When the football season started this fall, Nassau CC coach Jamel Ramsay asked his players what they wanted to accomplish. The answer was simple; get to a bowl game and win.
The Lions are halfway there.
Nassau CC will take on Northland Community and Technical College in the third Red Grange Bowl at the College of DuPage, just outside of Chicago, at 2 p.m. on Saturday. It’s the first bowl appearance for the Lions since 2014, and the first under Ramsay, an accomplishment the second-year coach said his team is determined not to waste.
“We knew [at the end of the regular season] we had a chance of possibly getting invited,” Ramsay said. “When we got that phone call, it was really satisfying and the guys are excited.”
The Lions wrapped up the regular season with back-to-back victories, including a 28-7 triumph over Erie CC on Nov. 11, and Ramsay said the team is hoping to ride that wave of recent success, bolstered by a balanced offense that includes some of the most potent scorers in the country.
Jalen Hood’s nine receiving touchdowns ranked ninth nationally among junior college players this season, and his 67.7 receiving yards per game were 24th in the country. Running back Jeremiah Nelson ranked 10th nationally in scoring, rushing for eight touchdowns and hauling in another four touchdown receptions.
On average, Nassau CC rushed for 173.3 yards per game and threw for 169.9 yards.
“You can see the balance,” Ramsay said. “Our guys want to be part of every facet of the game. We all work with one another.”
Nassau CC has focused on fine-tuning its game plan the last two weeks, although Ramsay said the team doesn’t plan on doing anything too out of the ordinary. This is a group that posted a 7-3 record in the regular season and the Lions want to set the tone of the game from their first possession.
“We’re prepared to play,” Ramsay said. “But we don’t want to treat it like a Super Bowl. We want to treat it like a regular Saturday game, stay in the moment and do what we’ve been doing all season.”
Nassau CC fully expects to walk off the field with a victory, but Ramsay was quick to add that this game is also about more than just the final score.
The Red Grange Bowl is the NJCAA’s only non-scholarship bowl, meaning none of the players competing receive any sort of financial aid, and the Lions are proud to shine a spotlight on student-athletes who embody the word. The team also spent time with underprivileged children in the Chicago area as part of the game’s charity initiative.
It’s been an eye-opening experience for the Lions and one they’re thrilled to have, particularly when it means there’s one more game on the schedule and an opportunity to cross off that very last preseason goal.
“They’ve completely bought into the culture of our program,” Ramsay said. “It’s been very exciting to see.”