MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Austin Peay and Central Arkansas will face off Saturday at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery to play in the first ever college football game in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic.
FCS Kickoff game happening in Montgomery at the Cramton Bowl tomorrow at 8 p.m. ! Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas. This is the first ever college game during COVID-19. Details at 10 on what the game will look like and what precautions are being taken. @wsfa12news pic.twitter.com/AmMwBrXNBs
But before Austin Peay arrived in the capitol city from Clarksville, Tennessee, the team made a pit stop in the historic city of Selma to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Players and coaches said they wanted to see history in person.
“We’re all about learning and teaching,” said Gerald Harrison, director of athletics for Austin Peay. “You know most of them, they’ve seen all the coverage of the Lewis funeral, but now you can kind of feel it a little bit more and learn just a little bit more just by actually being here in Selma.”
The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma is historically known as the bridge that Rep. John Lewis and other demonstrators marched across in a fight for equal voting rights in 1965. A peaceful march that became historically known as “Bloody Sunday” after demonstrators were brutally beat by Alabama state troopers.
The trip from Tennessee to Alabama was meant to be more than just a game for the team.
“We’ve got to teach our young men the history so they understand what happened before them,” said Interim head football coach Marquase Lovings. “And this is something where you don’t get a textbook right? You can actually go to a real life situation and understand what happened in life and learn from it and if we learn from it today maybe it won’t happen in the future.”
“It’s just such an emotional time,” Harrison said. “And to see those young men walk across that bridge, thinking about what you learn and study in history books and actually get to see our kids duplicate that, it’s going to be emotional.”
The players said they were not only excited for the big game but honored to be a part of an experience with their teammates off the field they will never forget.
“It is a great experience for us all,” said Baniko Harley, Austin Peay wide receiver. “Remembering the legacy of John Lewis and Dr. King and the others that came before us.”
“They’ve paved the way, they’ve walked their mile,” Harley went on to say. “And seeing what’s going on in today’s society with the pandemic and the injustices and all, as a country we have to come together and work as one.”
Not only did the team walk across the bridge, but also they took the same historic bus trip home to Montgomery that the voting right marchers did in 1965.
Ashley Bowerman is a general assignment reporter for WSFA 12 News. She joined the team in February 2020.
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