Photo Credit: FAU Atheltics
When Florida Atlantic kicks off against Memphis in the Montgomery Bowl on Wednesday night, the game will have some added sentiment for a select few. For some, the Montgomery Bowl will serve as a homecoming.
Six Owls are from the state of Alabama, those being: Adarius Tolliver, Larry McCammon III, Javion Posey, Zyon Gilbert, Marquice Robinson, Decarius Hawthorne. All six come from different areas but for one Owl in particular, the game will hit a little closer to home. That’s senior safety Zyon Gilbert, who is from Montgomery.
Born in Montgomery, the defensive back played his high school football in the area for Jefferson Davis High School. Gilbert earned All-State honors twice in high school under head coach Lee Carter. Gilbert was also a participant in the Alabama-Mississippi game, held in the Cramton Bowl. That’s the same site as Wednesday’s Montgomery Bowl.
“At first, I was trying to see what websites had us in bowl games and I saw one in Montgomery. I called my family and told them ‘we might be playing a bowl game back home…,”Gilbert explained to reporters. “My mom actually said we were going to play there and I told her, ‘Nah, we ain’t going to play there’. As soon as I called her and told her [where we were playing], she told me ‘I told you so.'”
Although the attendance for the game is limited, the expectation among head coach Willie Taggart and the other Alabama-born players is that Gilbert – the lone FAU player from Montgomery – will have the most family members and friends in the stands.
“I asked all of the guys, ‘which one of you guys are going to have the most [people]?'” Taggart said. “They all pointed to Zyon.”
Gilbert, however, won’t be without some competition. Offensive lineman Marquice Robinson was born in Decatur, located roughly 175 miles away. Like Gilbert, Robinson expects to have a lot of family sitting in the stands.
“I got 20 tickets right now. I got him beat,” Robinson said. “He’s probably not aware about it, but I’m in competition though.”
Potential Pro Owls
In the case of Gilbert, the Montgomery Bowl may be his final game with the Owls. Like every senior on FAU’s roster, Gilbert faces a tough decision.
With NCAA rules allowing seniors to gain an extra year of eligibility, Gilbert can choose to either enter the NFL Draft or play one final season. In his final meeting with reporters before the Montgomery Bowl, Taggart said that Gilbert and Leighton McCarthy would test their NFL Draft stock before making a decision.
Gilbert, however, told reporters that no decision has been made yet.
“There haven’t been any discussions about whether or not I was going to leave,” Gilbert told reporters. “Only thing we’re going to be talking about is trying to get this [win].”
Montgomery Bowl Quick Stats/Facts
• McCarthy was FAU’s lone representative on the All-Conference teams. On Monday, McCarthy was voted to the All-Conference USA second team. The senior linebacker finished the regular season with nine sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He led Conference USA in both categories.
• Memphis’s passing offense has been electric and efficient all season. Quarterback Brady White is one of the best Group of 5 quarterbacks, totaling 3,096 yards and 28 touchdowns through the air.
• The Tigers’ defensive backs force turnovers like no other. Quindell Johnson and Rodney Owens both have three interceptions. Jacobi Francis has two interceptions. Johnson also has two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, which leads the team.
• The history between Memphis and FAU is thin. The two sides have met once before — in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl. Led by Rusty Smith’s five passing touchdowns, the Owls took home a 44-27 win to capture their first bowl victory.
• Much like in the regular season finale against Southern Mississippi, two quarterbacks should play for FAU. Although the starter for the Montgomery Bowl is unknown, both Javion Posey and Nick Tronti received snaps against the Eagles.