Saturday will be a special day for the Jaguar Nation.
Not just because it marks the first home game the of the season, which just so happens to be the conference opener, but also in honoring the 20th anniversary of one of the best teams to ever don the blue and gold.
The 1993 Southern football team finished 11-1, claiming the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship as well as a black college national title.
The defense was led by defensive back Sean Wallace, named the SWAC defensive player of the year that season.
It was before the season that Wallace went in front of the student body during a pep rally to make a bold statement: That the 1993 team would be SWAC champions.
“Sean gave a lot of predictions,” quarterback of the ’93 team Eric Randall said with a laugh.
After finishing the 1992 season with a 5-6 record, not much was expected from the Jaguars heading into the ’93 season. After all, Southern’s last winning season came in 1989. And the Jaguars hadn’t won the SWAC since sharing the title (with Grambling) in 1975 and hadn’t won the outright crown since 1959.
But that didn’t discourage Wallace and his teammates from believing.
“We didn’t give people a reason to think we could win that year,” Wallace said. “But us as players knew we could. We knew that we had a chance to do something special that year. We believed in each other.”
Southern brought in Pete Richardson to be its head coach following the 1992 season.
Richardson provided a balance to a program that was lacking.
“We had good players already, and I think that when coach Richardson came in, he provided a good balance to the team,” Randall said.
“He not only could talk to us about football, but also about life. He challenged us. He challenged us not just at football but at life beyond football.”
Richardson’s early success garnered him SWAC coach of the year honors for the 1993 season.
“Coach Pete never really let us get relaxed,” wide receiver Landry Williams said. “He was always making us stay focused.”
Richardson, who was fired by the school in December 2009 with one year remaining on his contract after leading the school to 134 wins, 12 Bayou Classic victories, five SWAC titles and four black college national championships in his 17 seasons, does not plan on attending Saturday’s events. He declined comment for this story.
The Jaguars clinched a share of the SWAC title in the eighth game of the season, taking down legendary SWAC quarterback Steve ‘Air’ McNair and Alcorn State 47-31 in the process.
“That Alcorn game was a game that symbolized that we were alive and doing great things,” Randall said. “The Alcorn game in ’93 was the biggest game I’d ever seen at Mumford Stadium.”
Former Southern defensive back and current Prairie View head coach Heishma Northern recalls a lively environment leading up to the game.
“I remember coming out of the dorm for the Alcorn game and students already being in line to get into the stadium,” Northern said. “I remember seeing Warrick Dunn and Charlie Ward on the sidelines. My brother Gabe, who was an LSU player, and a lot of other LSU players were on the sidelines. The stadium was packed.”
The regular season was capped with a win over bitter rival Grambling and legendary coach Eddie Robinson.
“Being able to compete against and to beat the legendary coach Eddie Robinson was special,” Wallace said.
Williams echoed Wallace’s feelings.
“Having a chance to face coach Eddie Robinson was amazing,” Williams said. “What he brought to college football is something special.”
Southern’s accomplishments would allow them to face South Carolina State for a second time that season, this time in the Heritage Bowl Classic in Atlanta on January 1, the first time two black schools ever faced each other in a New Year’s Day bowl game.
Southern put together a terrific defensive effort in the game, returning a fumble for a score and causing a safety in shutting out the Bulldogs 11-0.
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