Southern center Jaylon Brinson reached for his phone last Sunday, a day after the Jaguars’ 61-0 victory against Edward Waters.
The screen was cracked, and the device wasn’t working
“I was OK with that,” Brinson said with a wry smile.
That’s because it was “FAM” week and, in this case, it had a double meaning. The Jaguars’ next opponent was historic rival Florida A&M, located in Brinson’s hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. It also means family week for the fifth-year senior.
Had his phone been working, Brinson likely would have had too many texts and calls to handle in one day. Family, friends, high school teammates sending their regards, and a lot of Rattlers fans talking — or texting — trash.
The consummate team player, Brinson deep down is thrilled to be playing at Bragg Memorial Stadium, but doesn’t want it to become a distraction in a season of high expectations for his team. As a youngster he would sneak over from his great, great, great grandmother’s house a block and half away to watch the “Marching 100” school band practice and perform. He grew up amongst the orange and green clad Rattler Nation.
“It’s glanced across my mind,” Brinson said. “It’s just another game, going home is another plus to it. Like the Bayou Classic, I love playing in the Superdome, the crowd, the atmosphere, like at home, to see my family. Ultimately, we’re there to get a win. That’s what I’m focused on.”
The teams lock up at 5 p.m. Saturday for the 62nd time in the oldest nonconference matchup among HBCU football schools. Brinson’s mother, Melba Floyd, expects 30 or more relatives coming in from parts of Florida and surrounding states, among them his 84-year-old great grandmother Katie Weatherspoon.
“I am so excited to see my family and overjoyed that my son gets to live out his dream of playing in his home city in front of friends and family,” said Moore, who earned her degree in criminal justice from Florida A&M. “I’ll be a little torn, but I will enjoy seeing my son on the field and showing my Rattler Pride.
“He told me I have to wear Jaguar colors. My plan is to do that but have an orange and green pom-pom to represent my school.”
Floyd said she thought her son might wear orange and green rather than Southern blue and gold, but that it would be in the Marching 100, an outfit that rivals Southern’s Human Jukebox in performance and flair. From the age of three, Brinson was enthralled by the cadences and fastidious marching steps.
Brinson could hear the band from the house and would stand at the top of the hill near the stadium and watch. When he got older, he would venture over for a closer look and then come home and try to imitate the cadences on buckets and other containers.
“The drum majors took a liking to him,” Floyd said. “I’d let him go up. He was fascinated. He loved the drums and would watch the band with intensity.
“He was a good drummer and I never put him in practices. By the time he was 10 or 11 he was playing drums in the church group. He still goes back to play with them at On the Move for Jesus Ministries in Quincy, which is 20 miles from Tallahassee.”
Once football won out, Brinson’s size made him a solid player at Godby High School, but the recruiting offers didn’t exactly flood in. There was little or no interest from FAMU. Southern offensive coordinator Chennis Berry, also the offensive line coach, spotted Brinson as a diamond in the rough.
When Southern head coach Dawson Odums got into the recruiting, it was practically a done deal. He was the kind of coach Floyd was hoping for. She wanted to see her son get a scholarship and stay in the HBCU family, and Odums said all the right things.
“I raised him to think about opportunities,” said Floyd, who lives in Nashville. “I prayed for God to pay for schooling and send him out of state. Even though I was a Rattler I didn’t have a devotion to the city. I was interested in his development, his ability to grow as a human being and see the world.
“Coach Odums I felt was a man’s man. I wanted to be sure Jaylon would be groomed by someone who could teach him about the next level of manhood. Not just how to be a good football player but a good human being who can make solid decisions.”
Odums knew the lay of the land. Tallahassee was part of his past recruiting territory.
“I remember I met his mom at church and he was thinking about FAM and Bethune-Cookman,” Odums said. “Something about the relationship he had with us, he was going to trust our process. No. 1 think I told his mom was we are going to do everything we can to make sure her son gets a degree. She was ecstatic about that.”
Odums has already delivered on that promise. Brinson received a degree in mass communications in May and is working on a master's degree in sociology.
Meanwhile, Brinson has developed into solid college center and the leader of the Jaguars offensive line. He was a second-team All-SWAC choice last year and first-team pick on the preseason squad. He makes all the offensive line calls.
“He’s an intelligent football player,” Odums said. “Jaylon is like a coach on the field.”
Brinson will have lots of friends in the stands and a few on the field, including former high school teammate Marquon Cromartie, a Rattlers’ tight end. Having grown up in Tallahassee, he knows the game will be a bitter struggle.
The two schools haven’t played since 2012, a 21-14 victory in the Atlanta Football Classic at the Georgia Dome, which Brinson suddenly realized this week was the last time he saw FAMU play.
“I expect it to be different than when anybody else plays the Jags,” he said. “No, it’s not 100,000 but they sound like 100,000. It’s going to be crazy, but we’re used to that. Wherever we go people bring that atmosphere. Playing at home will be great, but it won’t be complete unless we win.”