ATLANTA (AP) Broderick Fobbs has emphasized Grambling State's rich tradition while rebuilding the program in his three years as coach.
Fobbs, a two-time team captain as a running back under Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling, inherited a team that finished a combined 2-21 in 2012-13. The low point was a forfeit in 2013 when players, complaining about the university's crumbling infrastructure and administrative decisions, refused to board a bus to play Jackson State.
Proof of Grambling State's return to prominence comes Saturday when the Tigers play North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl.
''Coach Fobbs tells us every day we're standing on great shoulders,'' defensive lineman Blain Winston said Friday.
At stake will be bragging rights as the nation's No. 1 team from a historically black college and university.
Grambling State (10-1) won seven games in Fobbs' first year and nine games in 2015. This season, the Tigers have won 10 straight games since a 31-21 loss at Arizona. They led 21-3 at halftime.
''In my opinion, I believe we were the better team,'' Fobbs said Friday.
Grambling State won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship by beating Alcorn State 27-20 on Dec. 3.
''The thing we had to do initially was build trust and get back on our feet,'' Fobbs said, adding he leans heavily upon lessons learned from Robinson.
''Everything we do is basically based on what I went through,'' Fobbs said, using ''traveling with ties'' as an example.
Junior defensive lineman Donovan McCray said Fobbs ''came in and established in our mind we were going to win a national championship. It was a struggle, but we got here.''
North Carolina Central (9-2) won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference under third-year coach Jerry Mack.
Some other things to know about the Grambling State-North Carolina Central game:
BRAGGING RIGHTS: Mack said the stakes are the same as for those who will play for the FBS national championship. ''We have the No. 1 team and No. 2 team in the country in HBCU and we've got a chance to play on the national stage with national championship exposure and exposure your players and your university to a national audience,'' Mack said. ''Those are the things that are most exciting. Our kids understand what's at hand and what's at stake.''
QB MATCHUP: Each team features star quarterbacks. Grambling State's Devante Kincade, a Mississippi transfer, threw for 2,957 yards with 33 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He was named SWAC offensive player of the year. North Carolina Central's Malcolm Bell threw 16 touchdown passes and leads the team with nine rushing touchdowns. ''To see Devante go against Malcolm, I think everybody is going to be in for a show,'' Mack said.
UP-TEMPO: Expect Grambling State to challenge the Eagles with their fast-paced offense. ''Our motto is when we walk into the room we set the temperature,'' Fobbs said.
FIRSTS: Mack said college football has provided opportunities many of his players would not have received otherwise, including the chance for trips from Durham, North Carolina. ''Some guys got a chance to fly on a plane for the first time,'' Mack said. ''Some of those guys have left the state of North Carolina for the first time. A lot of the things we've been able to accomplish as a program are a first for these young men.''
TV EXPOSURE: The game will be televised by ABC, providing rare national exposure for the programs and players. ''I'm just glad the country can see our guys play for once and see the talent we have on the field,'' Bell said.
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