VUU Panthers to kick off 2022-23 football season on a Thursday night

Fred Jeter | 5/12/2022, 6 p.m.
Virginia Union University is doing something a little unusual for the upcoming football season.
Aajon Johnson

Virginia Union University is doing something a little unusual for the upcoming football season.

Instead of opening on a traditional Saturday, as they have for a century or more, the Panthers will start on Thursday, Sept. 1, against invading Virginia University of Lynchburg.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Hovey Stadium on the VUU campus.

The game will serve as the annual Willard Bailey Classic, honoring Hall of Fame Coach Willard Bailey, who served as VUU coach from 1971 to 1983, and then again from 1995 to 2003.

Coach Alvin Parker’s Panthers were 6-4 overall last season and 5-2 in the CIAA. The team finished second in the CIAA Northern Division to Bowie State University.

There is a vacancy at VUU’s quarterback position. Last season’s regulars, graduate students Khalid Morris and E’mond Caldwell, have moved on.

A newcomer to watch is Aajon Johnson, a transfer from Foothill College, a public community college, in Los Altos Hills, Calif. A native of Atherton, Calif., he should have at least two seasons of eligibility for VUU.

“We have been recruiting the Cal JUCO system for a while now,” said VUU Coach Alvin Parker. “We have made some great relationships out West.”

Johnson enrolled at VUU in January and was one of four quarterbacks who took snaps during the Panthers’ spring

game. All had their moments. “We will have a battle going into fall camp,” Coach Parker added.

In just seven games at Foothill, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Johnson completed 85 of 153 passes for 1,449 yards, with 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Whoever VUU’s next quarterback is, he will have formidable weapons. Returning are CIAA Freshman of the Year Jada Byers and All-CIAA receiver Charles Hall.

Byers rushed for 978 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Among the nation’s top deep threats, Hall made 33 receptions for 813 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 24.6 yards per catch.

Virginia University of Lynchburg, an HBCU affiliate of the National Christian Colleges Athletic Association, has announced a challenging 10-game football schedule with all 10 on the road.

Following its trip to Richmond on Sept. 1 to play the Panthers, the VUL Dragons will travel to Presbyterian College in South Carolina; Delaware State University; North Carolina Central University; Morgan State University in Maryland; Savannah State University in Georgia; South Carolina State University; Southern University in Louisiana; Webber International University in Florida; and The Citadel in South Carolina.