EAST GREENSBORO (August 2, 2019) – The teaching began Friday as the two-time defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and two-time defending HBCU national champion North Carolina A&T Aggies football team hit the practice field for their first August camp practice.
The Aggies were offsite for the first day as they practiced at Greensboro’s Ben L. Smith High School on Friday because N.C. A&T is hosting the AAU track and field nationals at Irwin Belk Track.
N.C. A&T enters this season seeking their fifth MEAC title of the decade. They have dominated the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl since its inception in 2015 winning three of the four bowl games played.
The process to get back to the Celebration Bowl started all over again Friday. After the teaching will come the preparing for the first opponent, the Elon Phoenix on Saturday, August 31 at BB&T Stadium at 6 p.m. Then, they start playing the games.
“The key component to success is people,” said Washington. “You need to have the right people around you. Then it is about recruiting the right player. It has to be a player that is willing to buy into what we are selling.”
Some of the key components to N.C. A&T’s recent successes are gone. Quarterback Lamar Raynard was 36-2 as a starter over the previous four years. Darryl Johnson, Jr., last season’s MEAC defensive player of the year, is in the NFL. Micah Shaw, the 2018 conference offensive lineman of the year, also graduated.
Yet, the Aggies have depth at every position. But they will have to replace seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense.
“There is a lot of talent out here,” said Washington. “It is just a matter of bringing all together and making it work, so we can’t afford to take anything for granted. Today, we start with the fundamentals and then we look to make progress from there each day.”
Washington learned a valuable lesson in his rookie season as a head coach. Washington, who has been the mastermind behind successful defenses for numerous seasons, had the Aggies rolling to open the 2018 season.
After finishing 2017 12-0, the Aggies opened the 2018 season with a win over nationally-ranked Jacksonville State before upsetting East Carolina in Greenville. They followed that historic win with a blowout win over Gardner-Webb.
But in a game that shocked the FCS world, the No. 4 nationally-ranked Aggies lost to Morgan State at home. There would also be a loss to Florida A&M at home putting the Aggies on the brink of being eliminated from Celebration Bowl bid contention.
“I learned that every day and every moment of the season is important,” said Washington as he recalled what he learned from his first season. “We lost two ballgames we should not have lost. I put that on me. We relaxed and rested on our laurels. No relaxing this year.”