The road to Saturday’s Celebration Bowl between Grambling and North Carolina A&T started April 11, 2007.
It was at legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson’s funeral where Broderick Fobbs and Rod Broadway met for the first time.
Broadway had just been announced as Grambling’s head coach. Fobbs, a former running back at Grambling under Robinson, was then the offensive coordinator at McNeese State.
The two men shared a somber moment, remembering a legend. Afterward, they exchanged phone numbers, and bond began to form.
"I loved how Broadway ran the program," said Fobbs, who's now in charge at Grambling.
Fobbs and the Tigers (11-1) square off against North Carolina A&T, the team Broadway now coaches.
Broadway spent four seasons at Grambling, winning two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships before he took the job at A&T, returning to his home state. The Aggies are 11-0 heading into Saturday's game.
"(Broadway) was everything a Grambling coach should be," Fobbs said. "We won a lot while he was here and he did it the right way. I looked up to him as a coach and even more so as I've gotten to know him."
Broadway led the Tigers to a 35-12 record in four seasons. He has led the Aggies to a 58-22 record in seven years there, and they enter Mercedes-Benz Stadium as Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions.
Both men said they were overwhelmed with emotion at Robinson's funeral, so the memory of the exact moment they met is hard for them to recall. However, they feel good about the relationship they've built over the years.
"I was so happy to see how Broderick has grown as a coach," Broadway said. "He's a good coach and a better man. I'm happy to see what Grambling is doing with him there. He's coaching that program the right way. They're winning and doing it with class and honor. That's how we try to do it here, and that's what he has going there."
Fobbs left McNeese to coach wide receivers at Southern Miss in 2012. He returned to McNeese in 2013, then became head coach at his alma mater in 2014.
Fobbs has led the Tigers to a 38-10 record in four seasons, including back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference titles.
Fobbs said after he learned he was getting the job at Grambling, one of the first people he spoke to was Broadway.
"He was so happy for me and I was happy to share the moment with him," Fobbs said. "I lean on him a lot in so many different ways."
The two coaches share another bond. They both inherited programs in flux.
The Aggies were coming off a 1-10 record in 2010, the year before Broadway took over. They have won at least nine games in each of the past four seasons.
Grambling, on the other hand, went through three coaches during the 2013 season, when Doug Williams was fired and George Ragsdale became interim coach. Following a team protest, Dennis "Dirt" Winston then took over. Grambling finished 1-11 that year.
"When I left Grambling they had a championship program," Broadway said. "In fact, they won the championship the next year. But, you know, things happen. And I'm glad to see where the program is now. They're a worthy opponent, and I look forward to seeing how we match with up them."
The teams appear to be similar.
Each quarterback won his conference's MVP award. Grambling’s DeVante Kincade has thrown for 2,680 total yards and 21 touchdowns with three interceptions. A&T’s Lamar Raynard passed for 2,875 yards and 29 touchdowns, throwing just five interceptions.
Both teams average more than 30 points per game.
On defense, The Tigers lead the FCS with 47 sacks. Conversely, the Aggies rank fourth in the FCS allowing just 251 yards per game and have recorded 35 sacks.
And the teams rank 1-2 in the nation in turnover margin.
"They look a lot like us on film," Fobbs said. "They have a lot of the same things we have on offense and defense. I'm so excited for this level of competition."
Saturday will either be Fobbs' second black college national title or the third for Broadway.
Under most circumstances, the coaches would be rooting for the other. But not on this day, obviously.
"We talk pretty often," Broadway said. "We even talked a few times this week. I like him but, we've got to get this one, and I know he feels the same way."