Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
What’s in a name?
Ask Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical (AAMU) quarterback Aqeel Glass, who went through every school year with at least one teacher often telling him he was misspelling his personal designation. They thought this first name was missing a “u.”
“Every year, you get a new teacher, and some way you’ve got to correct them to stop that,” he said. “That’s something I got used to: speaking up to make sure they understand what my name is.”
Nowadays, Glass has made a name for himself as an award-winning signal-caller for the Bulldogs. You’ll find his name mentioned as a candidate for a wide-range of college football awards.
The 2021 fall campaign began the same way the spring season did, with Glass being named the preseason Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Player of the Year and earning spot on watch lists for the Deacon Jones Award, the Black College Football Player of the Year, the Walter Payton Award, and watch lists for both the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl and the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA).
Glass was the Offensive MVP for the spring 2021 Magic City Classic, throwing for 372 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 victory—and he will be a key name if the Bulldogs are to down Alabama State University (ASU) at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 30, in the 80th McDonald’s Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola at Legion Field.
The Classic is always an intense rivalry for both teams, Glass said: “No matter what the record is for anybody, no matter what the standings are in the SWAC, each team is going to bring out its A game.”
“It means a little more not only for the fans but for the teams, the coaches, alumni, for everybody,” he added. “It’s kind of a bragging rights game.”
After not playing in the Classic as a freshman, Glass threw for 322 yards and a touchdown in a 27-10 AAMU victory in his sophomore season of 2018. The following season, he had 236 yards, two TDs, and an interception in the Bulldogs’ 43-41 triple-overtime win.
Glass is coming off of a season where he was named BOXTOROW National Player of the Year, as well as SWAC Player of the Year and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, Heisman Trophy for schools in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). This year, he’s been added to the Senior Bowl Watch List, which means some NFL teams have interest and Glass’ name could be called during the draft, or he could sign to a free agent contract.
Some believe Glass has a chance to make the pros including Carl “Lut” Williams, who has made a living chronicling football among historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). He is the publisher and editor of The Black College Sports Page.
“Based on his size and based on his production, I think he’ll get a shot,” Williams said. “Not having done any kind of in-depth study right now, I would say he’s a long shot to get drafted early. He may get drafted late.”
Glass said, “I know it’s kind of cliche to say, but I’ve always wanted to be an NFL player—since [my childhood] when my dad coached peewee [football] and I would go to practice with him up until the days when I actually got to practice along with them. Through watching NFL and college games and having guys around me that were in the sport, I’ve always wanted to be a professional football player.”
Glass grew up admiring Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, two of the game’s great quarterbacks. That was a position he always wanted to play, but youth league weight limits didn’t let him take snaps until later in his peewee play. Because he couldn’t play quarterback, he settled on tight end and defensive end.
“One of my favorite tight ends was Jeremy Shockey for the [New York] Giants back in 2006, 2007. Besides then, it’s always been quarterback for me,” he said.
AAMU offensive coordinator Duane Taylor is among those who believe there’s a chance Glass that will not only get a shot but could, like Manning and Brady, fulfill the dream of playing quarterback in the NFL.
“He’s very cerebral, a very smart quarterback, very even-keeled,” Taylor said. “He’s 6-4½ and 225. He’s gonna stand in there with people all around his legs, grabbing at his arm, and he’s still going to make the throw. He gets us in and out of bad situations [and] puts us in better situations.”
Taking Care of Business
Whether or not he makes the pros, Glass will have something on which he can fall back. He earned an undergraduate degree in civil engineering this spring and is now working on a graduate degree in systems and material engineering.
“Lord willing, I won’t have to use [my degrees] in the immediate future,” he said, hoping he first has a stint as a professional quarterback. “I’ve always had a plan in place for [off-field endeavors]. I’ve always wanted to open my own engineering firm and do things of that nature. After football, I think that’s probably my plan with my degree.”
