You know all the old favorite sayings, don’t you?
Life has a funny way of coming full-circle.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Stuff along those lines.
Sometimes, they’re overused. Sometimes, they’re right on the money.
Clearly, Saturday’s game in Shreveport is a case of the latter.
At Independence Stadium, Grambling and Alcorn State will square off in the latest chapter a long-running, old-fashioned football rivalry.
They’ll kick off the season in a game that will give the winner an early leg up in the Southwestern Athletic Conference standings.
In other words, this meeting feels like old times.
“Even back in the good old days, Alcorn was always that first game for Grambling,” Grambling coach Doug Williams said. “I think that’s the way it should be.”
But Saturday’s game isn’t just a showcase for two of the SWAC’s proudest programs. It also offers a juicy matchup of two coaches who are more than cozy with each other - which, come to think of it, is another trademark of the Grambling-Alcorn series.
In those good old days, two legends prowled the sidelines: Eddie Robinson on one side, Marino Casem on the other.
Now it’s Williams and Melvin Spears.
Williams, of course, is the legendary quarterback who has returned for his second coaching stint at Grambling.
Spears, a Clinton native and an Alcorn alumnus, is about to kick off his first year back with the Braves.
You might remember that Spears was also a longtime assistant on Williams’ staff, then took over as head coach from 2004-06.
After one-year stints at Texas Southern and Alabama State, The Man in Shades got the top job at his alma mater. He was introduced on Jan. 19.
About a month later, Williams confirmed he was heading home.
This week, both coaches tried to downplay their role in the big game, saying fans should focus on what they see between the sidelines, not on them.
“At the end of the game, we’re going to cross that field and hug,” Spears said. “It’s going to be what it is. We’re elated about it. ... But it’s all about the outstanding players and two outstanding universities.”
Though the Braves graduated 19 defensive players from a 5-6 team last season, they look like a program on the rise.
Alcorn has a star in sophomore quarterback Brandon Bridge, who threw for 2,086 yards and 19 touchdowns as a freshman.
Now Bridge has a pass-happy coach in Spears, not to mention a quarterbacks coach who knows a thing or two about the new offense: Bruce Eugene, the hefty quarterback who threw 50 touchdown passes for Spears at Grambling in 2005.
“Brandon has bought in tremendously,” Spears said. “I think the main thing is just being mechanically sound, (using) all the fundamentals that go into being an outstanding quarterback. But one thing you can’t coach is speed, and he has speed.”
At Grambling, it’s the other way around: Williams largely kept former coach Rod Broadway’s defensive staff in place, but the offense features a group of young unknowns.
And yes, if you’re wondering, Doug’s son, freshman D.J. Williams, is the starting quarterback.
He spent last year at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, where he completed 72 of 102 passes for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns, then came to Grambling.
After sophomore Anthony Carrothers transferred to Winston-Salem State this summer, the team had three freshman quarterbacks to choose from, and D.J. Williams was the only one of them who’d been through spring practice.
“I think that in itself kind of gave him a thumb up,” Doug Williams said.
He also grew up with a pretty deep knowledge about long-running SWAC rivalries.