Alabama A&M teammates Donovan Eaglin and Dre Terry got their first taste of the Magic City Classic earlier this week.
Sure, it pales in comparison to what they will see when they show up at Legion Field on Saturday. But they did represent their team and teammates to get a chance to take part in what was advertised as a press conference but was more of a spectacle.
Alabama A&M head coach Connell Maynor joked that next year's press conference needs a bigger venue because of the standing-room-only crowd.
When it comes to the Magic City Classic, things are done just a little bit bigger for the participating universities.
"You can feel the energy; I'm glad to be part of THE classic," Terry said.
Eaglin said his knowledge of the rivalry began before he stepped on campus.
"When I was getting recruited, they talked about this game a lot," Eaglin said. "Coach Farrier talked about how big it was. He talked to my family about how big it was."
For most involved, the spectacle doesn't end when the football is kicked off on Saturday. For the players, though, the football game is the focus all along.
"We're players, so we're really just focusing on the game and not trying to get caught up in the moment," Eaglin said. "We're here to play a football game. It's a business trip."
Eaglin, a 5-foot-11, 226-pound sophomore transfer from Michigan State, has played a big role in jumpstarting an offense that got very little traction against a difficult early-season schedule. In the first four games, all losses, he had 25 carries for 74 yards with one touchdown. In the past three games, all wins, he had 67 carries for 452 yards with four touchdowns.
He's become one of the offensive engines for the team.
"It was just a process," Eaglin said. "I waited my turn while practicing hard with the team. When I got my chance, I just went out there and did what I have to do for my team."
Eaglin was a three-star recruit out of Manvel High in Texas. He rushed for 1,584 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior, but most of his offers came from FCS teams. He redshirted at Michigan State in 2020 and played in 13 games, primarily on special teams, with all of his running back production – six carries for 33 yards – coming against Youngstown State.
"I was in the portal, they reached out to me, I came down with visits and really enjoyed what they were saying to me and how I could contribute to the team," Eaglin said. "It's a very different feel. Different people, different cultures, different football, everything. I really love that I came here."
Terry, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior, was looking for a place to finish his college career. He played in 15 games over the last two seasons at East Carolina, but a hamstring injury slowed him for most of the 2021 season.
"I always wanted to go to a HBCU," Terry said. "I looked around, and Alabama A&M was the first school to hit me up. As soon as I got in the portal, they called me that night. They kept hitting me up, kept in contact with me. I like that. I like when people show interest in me."
Terry is the leading tackler through seven games for the Bulldogs. He had 44 tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, an interception he returned for 31 yards and a pass breakup. He was selected as the SWAC Defensive Player of the Week after collecting 14 tackles and an interception in a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the Bulldogs' most recent game.
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