|Golden Bulls take football hiatus to prepare for the future|
|JCSU looks to maintain physical, academic fitness|
|Published Tuesday, January 26, 2021 8:36 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Johnson C. Smith hasn’t played a football game or conducted practice sessions since 2019, but Golden Bulls coach Kermit Blount is honoring scholarships for every senior player, even if they opt out of the program.|
Fourteen Golden Bulls seniors have an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Johnson C. Smith coach said he’ll honor every scholarship in order to make sure they earn degrees. That credential, he insists, is more important than suiting up on Saturdays.
“To my knowledge, all of those kids plan on returning so they can play that last year of eligibility,” he said. “The number one priority is to make sure that these kids graduate. That’s a little bit beyond just playing the game of football. I want to see these kids graduate, they’ve put in the energy to graduate and they want to come back and play that last year. As an administrator, as a coach, you want to give them that opportunity to fulfill that dream.”
The pandemic forced the CIAA to cancel all sports for the 2020-21 academic year, and with it the recruiting process. JCSU, which went 4-6 in 2019, signed 11 players for the 2020 class and depending on how many seniors return, there’s little room for more additions.
The Golden Bulls return four starters from the 2019 offensive line, but lost their three top receivers and 1,000-yard rusher Emanuel Wilson, who transferred to Fort Valley State.
“It’s a good thing for a program that has lost a lot of kids and need to recruit, and it’s a good thing for a program that’s going to retain their kids and have an opportunity to bring a few more kids into the mix,” Blount said. “Our recruiting numbers won’t be what they were a year ago or two years ago, but we’re going to go grab a couple of kids to try to enhance that program.”
Because there are no in-person classes this semester, the Golden Bulls won’t have spring drills for the second straight year, but Blount is keen to monitor the players’ physical and academic fitness. Both are important to restarting with everyone ready to go.
“If the kids are back at home doing the things that we’re asking them to do to keep their bodies right and doing what they have to do in the classroom academically, it could be a good thing for us,” Blount said. “The rust we can kind of get off, because once we get back in the swing of things, it’s like riding a bike.”
Still, practices and actual games, are in limbo. The national rollout for coronavirus vaccinations has been set back by a lack of planning and delivery, and the first inoculations have gone to older Americans and essential workers. Health professionals predict it may take until early summer for young adults with no preexisting conditions to get treatment, so there’s hope for football in the fall.
“We’re going to play it by ear, and we’re going to turn to science to help us get through what we have to get through,” Blount said. “Once we can get everybody vaccinated and, and the numbers [of infections] starts slowing in the state of North Carolina, we’ll reopen and be ready to go.”
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