Florida A&M University (FAMU) was welcomed into the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) during football media day at the Birmingham-Sheraton Hotel this week.
The Rattlers, who will kick off SWAC play during Labor Day weekend at the Orange Blossom Classic against Jackson State, were picked to finish second in the preseason poll.
“It’s always mixed feelings when it comes to preseason rankings. Nobody’s played a game yet. This shows people have respect for what we’ve done in the past,” FAMU head football coach Willie Simmons said.
The Rattlers garnered 109 points to claim the second spot, as the defending SWAC champions, Alabama A&M, were predicted to win the division with 122 points. Jackson State, FAMU’s opening-day opponent, was selected third, followed by Alabama State, Bethune-Cookman and Mississippi Valley State in the Eastern Division.
“Every year is a new year, and every game is a new game,” FAMU head football coach Willie Simmons said. “We’re going to prepare this game to be our very best on September 5th. That’s all we’re focused on and if we do that, we think we’ll be just fine. The past has no bearing on what we think will happen this coming season.”
Florida A&M will be looking to shake off the rust as the Rattlers last game was on Nov. 23, 2019 – a 31-27 loss to rival Bethune-Cookman in the annual Florida Blue Florida Classic.
FAMU was slated to open the 2020 season in the Orange Blossom Classic against Albany State, but that game was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2021 opener in Miami Gardens, Fla., will mark the first time the Rattlers have played in a contest in 650 days.
Despite missing the entire 2020 season, defensive back Markquese Bell, defensive lineman Renaldo Flowers and punter Chris Faddoul earned All-SWAC Second-Team preseason honors.
“I want to congratulate these fine young men on their preseason accolades,” Simmons said. “Not only is their on-field prowess impressive, what they do in the classroom and the community speaks volumes as well.”
Florida A&M hosts four home games during the 2021 season, with the home opener set for September 11 in the renovated Bragg Memorial Stadium against Fort Valley State. The home slate includes games against Alabama State, South Carolina State and the 2021 homecoming game versus Grambling State.