Rod Broadway, head coach of the NC A&T University Aggies football team, has plenty to be proud of, what with his guys going 9-2 during the regular season, earning a bid to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Tournament and personally receiving another nomination for the Eddie Robinson Award for coach of the year.
But he doesn’t care about accolades.
“You know, that stuff, I have… I don’t pay a lot of attention to that stuff,” Broadway said in an interview. “All that stuff’s just politics.”
All he’s interested in is coaching.
Broadway, a native of Oakboro in the southern Piedmont, got into football in his early teens.
“It was just something everybody was doing at the time,” Broadway said.
But, perhaps unlike many of his peers, he wanted to be a coach practically from the outset.
“Ever since I was in the sixth grade, I wanted to be a coach,” Broadway said. “I just had a couple coaches when I was younger that I looked up to and really admired. I went to college and played, and I really enjoyed that experience, but I just wanted to be a football coach.”
Broadway played as a defensive lineman for the UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Heels from 1974 until 1977, participating in the Heels’ close games against Mississippi State University in the ’74 Sun Bowl and the University of Nebraska in the ’77 Liberty Bowl. He performed admirably, receiving All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in his senior season.
“I learned a million things at Carolina,” Broadway said. “The importance of time management, teamwork, hard work, dedication — all those things that come along with being in football.”
After graduating in 1977, Broadway embarked on his dream career of coaching football. Over the next three decades, he coached defensive lines at East Carolina University, Duke University, the University of Florida and his alma mater, Chapel Hill.
His favorite tenure was his time at Florida under the winningest head coach of that program’s history, the legendary Steve Spurrier.
Broadway said he enjoyed “the lifestyle and sunshine… and of course, we won the national championship [in 1996].”
In 2003, NC Central University offered Broadway the opportunity to fulfill his lifelong ambition: The Eagles wanted him as their head coach. He accepted the offer.
While he’d always hoped to be a head coach, Broadway characterized the transition from assisting to leading as “a rude awakening.”
“I’d been an assistant at Division I for 24 years, and I could run a program, a successful program,” Broadway said. “But the job at NCCU was an eye-opening experience for me. When you move down like that and the resources aren’t there, it was a challenge there for a long time. I was overwhelmed; even though I had those 24 years of experience, I had zero years of head coaching.
“I don’t know if there’s any preparation for being a head coach,” Broadway continued. “It’s a completely different ballgame from being an assistant coach.”
But he kept up with it.
After the 2005-06 season, Broadway left NCCU for Grambling State University in Louisiana, then arrived at A&T in 2011.
“I left Grambling for two reasons,” Broadway said. “I wanted to get closer to my family, and I felt strongly about the direction the program was going.”
Considering the Aggies’ fortunes when Broadway took the helm, one could argue Broadway enjoys challenges.
“It was a program that had had nine years of really bad football, two and a half years without winning a game,” Broadway said. “But with great risk comes great reward, so I just wanted to get back home and see if I could help turn this thing around.”
Coach Broadway sure did. He turned A&T from one of the worst programs in the nation to one of the best in HBCU football.
“You gotta put a little spice into offense, defense and kicking game,” Broadway said.
But he’d never take full credit.
“When you build a program and you have success, it just means you just got a good team,” Broadway said. “And I mean from administration to the academic life. Everybody’s done their part. And our guys are finishing school now, they’re doing the right thing, and of course we’re winning. So it’s been a transformation from top to bottom with the help of a lot of good people.”
No matter how well the Aggies have done in the Broadway era or how they did in the regular season, no one can doubt their loss in the first round of the tournament against the University of Richmond Spiders proved disappointing. Broadway sugarcoated nothing about the drop.
“Defensively, we were awful,” Broadway said. “Offensively, we were just as bad. We made too many mistakes against a good football team. So we gotta go back to work and tape some things up before we head into next season.”
Broadway doesn’t care about laurels; he just wants to coach a great team.
“My reward comes from watching our players do well, watching Tarik [Cohen] become the all-time leading rusher in MEAC, seeing [defensive lineman Marquis] Ragland become an all-conference player,” Broadway said. “It’s not about me; it’s about these guys and ensuring their success. That’s where I get my joy from.”