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NC A&T Aggies Pull Together at First Practice
GREENSBORO – Three months ago, the N.C. A&T Aggies learned there is, in fact, something worse than losing 27 consecutive football games. What could be more disturbing than losing a teammate?
In this case, the question is not rhetorical. As intolerable as Chad Wiley’s death was, they said, relenting in its wake might be worse.
So today, they take the field as a full team for the first time since Wiley collapsed after an offseason conditioning drill and died 18 hours later as a result of what was reported as heat-related illness. And they say there will be no way to go but all-out.
Audio links courtesy of the Greensboro News-Record
N.C. A&T coach Lee Fobbs says the program made progress last season and intends to continue the development process in 2008. (1:32)
“It was sad,” said linebacker Brandon Long, a co-captain. “It was a tragedy. But guys look at it as something to pull the team together.”
The program has not overhauled its training practices in response to the event because there is no evidence to suggest the conditioning drills were extreme or hazardous. Players said the routine was similar, but the attitude more driven in 2008 than in seasons past.
Players on every team in every sport always say that sort of thing, of course. To admit otherwise is to extinguish morale, and who wants to do that four weeks before the first game? But the Aggies’ circumstances legitimize the talk.
“Heat is part of the game,” said Tyre Glasper, a defensive lineman and another captain. “Guys still have to work. You can’t let that affect you.”
Coach Lee Fobbs hasn’t memorized the total amount of fat shed or muscle added across his team, and he says he doesn’t need a calculator to see and feel a difference.
On Tuesday, Long, Glasper and four others asked to see Fobbs. They had done their homework, having asked players from previous A&T teams – both good and bad – to evaluate their experiences. Based on the interviews, they wrote a list of topics to discuss and goals to achieve.
“These kids came in here and they wanted to share all these things with me,” said Fobbs, who enters his third season with solid depth and 19 seniors. “What does that tell you? They’re ready to go. They’re excited about it. A lot of that comes with maturity.”
The urgency of the offseason was enhanced by new offensive and defensive systems.
Fobbs, who served as his own offensive coordinator in his first two seasons as A&T’s head coach, got the go-ahead to hire John McKenzie, who ran the offense at Alcorn State from 2001-07. The Braves finished 20th nationally in passing yardage in 2004 and 24th in rushing the following season, and changes are apparently on the horizon. Fobbs declined to be specific Wednesday.
The new defensive chief is Tayrone Odums, whose resume includes a stint as a Georgia Southern assistant during the Eagles’ NCAA championship season of 2000. Odums’ general philosophy is to decide on an alignment before a play and to stick with it. He generally disdains frenzied, last-second substitutions and keeps terminology to a minimum.
“So simple,” Long said, “that if they score on us, we know it’s our fault.”
The change in the defensive staff extends beyond the coordinator to line coach Myron Jackson, who helped Florida State win four ACC titles in the 1990s as a tight end, and to Chris Robinson, a recent Bethune-Cookman graduate who will coach the Aggies’ outside linebackers.
“Did I want to make changes? No, I didn’t,” Fobbs said. “But sometimes, things happen and you have to do what’s best for the football team.”
NC A&T Aggies pull together at first practice
By Rob Daniels, The Greensboro News-Record