For Lucy Minor, hearing the familiar and welcome sounds of the Southern University Marching Band’s drum line as she drove toward Mumford Stadium on Saturday meant only one thing:
“It’s football season,” she said. “And we are in the football spirit.”
Minor was among the hundreds of fans who braved the heat Saturday to attend the university’s 2011 Fan Day.
Fan Day is a free event aimed at getting Jaguar loyalists geared up for the approaching season with opportunities to meet the players and coaching staff, enjoy tailgating and see performances by the university’s “Human Jukebox.”
This year’s Fan Day was held in conjunction with the Jaguars’ final scrimmage, offering spectators a glimpse of what to expect from this year’s team.
Christopher Jones, assistant athletics director for media relations, said the officials aligned the festivities with the scrimmage because there are so few home games this season.
“With only four home games, this was one more chance,” Jones said, for fans to see the team.
Officials also unveiled the team’s new uniforms, which feature the university’s authentic color combination of Columbus blue and gold.
“In the past, we’ve done navy blue or royal blue, but we want to get back to that old Southern spirit with the true blue color of the university,” Jones said.
Even with all the event had to offer, the scrimmage seemed to be the main draw among fans.
“I want to see how improved they are,” said Minor, a long-time fan whose son, Byron Minor, was the team’s MVP in the 2001 Bayou Classic. “It looks pretty good so far. I can see signs of improvement.”
Judy Martin, also known as “Lady Jaguar,” pulled up to Mumford Stadium with 21 stuffed jaguars in the back seat of her car, 16 Southern University flags attached to her windows and several “Jaguar Nation” decals also plastered on her car.
“This Fan Day signals the start of the best time of the year,” she said, dressed head-to-toe in Jaguar colors.
That was a sentiment felt by many of the fans attending Saturday’s festivities, where they heard the band and saw the team play for the first time this season.
Many fans watching the scrimmage said the team seemed more disciplined and experienced this year, responding more quickly to coach Stump Mitchell’s calls.
“It’s hard to tell when they’re playing each other, but I saw more uniformity in the players,” said Leo Williams, who said he’s seen every game for the last 30 years. “I know we’ll definitely do better than last year.”
Last season is one many fans joked they’d like to forget. The Jaguars went 2-9 during Mitchell’s first year as coach.
“We better be better than last year,” Roy Hopkins said with a laugh. “If you can’t get up on two, you’ve got some problems.”
Hopkins said that for the last 18 years he’s been “hollering” at the Jaguars at every home game from his spot right on the 50-yard line.
The routine has made Hopkins a familiar face in the Jaguar community, and he waved at several different groups and stopped often to talk to other fans as he slowly made his way through the stands to his seat.
Hopkins said he’s well-known outside of the stadium, too, where he has a regular tailgate site near the Mini Dome.
“I get out here early on game days,” he said. “Sometimes I’m out here cooking breakfast.”
Cooking has made another group of Jaguar fans popular among other tailgaters, and even the football team and staff.
For the past 10 years, the Weekend Warriors RV Club has cooked for the Jaguars on Fan Day, serving up jambalaya or red beans to the players after the festivities wind down.
“We just want to show our appreciation and start the season off right,” said Johnny Avant.
And what do the club members think of the Jaguars’ chances this season?
“Well, we’re hopeful,” said Odell Abbott. “You just always have to go into the season hopeful.”