In the world of Tuskegee this time of year is exciting for all. New students are getting their first taste of Tuskegee culture; returning students are being reunited with friends and school family; classrooms are filling with hungry minds; and most importantly, HBCU football is back!
This year is vastly different from any other year in any of our lifetimes, because of the multiple pandemics (viral, social, racial) currently plaguing the world. Not only is this the first time since the 2019-2020 school year that students are being allowed back on campus and in class, but last Sunday will also marked the first Tuskegee football game in almost 2 years. The context of this unique situation and the anticipation surrounding this game weighs heavy on the campus like a thick fog. The athletes and fans alike seem to be bubbling with excitement for the opportunity to see the Glorious Golden Tigers take to the field again after a near 2-year hiatus. But no one seems more excited than starting quarterback Bryson Williams.
Bryson Williams is a junior architecture major from the state of Georgia, making his first college start this Sunday against Fort Valley State. In an interview, Williams expressed his feelings of confidence with the team and himself while acknowledging the unique circumstances surrounding this game. Asked about some of the added pressures surrounding this week’s Sunday night opener, Williams acknowledged the strange circumstances but assured that he was feeling “no added pressure, but there is always some pressure going into a new season.”
Williams then went on to express his excitement to get back on the field. This will be Williams’ first time starting a game since his high school career, and the first time he will experience some college action since a short appearance in the Albany State game during the middle of the 2019-2020 season.
Addressing the 2-year break from football, Williams says last year felt “awkward” when he almost felt like a “regular student” with the canceled season and strange workout-only schedule. Williams was a freshman the last time Tigers played an actual game; now a junior, he mentions over the course of the pandemic even though he couldn’t play any actual games he does feel that he was able to mature as a person, athlete, and leader on the team.
Williams also addresses the deep and rich history Tuskegee University shares with its football program. When asked how both the university and the football program are related, he emphasizes that football is a deep integral “pillar” in the culture of the school and the city of Tuskegee. He says even in high school his first interaction with Tuskegee football came from watching a video of the students in the shed.
In that same breath we now have an entire generation of new students that have not only never experienced a normal year of HBCU life, but also have never attended a Tuskegee football game. Both the class of 2024 and 2025 are going to be on campus and in-person for their very first football season and will take the first steps into being initiated into the Tuskegee family. Attending at least one football game is a must for all students, faculty, and community members. Once these new students are able to participate in a few chants and hear Ball and Parlay, they will join the collective consciousness of individuals who have experienced the same thing and understand the emotions and experiences that come with it.
Any student past or present knows that the atmosphere around a Tuskegee football game in the shed is a sight to behold; the student section filled to the brim, the band, the chants, keying the opposing team, the royal court, the fans, the cheerleaders, all come together to create a unique experience that is only found in this small corner of the world. More than the football itself this is what people are seething for the chance to come back to; the experience, the comradery, sense of community and genuine fun that come from a Tuskegee football game is the true value of the culture — because whether it is sunny or grey, win or lose, home or away, pandemic or not, the Tuskegee community will always have a symbiotic relationship with their Golden Tigers.