Mullen Making Good on Recruiting Promises

When Dan Mullen was hired as the head football coach at Mississippi State, he made a commitment to the players in the state of Mississippi. Mullen took the opportunity to reach out to those who would someday be Bulldogs during his first public appearance as the Top Dawg. The first time head coach essentially promised that those who came to Mississippi State would compete for championships.

Championships? At Mississippi State?


Mullen certainly had his detractors. The early talk was that the young and sometimes brash offensive coordinator from Florida wouldn't win in Starkville.

Mullen was supposedly riding the coat tails of Coach Urban Meyer who won big at both Bowling Green and Utah before winning a pair of BCS National Titles in Gainesville.

If he did win, he would leave Mississippi State for a program with a bigger reputation, a bigger budget and a bigger paycheck.

Six years later, Mullen has made good on his promises to compete for championships.

He has the bigger office, the bigger paycheck and now he's building the Bulldog reputation.

Riding the strength of four straight winning seasons, four bowl berths including a pair on New Year's Day and a roster full of blue collar types mixed in with a few blue chips, Mullen has Mississippi State ranked #1 Nationally and in position to win a SEC title as well as berth in the first ever FBS college football playoffs.

The formula seemed simple enough.

Identify the top players in the Magnolia State, sell them on the value of hard work and the dream of doing something no other players had ever done before in Starkville.

The 2009 signing class, Mullen's first, produced Jim Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks, now of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles 1st rounder Fletcher Cox, Detroit Lions' rising star Darius Slay, Baltimore Raven Pernell McPhee, Oakland Raiders' left guard Gabe Jackson, Cameron Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers' defensive tackle Josh Boyd, New England linebackers Chris White and Deontae Skinner as well as school passing and catching record holders Tyler Russell and Chad Bumphis and finally Cincinnati Reds' speed merchant Billy Hamilton.

The big connection with them all?

All products of a Mississippi High School or junior college.

Many in the group were initially attracted to Starkville by the culture and values in place by then head football coach Sylvester Croom and his staff.

They elected to stick together and see things through with Dan Mullen and his big talk of bowl games, college degrees and becoming a real man.

The kind of man who could use his talents to learn the skills needed on and off of the football field to support his family and change his family tree forever.

In addition to improving their own quality of life, they changed the trajectory of Mississippi State football.

The 2009 Bulldog class bought into a promise from a coach they barely knew and laid the foundation for the next group of Bulldogs who would become the #1 team in all of college football.

They worked their way through their own challenges and built a family atmosphere that attracted more like minded prospects who valued hard work over the quick reward.

It has been over six years since Dan Mullen stepped to the podium to lay out a vision for Mississippi State football.

Earlier today, Mullen reflected back on promises made, dreams fulfilled and potential realized.

Despite the Bulldogs' success this season, Mullen continues to preach the same values he did on day one.

"We tell guys that if you want to work hard to be the best you can be, then this is the place for you," said Mullen. "Those are the kinds of guys we're looking for.

The Mississippi State staff prides itself on being a developmental program where players who are willing to work can accomplish some big things.

As the SEC's lone remaining unbeaten team, it is clear that Mullen's approach to recruiting and player development is working.

The 2015 signing class is ranked in the top ten, but there are still some pending decisions by both prospects and Bulldog coaches that will have an impact on the final signing day impression.

The Bulldogs have shown that lightly recruited players such as "two star" talents Jameon Lewis, Preston Smith, Dillon Day, Benardrick McKinney and others can outpace their more highly regarded high school peers with a strong dose of grit and gym time.

In the end, the true measure of a recruiting class is how many games they win rather than how many stars end up next to their name.

Mullen now has a track record to sell of his own without Alex Smith, without Urban Meyer and even Tim Tebow.

He has a Bulldog pedigree of the "1st" order.

The first group trusted in a promise. The new group will trust in the evidence.

"I think now guys can see that the proof is in the pudding through the years," said Mullen. "When we first got here, we told guys that we're going to push you and we're going to develop you.

"The next group of guys got to see all of those guys before them have the chance to go on and play in the NFL.

"They got to see those guys go and graduate.

"They saw other guys being successful."

They also saw those same group of guys leave the program and the Mississippi State record books in much different shape than they found them.

Redshirt seniors Tyler Russell, Gabe Jackson, LaDarius Perkins, Deonte Skinner and Nickoe Whitely got to see the Golden Egg trophy every day in four of their five years on campus. They were also the first class in Bulldog history to play in four bowl games.

"As we continued to win, we knew the program was going to be in a position to compete for championships," said Mullen. "That's here now too.

"I think guys see now that this is not just a place where I can go and work hard and be developed for my personal future, but I can be part of a program to compete for championships."

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