Grambling prepares to embark on a steep climb

Grambling has won 23 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships, has five members in the College Football Hall of Fame and has sent more than 100 players to the NFL since the Tigers’ first contest back in 1928.

Yet during the 2013 campaign, the university had trouble even fielding a football squad.

Only three years ago, the Tigers claimed a SWAC title after finishing 8-4. In the two seasons since, they’ve finished a combined 2-20.

The peak of Grambling’s struggles was finally reached in October of last season, when the players boycotted after writing a letter to the university administration regarding the team’s athletic complex and its putrid condition.

Grambling forfeited its Oct. 19 matchup against Jackson State. The players returned to practice the following Monday, but the damage was already done.

Cornerback Tyree Hollins, whose junior season was riddled with controversy and turnover, said it’s time to move past the events that occurred in 2013.

“We don’t think about it anymore,” Hollins said. “I don’t even know about last year. We’re putting it in the rearview mirror. Nothing happened last season, and it only taught us how to overcome adversity.”

Now a shell of its former self, Grambling can only look up at the other teams in the SWAC heading into the 2014 campaign.

The Tigers have a new coach, former McNeese State assistant Broderick Fobbs, a new president and a new athletic director.

A rebuilding effort, both on and off the field, had to be put into motion during the offseason, and Fobbs was more than ready to turn Grambling in the right direction.

“Our focus wasn’t last season. Our focus was January 2014,” Fobbs said. “It started with a relationship between the players and the coaches, and we’re building that relationship and there’s trust there. They understand that we’re there for them, and they’re here for us. You have to trust each other to communicate effectively.”

Fobbs said he understood these Tigers wouldn’t receive much praise heading into the upcoming campaign. With such an overhaul in the program, Grambling was picked to finish in the conference basement.

Such a prediction hasn’t deterred Fobbs’ motivation, though.

“We don’t care about where we’re picked or how many people we have on the all-conference list,” Fobbs said. “We’re just focused on doing what we have to do and staying together as a family.”

Regardless of the preseason projections, Fobbs has a pivotal role in the future of Grambling football. The derailed Tigers need someone to get them back on track, and Fobbs will look to bring Grambling back into relevance starting on Aug. 30 against Lamar.

Fobbs said the past can’t deter the plans for a brighter future. He said his players deserve a 2014 season to remember, this time in a positive light.

“What about those student-athletes who have been here for three or four years?” Fobbs said. “I think you owe it to them to win and win now. Of course we know it takes a lot of work to do that, but that’s why they play the games.

“If it was up to rebuilding, then they might as well crown a champion now.”