Not all that long FAMU was the class the MEAC conference. In recent seasons the program has fallen on hard times. The Rattlers haven’t had a winning season since 2011 and haven’t won more than four games in a season in six years. In December the school hired Willie Simmons to take over as the head football coach.
“This was a program that once I began coaching it’s always been my dream job,” said Simmons.
Two decades ago Simmons was a star quarterback for Shanks High School in nearby Qunicy, Florida, which is only 25 miles outside of Tallahassee. Before moving on to play quarterback at Clemson and The Citadel, Simmons recalls getting knocked out of the playoffs by Raines.
“There have been a lot of great athletes to come out of that area [Jacksonville],” said Simmons. “Personally we would always face them in high school and they were our hurdle. We couldn’t seem to get over the Jacksonville hump.”
That memory has led Simmons to spend a lot of time and effort recruiting students from the First Coast.
On Friday FAMU debuted a new field turf that’s been installed at Bragg Memorial Stadium. Simmons is hoping this $765,000 investment will help with recruiting.
“Young men these days they want to see the top notch facilities,” said Simmons. “They want to see brand new uniforms, they want to see new lockers and new technology. Whenever you’re trying to attract top tier student athletes. You want to be able to show them nice things.”