By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO,

National respect for the Bowie State football program has been a long time coming, but it has finally arrived.  The defending CIAA champions, who won their first postseason game ever last season, find themselves ranked in the top 25 nationally heading toward the kickoff of the 2019 season.

Bowie State University (BSU) is ranked 25th amongst the nation’s Top 30 Division II programs by College Football America. 

The Bulldogs find themselves under the national microscope after their most successful season in school history. The Bulldogs finished last season with a 10-3 overall record, 6-1 in league play and captured Bowie State’s first-ever CIAA crown in 2018. 

Bowie State was ranked No. 25 amongst the nation’s Top 30 Division II programs by College Football America. (Courtesy Photo)

Coach Damon Wilson and his staff are excited about the start of camp and look forward to the upcoming season. The returnees, transfers and incoming freshmen report to campus on August 15.  

Wilson has been serving as an intern this summer with the New York Jets as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship program. The Walsh Fellowship is an annual program operated by the NFL’s Management Council and NFL Player Engagement.

“I look forward to the opportunity of working alongside some of the best coaches in the country as I continue to sharpen my skills to continue to prepare our student athletes,” Wilson said in a statement released by the university’s sports information department after earning the fellowship. “I believe opportunities like this is a win for all parties involved and I look forward to being able to implement some of the things that I will learn from Coach Gase and his staff.” 

The program’s objective is to use NFL training camps and offseason workout programs to give talented minority coaches opportunities to observe, participate and gain experience that may ultimately help them gain a full-time NFL coaching position.

“Another positive in an internship like this is establishing relationships and confirming that as a college coach you can justify what the NFL teams are looking for from our college student-athletes,” said Wilson.

Bowie State University opens preseason practice for the 2019 season on Friday, August 16 in Bulldogs Stadium in preparation for the regular season opener September 7 at American International College in Springfield, Mass. 

Wilson will be forced to put what he learned with the Jets staff to use immediately as the Bulldogs try to fortify a team that moves ahead without the greatest player in the history of the program.  BSU’s biggest void to fill will be find a replacement for two time HBCU Player of the Year Amir Hall who graduated after rewriting the school’s all time records.

After being a veteran team for the last two years this year’s they will rely heavily on a group of  understudies who will finally get their chance to contribute.