The Tennessee State University Tigers are ready for action this weekend as they honor legendary TSU football coach Big John Merritt in the annual John Merritt Classic at L.P. Field. Last Friday morning, the TSU athletic department held its annual ‘kickoff luncheon’ for the Tiger senior football players. Big Blue supporters, fans, coaches, cheerleaders and members of the Aristocrat of Bands met at the Maxwell House Hotel for a catered meal to honor the 18 members of the senior class. Former Tiger Sonny Lyons and TSU Head Coach Rod Reed hosted the luncheon. Director of Athletics Teresa Phillips, and President Glenda Glover were on hand to speak about the student-athlete’s accomplishments.
They also wished them luck as Big Blue starts its season on Aug. 30 against Edward Waters College in the John Merritt Classic. The event was part of a busy weekend for the TSU football program with Fan Day following last Saturday in the Indoor Football Facility. The seniors and the rest of the Tigers then played a scrimmage immediately following Fan Day.
The Tennessee State football team was picked No. 1 in the Boxtorow Preseason Coaches’ Poll and Anthony Bass, Daniel Fitzpatrick, Robert Myers, D’Ante Saunders and Nick Thrasher made the publication’s All-American Team. This year marks the first time the Tigers have been No. 1 to start the season since Boxtorow began administering the poll in 2009. The Tigers’ previous highest rank to start the season was No. 3 in 2013. Last year was one of TSU’s best seasons in the storied history of the program. The Tigers finished 10-4 with a win over nationally ranked Jacksonville State and an FCS playoff win over Butler. The Tennessee State University football team is ranked No. 15 in the country according to the Sporting News preseason poll of all FCS competitors. The Tigers are one of three Ohio Valley Conference teams in the poll. Jacksonville State (No. 6) and Eastern Illinois (No. 16) were the other two. TSU will host Jacksonville State at Hale Stadium on Oct. 11 but will travel to Eastern Illinois on Oct. 25.
Edward Waters College is a member of the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association (NAIA) Division I. In 2001 Edward Waters College football returned after a 34-year hiatus with the program becoming a championship team. The Tigers were named 2004 SEAC Champions. The team is coached by former Bethune-Cookman head coach Alvin Wyatt who took over and coached the final four games of the 2013 season.
Along with football, the marching band returned. The Triple Threat Marching Band has continued to make waves and has performed during halftime for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Edward Waters College, the oldest private institution of higher education in the state of Florida, was founded in 1866 specifically to educate newly freed slaves. Initially named Brown Theological Institute, the private, historically Black college whose future is lined with pride, growth, and success, is celebrating 144 years of service.