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Jake Gaither© More from this issue
For 25 years, Alonzo "Jake" Gaither was Florida A&M football. The juggernaut he developed in Tallahassee was every bit the equal of the powerhouse that Eddie Robinson built at Grambling. Coach Gaither, who called every player "Baby", won an astonishing 85% of his games (203-36-4), and more importantly made men out of the young boys who showed up at FAMU. Current Florida A&M athletic director Ken Riley, who starred at QB for Gaither in the mid-sixties, says proudly, "I lied to Coach once and he let me off the hook with my dignity intact. I am what I am today because Coach let me out of that situation feeling like I had let him down, but I was still his man." Countless others owe their current blessings to Gaither, who passed away in 1994, but is still fondly remembered by his legendary homespun insights and great thoughts."
I made it a habit to never leave the field with a boy feeling that I was mad at him. Before he left the field, I'd pat him on the shoulder and say, ‘Don't think I got anything against you. I'm chewing you out for your own good. You're still my boy.'"
"I want my boys to be agile, mobile and hostile."
"Excuses are no good. Your friends don't need them and your enemies won't believe them. So why make them?"
"Í don't like good-natured football players. We don't want anybody running over others and apologizing. Mow him down, then stand over him and yell, ‘I'll eat you up.' Make him wish he had never been born."
"I love America. Oh, they tell me my home is in Africa. But I want to tell you one thing: I'm not a bit homesick."
"I didn't cut a half-dozen boys the whole time I was coaching. We would make pre-season training so tough that they'd quit themselves."
"It's bad coaching to blame your boys for losing a ball game, even if it's true."
"I got enough sense to know that his long hair has nothing to do with a boy's blocking or tackling. But if I can get him to cut his hair or shave his beard off when he doesn't want to cut it, he's giving himself to me. He can give his heart to the Heart Fund folks, but give me his butt. Then I can make him come to practice on time because he has surrendered to me. He believes in me."
"I just organize. Just give me credit for selecting good assistants."
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