State Colleges

FAMU dreams of a return to its former glory in 2017

Florida A&M quarterback Ryan Stanley starred at Flanagan in Pembroke Pines while in high school.
Florida A&M quarterback Ryan Stanley starred at Flanagan in Pembroke Pines while in high school. Sun Sentinel

Ryan Stanley keeps a list taped to his locker. As the starting quarterback for Florida A&M, the Pembroke Pines Flanagan alum has lofty goals on that list for the 2017 season.

Some of his specific goals: throw for 3,000 yards, rush for 1,000 yards and lead the Rattlers to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship. But there’s more to his list.

There are also names: Ann Stanley. Robert Stanley. Brooke Stanley. And if the goal is 3,000 yards, those names are the motivation he uses to get there, starting with his mother, Ann.

After Stanley’s parents divorced before he started sixth grade, he lived with Ann and his sister, Brooke. Though his dad, Robert, was the one who introduced him to flag football and later tackle football as a child, he credits his mom for making sure he was always at practice and never missed a camp.

“She’s still working right now,” he said, “and my goal is to make it to the NFL and have her just be able to kick her feet up in a big mansion. It’s definitely something I think of every day.”

The 6-3 redshirt sophomore signal-caller also thinks about the reason he went to FAMU, aside from having some scholarship offers revoked as National Signing Day approached: A chance to build something.

When he committed, the Rattlers were coming off a 3-9 season and were bringing in a new coach, Alex Wood, to try and change the program’s direction. It did not go well in the his first year.

“It was kinda slow,” Stanley admitted.

The Rattlers went 1-10, with Stanley riding the bench the whole way. But after an 0-4 start in 2016, he was finally thrust into action. FAMU reeled off two wins in three games, securing Stanley’s spot as the team’s starter. He threw for 1,358 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games that season, and the Rattlers improved from 1-10 to 4-7, including a 4-4 mark in MEAC play.

He’s entering 2017 as the team’s presumed starter, and his goals are loftier. But they all go back to that original reason for choosing FAMU: To build something that Florida A&M hasn’t seen in a long time.

The school’s last FCS playoff appearance came in 2001 — the same year as its last outright conference championship. It does have a rich history, though, having won the first-ever FCS national title in 1978 as well as 14 black college football national championships, which are awarded to the best Historically Black Colleges and Universities every season. Stanley hopes he can return the Rattlers to that glory, and so does senior center Osman Aguilera.

The North Miami Beach alum has endured the consistent losing seasons, and he wants his last year to be different, even if he chose to attend Florida A&M because it was his best chance to study engineering. Unlike Stanley, he doesn’t keep a list.

“Because I already know,” he said, “what I’m trying to accomplish.”

That includes allowing no sacks as an offensive line as well as capturing a MEAC championship. A MEAC title would mean a trip to the Celebration Bowl, which pits the MEAC and Southwestern Athletic Conference — which are both composed of historically black schools — champions against each other. It could also mean an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs, depending on the team’s record.

“To come here and have three different head coaches,” Aguilera said, “and leave as the MEAC champ would definitely be the greatest feeling.”

Stanley, meanwhile, will continue to recall those names on his list for ammunition, with the same goal in mind.

“I feel a big difference in the team and our chemistry,” he said of the upcoming season. “I feel like we’ve got big things coming.”

Alex Wood

Age: 62.

Résumé: Head coach: Florida A&M (3rd season); Buffalo (2014); James Madison (1995). Assistant coach: Iowa (1978); Kent State (1979); Southern Illinois (1981); Southern (1982); Wyoming (1985); Washington State (1987); Miami (1989); Wake Forest (1993); Minnesota Vikings (1999); Cincinnati Bengals (2003); Arizona Cardinals (2004); Arkansas (2006); Miami (Ohio) 2010; Buffalo (2011).

▪ Career highlights: Helping Miami to national championships in 1989 and 1991 as the team’s running backs coach; Leading James Madison University to the FCS playoffs in 1995; Coordinating an offense that amassed 2,000 yards rushing and passing at Buffalo in 2012.

▪ What keeps Terry up at night: Building an offense like the one he built at Buffalo with fewer resources at FAMU.