New coach plans to keep N.C. A&T on track

(STATS) – Good cop, bad cop. Coach Sam Washington was willing to fill either role on Rod Broadway’s staff at North Carolina A&T.

There’s no doubt, though, which one Washington enjoyed the most.

“Bad cop, absolutely,” he says. “I love bad cop.”

“Sort of like Coach Broadway’s ‘hitman,’ if you will,” former N.C. A&T All-America offensive lineman Brandon Parker said. “He brought that ‘get after it’ attitude to the field every day, and there wasn’t a day that he doesn’t get competition going between any two players. He obviously may have not gotten the same credit because he wasn’t the chief in charge, but he definitely deserved just as much respect as Coach Broadway.”

Broadway, who had Washington on his staff at Grambling State before they moved on to A&T, occasionally flipped roles in recent years. Perhaps he foresaw his retirement after last season would lead to Washington being elevated from assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, so Washington got to be good cop a little more often.

But having taken over a program that is coming off its best season ever, Washington might wind up being bad cop quite a bit more this year. The career assistant who’s now a head coach is always trying to coax the best out of the Aggies.

They’re coming off the first unbeaten season by a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference program, going 12-0 while winning the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl for the second time in the game’s three-year existence and the HBCU national championship. They were No. 7 in the final STATS FCS Top 25.

“It was very special. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often,” Washington said recently during a break at spring practice. “It’s great to see those kids rewarded at that magnitude, and then after the dust settled, how the community responded to them, how the state responded, how the county responded. It was a great thing.”

Despite some key losses to graduation, the Aggies will have a veteran team. Included are a big three on offense – quarterback Lamar Raynard, the 2017 MEAC offensive player of the year; running back Marquell Cartwright; and wide receiver Elijah Bell – and a defense that boasts All-MEAC first-teamers Darryl Johnson, Mac McCain and Timadre Abram among its eight returning starters.

Considering nothing is broken, the 1982 graduate of Mississippi Valley State said he doesn’t plan to make many changes with the Aggies. Playing with discipline remains their goal.

“Stop the run, protect the football offensively and win the kicking game. That’s the nuts and the bolts,” said Washington, who will share defensive coordinator duties with Courtney Coard, the defensive line coach. “If we’re able to do those things, we feel we have a chance regardless of whomever we’re playing.”

The opening to the Washington era appears daunting. The Aggies will play Jacksonville State in the FCS Kickoff on Aug. 25 and then travel to East Carolina on Sept. 1.

But the upgrade in schedule was designed for such a talented team.

“It has its rewards,” Washington said. “It doesn’t increase your chance of being (undefeated), but what it does do is it gives you a measuring stick to exactly where you are. Most times those guys will identify some weakness that we may not have seen.

“We’re not afraid. We’re going to do what we do and see what the outcome is.”