Southern’s football team may have won only four games last season, but on Saturday, its fans dispelled any lingering sour memories to celebrate brighter prospects this season during a dancing-filled Fall Fan Fest at the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
Hundreds of fans poured into the university’s basketball and volleyball arena, and once the marching band started banging cymbals and blowing horns, the dancing didn’t stop for about 30 minutes.
“I’m ready to get my shaker out and cheer,” said Brandy Perkins-Howard, a 2002 Southern alumna.
Perkins-Howard half-joked that she brought her two children — an 11-month-old daughter and a 3-year-old son — to this year’s Fan Fest on a recruiting visit.
Her son, Braxton, was one of many children in attendance decked out in Southern athletic apparel.
Adults, too, had their Jaguar pride on display — especially Judy Martin-Davis, better known as “Lady Jaguar.”
Martin-Davis donned her custom blue Southern football jersey and a yellow headband, while also carrying around a stuffed jaguar and a blue and yellow pompom.
“I’m fired up,” Martin-Davis said, in reference to Southern’s inaugural 2013 season football game, an away game scheduled for Aug. 30 against the University of Houston.
“I’ve been packed for six months,” she added.
Southern’s head football coach, Dawson Odums, told fans in a passionate speech that the football team was theirs, not his or anyone else’s. While leading successive ‘Go Jags’ chants, his sunglasses nearly fell off his head.
Odums didn’t offer any predictions for the upcoming season, but he did say his players have worked hard this offseason.
“We’ve at least deposited some good work days in the bank, and when it comes time to make the withdrawal, we hope it pays off,” Odums said.
Southern Chancellor James Llorens said the coaching staff has done a great job motivating the team this offseason.
“I think we’re going to begin and end our season in Houston,” Llorens said, in reference to the Southwestern Athletic Conference football championship game scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7, at Reliant Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Football players and coaches attended Saturday’s event following the team’s morning scrimmage to sign autographs and interact with fans.
Athletes from Southern’s volleyball and soccer teams showed up, too, and could be seen posing for pictures with young and old fans alike.
Chris Jones, assistant athletics director for media relations, estimated that this year’s Fan Fest drew somewhere between 600 and 700 fans — on par with last year’s attendance.
One of the differences between Saturday’s event and last year’s Fan Fest was the presence of the Bayou Classic Roadshow’s booth promoting the 40th anniversary football clash between Southern and Grambling State University scheduled for Nov. 30 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
At least one former Southern football player on hand Saturday remembers a time when the Bayou Classic didn’t exist, although the football rivalry between the two historically black schools dated back many years before the inaugural Bayou Classic.
Charlie Granger, a two-time All-American who won a Black College National Championship with Southern in 1960, said he and his wife, Barbara, enjoy the camaraderie fostered between players and fans at Fan Fest.
Granger, who said that he became in 1961 the first black offensive lineman to play for the Dallas Cowboys, believes this year’s Southern University football team will be better than last year’s.
He also said today’s players should be thankful that most of them don’t have to play offense, defense and special teams, like he did as a lineman in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“By halftime, I was 10 pounds under,” Granger joked.