You hear the roar of the crowd wash over your ears…you feel the bass of the drums beating in your heart…you smell the freshly cut grass and the popcorn popping. That could only mean one thing; football season is here! My older cousins played and they inspired me to take the field as well. While lacrosse may be my favorite sport, football has always had a special place in my heart (my Dad was quarterback at Durham High School back in the day). No matter how many times you hit a guy, sportsmanship and gamesmanship is put on display because there are lessons to be taught. There were coaches that really impacted my life growing up. Football taught me discipline, compassion for the next man, and to be my brother’s keeper. Let’s take a look at my four area coaches (SAU, Shaw, NCCU, ECU) and learn a little bit more about them and their respective programs. — Lawrence Davis
Lawrence Davis (LD): Two straight seasons sharing the MEAC Championship, how do you plan on being the sole holder of the title at the end of the season?
Jerry Mack (JM): As a team, we plan on taking it one day at a time. We constantly talk to the guys about how it was last year and the year before. We have to control what we can control and go one game at a time. So we are constantly working every day as a team, trying to improve from game to game and to work out the mistake that we may have.
LD: What intangible ability of Malcolm Bell helps him to be successful for your program?
JM: I think Malcolm has become more of a student of the game in the past few years, especially this year going in to his senior season. He has been in the system for two years, with this being his third, and he is understanding exactly what are the expectations from the coaches, and also from his self as well. I think he wants to have a great senior season. He wants to leave a legacy at North Carolina Central University, to be one of the best quarterbacks to ever walk through those doors. So he is doing a lot of great things from a studying and preparation standpoint that will probably make him successful this year.
LD: It seems like there has been a trend of wide receivers that go from the bottom to the top of the depth chart by the end of the season, mostly because of injuries, who might be that diamond in the rough this year and why?
JM: We have a host of guys that are really performing well. We have guys like LaVontis Smith; he is doing an excellent job of performing. David Miller is another young man that a lot of people will hear about. Quentin Atkinson is a young man that got hurt last year, but he is back and is healthy, so we are looking forward to those three guys mainly playing at a high level every week.
LD: How difficult has it been to replace CJ Moore?
JM: It has been extremely difficult and I do not believe that you can ever replace a guy like CJ as far as his leadership ability and what he brought to the team as far as the intangibles. From a player standpoint, he has done so many great things for our program on and off of the field that we are constantly looking for a young man like him in our recruiting process. But we have some guys coming in like the Alden McClellon’s of the world. Davanta Reynolds is another young man that plays safety for us. They are going to be good players in the MEAC conference for years to come.
LD: How important is special teams to this program?
JM: Extremely! In the last couple of years, the reason why we have been able to have success is because our special teams play has been consistent and played well. Rather that is generating points off of turnovers or changing the momentum of the game, our special teams is always something we have taken pride in. We have some really good returners, we will have Mike Jones back this year. Also we have Lavontis Smith, who had a good year, he was a preseason all-conference selection as a [kickoff] return guy. We got some guys who we feel if we can put it in their hands, they can do damage in the return game.
LD: Last year, you went 1-3 to begin the season. What do you think the changing point of the season was?
JM: I think after we played after the FIU game, we got hurt. We came back to a bye week and then we had Bethune-Cookman at home. We lost a heartbreaking game that game, but I think the guys really rallied together. They wanted to be successful and knew there were some people that could step up after some key guys were injured. So I think that was huge for us last year as far as rallying around the injuries.
LD: How does your non-conference games help build confidence to go on a run in conference play?
JM: I think the speed of the game is more than anything. I think with our guys, sometimes through fall ball and the spring, you do not understand how fast the game might flow when you get in a real-life situation. I think playing the Duke’s and the Western Michigan’s of the world allows us to see how fast the tempo is and how was we will need to be in order to have any success or to win football games.
LD: If you had to pick up an instrument and join the Sound Machine, what would you play and why?
JM: I would probably say the drums. I love the bass and I like to hear the drums when they are coming to the stadium.