The Celebration Bowl – Opening Night

By Tiffany S. Jones / 12/19/2019 Athletics, Students

The Celebration Bowl – Opening Night

Bell on his last Celebration Bowl

ATLANTA, GA (Dec. 18, 2019) – With their heads held high and a mixture of smiles and game faces, the North Carolina A&T Aggie football team entered the Georgia Aquarium to a hero’s welcome. A drumline and dancers provided a lively atmosphere to kick off the fifth Celebration Bowl.

Though this is certainly not a new experience for the Aggies’, expectations are just as high for the team this year as they were five years ago. For senior, wide receiver Elijah Bell, he’s got a little more motivation.

“I heard they said they are going to hold our receivers to 30 yards,” he said dismissively. “But whatever, we are here to do a job.”

This is Bell’s third time in the Celebration Bowl and it is different every time.

“It’s a lot of energy and it’s a great feeling,” he said.

That great feeling is something he tells his younger teammates to hold on to and enjoy. He also gives them advice on how to not get caught up in the lights and the hype.

“I told them to always remember the task at hand – we are here to play a game.”


Roberts on his first Celebration Bowl

ATLANTA, GA (Dec. 18, 2019) – On opening night of the Celebration Bowl weekend, the opposing teams gather in the Oceans Ballroom of the Georgia Aquarium for dinner and a bit of friendly competition in the form of a game called HBCU Trivia.

Both N.C. A&T and Alcorn State sent up their two-man teams for three rounds as their teammates cheered them on and engaged in competitive, back and forth banter. Standing on the outside of the crowd, yet somehow in the front was true freshman, linebacker and first-team freshman All-American, Jacob Roberts.

“It’s been great so far,” he said. “We’re eating good, having a lot of fun.”

While he is soaking in the moment, Roberts also has the advice from upperclassmen at the forefront of his mind.

“They talked to me about enjoying today and using Thursday and Friday to lock in and focus on the game,” Roberts said. “I’m looking forward to playing and to getting this W.”


Grant on the importance of this Bowl

ATLANTA, GA (Dec. 18, 2019) – Five years after the start of the Celebration Bowl, executive director John Grant stood on stage, peacock proud of how far this game has come in such a short time.

“(The best part) has been watching it grow every year and seeing how the athletes grow,” he said. “There is also the residual benefit to other HBCUs because we have been given this national stage.”

On Wednesday, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” aired a segment on the upcoming game. To Grant, that says a lot.

“Today was a bit of a pinnacle,” he shared. “This affirms to us that we are playing with the ‘big boys’.”

This affirmation also means that the fan base of both N.C. A&T and Alcorn, in addition to HBCU supporters and college football supporters, now have a responsibility to keep showing up, whether their team is playing or not.

“That is the question to the Aggies – will you still show up when your team isn’t playing,” he said. “There will be a time when the Aggies won’t be in it and the fans should still come. That’s what champions do.”

Grant says supporting, growing and committing to the Celebration Bowl now means that HBCU students for years to come will be able to sit in the stadiums of the future to see a game that was built upon today.


Coach Jones on Playing and Coaching at the Bowl

ATLANTA, GA (Dec. 18, 2019) – In the inaugural Celebration Bowl, Denzel Jones made quite the impact. The then-middle linebacker finished the game with seven tackles and one interception, earning him the defensive most valuable player honor.

Now, Jones serves as the inside linebackers coach for his alma mater, which means he has the distinction of having both played and coached in the Celebration Bowl.

“It’s a little more relaxed for me as a coach,” he said. “But this is a great experience from opening night all the way through to game day. There’s always something new and that’s what makes it fun.”

As a coach who also played on this stage, Jones offers his players insight on moving beyond the fanfare.

“This has been the goal from day 1. It’s a good experience to be able to keep playing while everyone else is at home watching,” he said. “We keep reminding them that we are trying to break records and continue doing great things.”

Media Contact Information: tsjones@ncat.edu

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