Several players have mentioned to me that you are one of the leaders on the team. Are you trying to be more of a leader this year?
"Yeah, I'm trying to become more of a (leader) on and off the field. I want the other guys to know it counts not only on the field but in the classroom as well. When I come (in the weightroom) I work hard. I joke around with the guys but when it comes time to work, I am going to work. I think by me doing the right thing, others will follow because I have been here for four years."
Jason, while listening to your answer and watching you as you spoke, I get the impression that you have really matured since you first got here. Have you seen that in yourself?
"I see it everyday. Back in high school and my freshman year (in college), I was probably the wildest thing you could ever see. A few incidents, such as hurting my back one year and almost not being eligible for one year, that makes you open your eyes and realize you have a great opportunity here."
What was the turning point in your life that made you into the person you are today?
"I would say the Troy State game my sophomore year when I hurt my back. I had never hurt my back before. I had back spasms and I couldn't walk for about three weeks. It was a nagging pain. I thought that was the end of my career because I had never had a pain like that before. I thought that I was at the end of the line. So, I took it upon myself to go to class everyday, to do the best I could in my books. When I was able to come back, I still couldn't play that much but I got to play on special teams a few times. I couldn't get my lateral movement back, so I stayed on the special teams running straight forward. I then worked my way back into it. The coaches stayed with me. They never had a negative thought about me."
We talked about you being a leader. Do you try to be more of a vocal leader or a leader by action or both?
"I try to be more of an action leader than a vocal leader. I talk to the guys, but I feel like I have to show them as well. I feel I can show you better than I can tell you."
You were a defensive end last year. This year, you have been moved to the new position, drop linebacker. Do you feel it is prefect for your skills?
"I think the position is going to fit me well. The coaches feel I have great speed and movement to play the position. Last year, I was playing defensive end. I just wanted to get on the field and I told Coach Dunn that and he got me on the field. I went out there and played the best that I could. When they came and told me they wanted me to play (drop linebacker), I was kind of wondering about it at first because I had to move out wide like a DB. But, when I got in the groove, I felt it was going to be a really nice position for me."
Clarence McDougal is your backup. You mentioned some things you have been through. He's also been through a lot the last two years. After watching him in the spring, it looks like he will be a great backup for you.
"He is going to be very good. I told C-Mac before the spring that whatever he needed to learn, whatever he needed to know, just ask me because I will be here for you. I told him that he has three more years here and that he would be a great athlete here. Every since then, I think that has put the pep back in his step. He asked me questions, I answered them and he seems to have listened. I really think he is going to be a great player when it is all said and done."
Do you remember how you did on (NFL) Scout Day this past spring?
"I weighed in at 240 and was 6-1.75 and ran a 4.68 in the forty. That's all we did."
Were the scouts able to talk to you?
"We did a Wizard test, but as far as the basic stuff such as going to the league and where we stood, they didn't talk about that."
What are you hopes for this year's team, team-wise and individually?
"First, I put my team first. I want this team to get back to winning. If we can go undefeated, that would be great, but I just want to get this program turned around so that the young guys can take it over and go from there. Individually, I just want to come out with a good season."
Has playing at State been what you hoped for?
"It has been everything that I hoped. When I got here, I wanted to redshirt but it didn't work out. Like my mom said, everything happens for a reason."
You were here in 2002 when MSU was playing well. Are you like me where you see a lot of great young talent that can get this program back to the 1997 to 2000 years?
"We have some tremendous talent. We have some all-world guys. I don't know what the problem was (in 2001 and 2002), but the talent level on this team will put us among the best in the nation. We probably have more talent on this team than the 2000 squad had. It's just young talent. They will get better as time goes on. We seniors, including Tommy Kelly, Kevin (Fant) and JJ (Justin Jenkins), just have to show good actions to help carry them along."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.