FAMU Football gears up for Week Zero at North Carolina

Florida A&M head coach Willie Simmons, right, greets defensive back Javan Morgan (20) during...
Florida A&M head coach Willie Simmons, right, greets defensive back Javan Morgan (20) during warmups before an NCAA college football game against Jackson State, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)(Jim Rassol | AP)
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 12:23 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The countdown is on. We are quite literally days away from FAMU Football’s Week Zero trip to Keenan Memorial Stadium to play the North Carolina Tar Heels.

The time for football is finally here. The Rattlers gearing up for a trip to the Tar Heel State to take on UNC. The first time the two programs have ever played on the gridiron.

A tall task to start your season with North Carolina only to turn around and play the Orange Blossom Classic against Jackson State. A game that many believe will decide who wins the SWAC. However, Head Coach Willie Simmons says getting on the field for Week Zero is invaluable for FAMU.

“I think the opportunity to play a game before conference play is great for our football team. We have a lot of returning starters, but we also have a lot of newcomers--guys we’ll be depending on this year to achieve our ultimate goal,” Simmons said, “To get those guys great, quality reps against a quality opponent before we open up conference play next week is something we can take great advantage of.”

That’s then. This is now. A Power Five opponent is waiting on Saturday.

Simmons knows the challenge that is before the Rattlers. He says the guys are embracing it all the way--outlining that this is a nationally televised game (ACC Network) and his guys know how important this is for the program and for themselves as players.

“It’s a great opportunity. A nationally televised game. We’ve told our guys this isn’t a money game--this is a ‘get money game’,” Simmons said, “For guys like Isaiah Land, Xavier Smith, Chris Faddoul, BJ Bohler, Nadarius Fagan--this gives them a great opportunity to show NFL scouts that they can quote-unquote ‘play with the big boys’. So, this is something these guys are looking forward to.”

Simmons says the Tar Heels play really fast, an up-tempo offense, and feature one of the best receivers in the country in Josh Downs.

His biggest message to the guys is this: The dimensions of Keenan Memorial Stadium’s football field are the same as Bragg Memorial Stadium. His guys won’t be intimidated, and are looking to continue the tradition of history at FAMU--The chance to beat a Power Five opponent for the first time in 43 years.

“The first thing I told them was, ‘Guys, look: we aren’t going in to quote-unquote make history. We’ve done this before.’ One of the things about coming to play at a school like FAMU is there aren’t many things you can do that have not been done. We’ve beaten Power Five opponents.” Simmons concluded, “I think you’ll see a team that flies around, that plays with a lot of passion and enthusiasm, and that’s going to force Carolina to play really, really good football. Our expectation is if they don’t come prepared and ready to play, that we’re going to show them how we play ball in Tallahassee.”

FAMU and North Carolina square off at 8:00PM on Saturday night.