Source: George Schroeder / USA Today
GRAMBLING, La. — Standing in a motel parking lot Sunday evening, Naquan Smith wasn’t ready to talk. He and several teammates had just finished a meeting with their former coach and several other men — Grambling alumni and assorted friends of the program — in hopes of determining their next step, and potentially ending the turmoil that escalated last week to a boycott of the Tigers’ game at Jackson State.
In the early evening darkness, Smith told USA TODAY Sports a decision had been reached, and he hinted strongly, “We’re going in a different direction.”
“Everybody on the team wanted to play,” Smith said at a news conference Monday afternoon. With about 80 teammates as a backdrop, the senior defensive back from Atlanta stood in front of the Eddie Robinson Museum on campus. He read a statement that had been released a few hours earlier and said the players voted unanimously to end the boycott. Then the Tigers piled into cars and headed to Robinson Stadium, where they practiced for the first time since last Tuesday.
The trip to the other side of campus took less than five minutes. The journey to boycott and back was a lot longer. Among other things, it took a nudge from former head coach Doug Williams — who was fired last month, and who told the players Sunday, according to Smith: “Go out and play football.”
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