Aggies head coach speaks about first season at the helm

In his first year as head coach of North Carolina A&T State University, Sam Washington led the Aggies to yet another Celebration Bowl victory.

Aggies head coach speaks about first season at the helm
January 24
12:02 2019

Replacing a successful coach is a hard thing to do on any level of sports.  Sam Washington, first year head coach of North Carolina A&T State University, was tasked with just such a thing, as he was chosen to replace Rod Broadway upon his retirement.

Washington had been on staff at A&T as the defensive coordinator since 2011, so he was familiar with the staff and players.  With the Aggies finishing the 2017 campaign with an unblemished record of 12-0, Washington had some big shoes to fill. He was up to the task, as he led the Aggies to a 10-2 record and yet another Celebration Bowl championship, their third in four years.

“Of course, it was gratifying and it’s a lot of people that made that possible, it wasn’t just me,” said Washington about their Celebration Bowl victory.  “From administration, to the coaching staff and then the players putting in that extra time and energy that it took to get us there and then prevail.

“One of the things I was most impressed with was when we lost, against FAMU [Florida A&M University] in particular, the fact we were able to remain positive and continue to work and not linger on that lost. That was huge for us.”

A&T came into this season ranked Number 14 in the nation on the FCS level.  They also returned a lot of firepower from the year before, including 2017 MEAC Player of the Year, Lamar Raynard.  The expectation level for the Aggies had been raised, so Washington was expected to keep the train moving, so to speak.

“You can call it pressure or whatever you like, but there was definitely some there and I thought we had the potential to do well.  Potential is a figure of speech, to actually put it into action is what it’s all about and I was happy we were able to get to the championship and to win. It was good for the soul.”

As the winners of three of the last four Celebration Bowls, many people around the program and beyond are floating around the dynasty term for A&T.  Washington says he tries not to listen to the outside chatter concerning the success of the program, but instead just tries to focus his guys on “what they do and do it well.”

“It sounds cliché, but we just have to keep everything simple and do what we do, so that’s what we have to continue to do,” he said.  “We develop players, we do get a few transfers here and there, but we are going to hang our hat on development by bringing kids in and run the whole gambit for five years and just try to maintain our culture.”

Before Broadway and his staff took over the program in 2011, the Aggies had not had a winning season in nine years.  They immediately turned things around by going 7-4 in just their second year. The team continued to improve every year and Washington says he attributes most of that to the culture change and focus on academics they implemented as soon as they walked through the door.  

“We just had to learn to do our best and the right thing, because we often say it takes the same amount of energy to do right as it does to do wrong, it’s just the will of the man,” Washington said.  “We know it’s not easy because of the temptations and trying to be cool with your buddies, but that’s not what it’s all about. Once you learn how to give your best every time, not just sometime and let’s see what happens and the kids bought into to that.”

The Aggies began this season right where they left off in 2017.  For the third year in a row, the Aggies defeated an FBS school by beating East Carolina 28-23.  They continued to roll against Gardner-Webb a week later winning 45-6, but were shocked at home by Morgan State 16-13, ending their 15-game winning streak.

Washington doesn’t feel his team got full of themselves leading into the Morgan State game.  He said there were a number of factors that contributed to that loss, but also feels there are no excuses in the game of football.

“It was a lot of variable and I try not to make any excuses, but that was the week of the storm (Hurricane Florence) and we broke up and the kids went home, so we didn’t have them,” he said.  “You will play like practice, if you don’t practice, you are in bad shape. We lost a lot of valuable time during that period, but I still thought we should have performed better than what we did.  The key to it is playing up to your potential and we did not do that.”

The Aggies took another tough loss a few weeks later to FAMU.  Washington said he told his team that they have no control over the games they have lost, but they one thing they can control the rest of the season and that’s how they will be defined.  

Washington spent four years in the NFL during the early part of the 1980’s.  He said that experience assists in his effort to convey what he wants to see on the field, because the players and the coaches respect his football knowledge.

“One thing I can say is the kids and the coaches respect my knowledge of the game,” he said.  “I got some very fine tutelage between Tony Dungy and Dick LeBeau and it doesn’t get any better than that.  My foundation is very solid and my approach is very similar to that of Tony, because I always respected and admired his relationship with his players.”

After such a successful first season, year two for Washington should bring similar results, he said.  “A championship, that’s why I am here and that’s what we do, we win championships,” Washington said about his expectations for year two.  “It’s going to be a tough climb, but we all have our boots on and we will strap them up and start heading towards the mountain top.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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