florida A&M coach Alex Wood was a running backs coach at Miami from 1989 to 1993, which included national championships in 1989 and 1991.
Other than on recruiting trips, Wood hasn’t been back to Miami for many years. He said it will be fun to return for this game, even though Miami doesn’t play at the Orange Bowl anymore like they did when he was there.
Many have played against each other in high school. Some were high school teammates.
Miami running back Joseph Yearby was teammates with FAMU offensive lineman Joshua Addison at Central, and Miami running back Mark Walton was teammates with FAMU safety Terry Jefferson and offensive lineman Andre Regis at Booker T. Washington,
Don’t expect these past alliances to hold the players back though. “It’s different now. He’s got on a different jersey, we’ve got to compete,” said Hurricanes linebacker Mike Smith, who was teammates with FAMU wide receiver Marcus Williams at Northwestern.
Wood thinks this familiarity will help his players.
Wood said he knows the players are excited to come back home and get a chance to play in front of family, friends and former fans. The Rattlers left Thursday, a day ahead of schedule, to avoid the effects of Hurricane Hermine, which was scheduled to hit Tallahassee late Thursday.
Wood doesn’t want his players to be intimidated by playing a team like the Hurricanes. “You have to talk about that all the time. It’s a great opportunity; that’s the way we’ve got to look at it,” Wood said during a Mideastern Athletic Conference coaches teleconference. “To play college football is to play against what could potentially be the best.”
The Rattlers are looking to improve upon a disappointing 1-10 2015 season. Wood is confident they will. “We feel a little further along at this time this year than we were a year ago getting ready to play our opening ball game,” he said.
The big question looming over the Florida A&M is who will start at quarterback against the Hurricanes. “We’re going to let them compete all the way through until we get ready to get on the bus,” Wood said. The competition is likely to come down to senior Kenny Coleman and redshirt freshman Ryan Stanley, who played at Pembroke Pines Flanagan.
“It’ll be interesting. It’ll be fun. It’ll be challenging. It’ll be exciting.” Wood knows this much about the game.