Finishing strong - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Finishing strong

December 15, 2003

Albany--What a year it has been for the Albany State Golden Rams. The Rams enter Saturday's Pioneer Bowl with Fayetteville State on a seven game win streak and fresh off their first SIAC title in six years.

"I was extremely proud of our defense all year. Offense did a great job. Defensively, finishing number one defense in the nation was a great honor. Winning coach of the year, having the defensive player of the year. Again, we've been on a roll and I just hope we can maintain that. It looks like the way we've been practicing we will," Albany State head coach Mike White said.

But what makes the Rams run even more impressive is that they've reached almost every goal they set prior to the season despite having to overcome a horrific tragedy. On the very first day of summer conditioning 26 year old walk-on Jackie Blanding collapsed and later died of complications due to a swollen heart.

 "It sounds like a story or movie or something. I tell you, it's unreal the way we started and where we ended up and the way it all kind of fell into place," White added. Since that day everything the Rams have done on the football field has been dedicated to Jackie's memory.

 "When things like that happen you can always go two ways and I think that's a reflection from our leader Coach White. He let us know that we're going to grieve and do all those things now, but we've still got work to do this season. And the best thing we could've done was to dedicate the season to Jackie," junior quarterback Uyl Joyner said.

And now with only one game remaining, the Golden Rams have an opportunity to become just the fourth team in school history to reach ten wins in a season.

"To get to ten wins, only a few teams have done that here and that's our goal," White said.

And what better way to ensure that Jackie Blanding's memory will forever be linked to the 2003 season than winning the school's first ever bowl game.

Posted at 9:30pm by kevin.mcdermond@walb.com