Remember Grambling’s winless spring football season?
The Tigers do.
The rest of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, not so much.
Despite the rocky 0-4 campaign in the pandemic-plagued spring, Grambling was picked in the official SWAC poll released Tuesday to finish third in the six-team SWAC West Division in the upcoming 2021 season.
For a program rich in SWAC championships, it’s an underwhelming projection. Considering recent history, and the fact that only one Grambling player (defensive back Kenan Fontenot, a second-team selection) made the official preseason All-SWAC 50-man roster, it was a surprising vote of confidence for the Tigers.
Alcorn State, which sat out the spring season, was the overwhelming choice to win the West, followed by spring champion Southern, then Grambling. Prairie View A&M, UAPB and Texas Southern trailed the G-Men in the poll.
At the SWAC Media Day in Birmingham, head coach Broderick Fobbs, defensive back Dan Fields and quarterback Elijah Walker reflected understated confidence, not the arrogance of their Jackson State counterparts.
The Tigers didn’t dismiss their spring struggles. They owned them, while making it clear that it’s what has happened since that will define the G-Men in 2021.
“Tribulation is always good for you,” said Fobbs. “Our football team learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.
“There’s no adjusting to it. It’s about us making sure we see what has happened, then getting up and getting back to work. That’s what these guys have done all spring and summer, is put together the type of team to ensure this fall goes the way it needs to go,” he said.
Walker, who Fobbs unequivocally tabbed the Tigers’ starter this fall after taking over when Geremy Hickbottom left after three games, said the miserable start to 2021 is nothing but motivation for the fall.
“I took it very personally. It made us more hungry. Already we’re better as a team than we were this spring. September 5th, we’ll be back,” said Walker.
Fields acknowledged the Tigers understand the responsibility of restoring pride in Grambling football with a greatly-improved showing starting in September. The standard is sky high, with some of the legends of the sport as iconic figures in Grambling’s history.
“Most definitely. There’s a lot of great players who came before us and there are big shoes to fill. With everybody being back this summer, working together, we’re moving in the right direction,” said Fields.
The pathway back is simple, said Fobbs.
“It’s going to take us doing what we’ve done this summer,” he said.
While others entertain thoughts of rivalry games, especially the Bayou Classic, the Tigers have a singular focus, their coach explained.
“When you get knocked down like we did, the thing that matters to us is Tennessee State Sept. 5 in Canton, Ohio,” Fobbs said. “We’re looking no further.”
PHOTO: courtesy GSUTIgers.com