GREENSBORO - Two distinguished North Carolina A&T graduates and former Aggie football players addressed the football team before A&T's homecoming tilt against Norfolk State. Reverend Jesse Jackson, a famous civil rights activist and a two-time presidential candidate in the 1980's, played quarterback for the Aggies in the early 1960's. He came to prominence during the civil rights movement of the 1960's.
Elvin Bethea is a former 15NFL defensive lineman who played on the Aggies offensive line from 1964-67. Bethea's 15-year NFL career earned him passage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Jackson talked about preparation. Think about and understand the opponent long before the game. He also talked about the importance of graduating and making a difference in society. Bethea told the current Aggies they play for a great university. Bethea said to always be better than your opponent.
"It's always encouraging to me to be in the presence of greatness, and I think both of those guys in their own right are great people," said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. "Elvin was not only a great college player, but a (Pro Football Hal of Fame) guy. When it comes to Rev. Jackson, I told the guys we're traveling down the roads he helped pave. He made our lives a lot easier for taking stands 50 years ago when it was not the cool thing to do. Any time you can surround yourself with greatness, you need to do that."
GRAHAM'S RETURN: D'Vonte Graham appears to have a knack for giving A&T a lift. His 77-yard punt return two weeks ago against Howard to open the second half ignited a second-half surge fort the Aggies in their 38-10 win at Aggie Stadium.
On Saturday, he was at it again. The Aggies trailed 6-0 after two Everett Goldberg field goals, including a 51-yarder. Therefore, it was not a surprise when the Spartans lined up for a 47-yard attempt with five minutes remaining in the first half. But with Goldberg kicking against the wind, his kick came up short.
Graham was waiting about seven yards deep in the end zone. Open field and Graham go well together like butter and popcorn. Graham sprinted through of row of his blockers on his way to a 100-yard return that put the Aggies on the board for the first time. Norfolk State was never the same.
"Well, somebody returned one against us earlier in the year," Broadway said, pointing that it didn't result in a touchdown. "So we knew it was a possibility. We knew with the wind blowing the way it was, there was a good chance we were going to get a chance to return it. And when you have a guy like him who makes plays, you've got to try it."
Broadway called it a big play that got A&T going.
HOMECOMING RECORD: North Carolina A&T went seven years without winning a homecoming, now they've won the last two. A&T's win over Norfolk State on Saturday gave the Aggies consecutive homecoming wins for the first time since doing it in 2000 and 2001. The Aggies are now 16-16 in homecoming games played at Aggie Stadium.
AT HOME AGAINST NSU: A&T improved to 16-3 at home against Norfolk State. The Aggies are 7-3 against the Spartans when playing at Aggie Stadium. A&T has won 6 out the last seven meetings against the Spartans at Aggie Stadium.