A typical day for Glass begins with practice at 5:30 a.m. and team meetings around lunchtime. As a graduate student, his classes—all online—are later in the day, and he has to be present via Zoom for two of the three. Then he does his school homework and watches game film.
The St. Louis, Missouri, native enjoys shopping at local thrift stores, cooking, and “just hanging out” watching football. For him, it’s as much for education as it is for enjoyment.
Not only has Glass made a name for himself, but he also has created a logo with a side business venture: his signature AG4 logo T-shirts, which incorporate his initials and his jersey number, were designed in 2019 and can be found on his website, www.aqeelglass.com.
“It was just something I came up with, just messing around one day,” he said. “I was just doodling and came up with it, and it stuck ever since. Then with the [Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL)] stuff going through, I was able to capitalize off that with my T-shirt.”
The NIL allows athletes to better make money from their image or name, though Glass knows he won’t make the kind of money athletes at big-name schools command. Besides, he said, he doesn’t want to detract from football.
“I wanted to do T-shirts and then whatever else came, it would come,” he said. “I haven’t really been trying to force it too much.”
Wise and Intelligent
Demetrius and Wendi Glass did not raise their son with the idea of him being a pro football player. His first name means wise and intelligent. His siblings—sister Aa’ishah and brother Aleem—were also given names to set them on a productive path.
“The goal and vision were always to instill and raise quality, productive citizens that would replicate excellence in society,” Demetrius Glass said. “We wanted to create quality, wise, intelligent people that would have a productive and positive place in society going forward.”
The elder Glass played football at Sumner High School on the north side of St. Louis. He aspired to play collegiately at AAMU but didn’t make the team.
As an adult, he decided to coach youth football in St. Louis in the Junior Football League (JFL) to “give back” to his community. As it turned out, he gave his son a love of the game. The son wanted to join his father at football practices and did so as soon as he was “potty trained.”
“As soon as he could go to bathroom by himself, he’d go to the [Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club in St. Louis] with me,” the father said. “He would always want to go to the park every time, saying, ‘I want to go with Daddy.’
“At about 5 or 6, he would tag along to the park with me. Then he started working out and running around. He’s been around the game ever since and has developed a passion and love for it.”
Aqeel was 9 years old when he told his father that he was better than the quarterback who had just won their youth league championship. When Aqeel turned 10, Demetrius and other youth coaches taught him a “dumbed-down Texas Tech offense.”
“At this time, Texas Tech was the hottest college offense in the nation,” the father recalled of the Red Raiders of the early 2000s. “We taught this kid at 9 and 10, [and] he perfected it at 10. From basically 10 on, this kid has called his own game, running the quarterback position.”
“Made Everybody Better”
Carl Reed was Aqeel’s head coach at Lutheran North High School in St. Louis.
“We got there together at the same time [Glass’ junior year of 2015–2016] and kind of jump-started that program together,” recalled Reed, now the coach at De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis.
“He was an incredible high school quarterback. He could make all the throws. He made everybody better,” the coach said of the prep signal-caller. “He simplified the game for everybody. He was able to process the bigger picture, and guys were able to fit into roles without having to think too much. That’s when you make your teammates better, you typically do it in that way. [His fellow players could] really just lock in on what they had to do because he was going to handle everything else.”
Even though Glass’ best high school season produced a district championship, he wasn’t a top-flight recruit.
“I was a three-star guy, kind of a middle-of-the-pack recruit,” the AAMU quarterback said. “I had some interest from bigger schools, but some things didn’t pan out. I originally committed to Florida International [University] the summer going into my senior year. Then a coach change happened, and [AAMU] made me an offer and gave me an opportunity to get on the field as early as possible.”
Glass split time under center as a freshman under head coach James Spady. Current head coach Connell Maynor replaced Spady following that season and Glass thrived, which leads to the one game HBCU fans in Alabama circle on their calendars every year.
“You get to hold the trophy for the next 365 days, until the next [Magic City Classic],” Glass said. “It’s always a great atmosphere. It’s always a great game to be in. It’s always exciting.”