Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

DeAndre Ward: One Year Later

At this time last year, Mississippi State junior linebacker DeAndre Ward had just learned that he had been awarded a football scholarship. He talked to Gene's Page about how that one moment has affected not only him but his parents as well.

It has been a little over a year since you were awarded a scholarship to play football at Mississippi State. Now that it has been over a year, you know more about how it affected you and your parents lives. Describe how it did affect all of you financially, especially your parents?
"It has been a big blessing. That is a big burden that is off of my family financially. Now I can go to school and my education is paid for. I also have the opportunity to be one of the first members of my family to have a chance to go to college."

Knowing that you are on scholarship, and no longer a walk-on, how does that affect you mentally as far as playing football for Mississippi State?
 
"It helps a lot. There is no stress. All that I have to do is what I need to do each and everyday to get better. As a walk-on you are always trying to find the next way to improve, the next step that you need to take. Coming in as a walk-on it is like a ladder, everybody starts at the bottom and each and everyday you have to improve. Coming from being a walk-on to being a scholarship player you have reached a new milestone. Now that that milestone is behind me I can now focus on improving and getting on the field in different ways and helping this team."

Do the other walk-ons on this team come to you and ask for advice? 
"Yeah, I feel like a lot of guys look up to me, especially the current walk-ons. As a walk-on, everybody wants to play, everybody wants to be that guy that makes that phone call home and tell their parents that they don't have to worry about the financial part any longer because it has been taken care of. I tell the walk-ons this all the time, one thing that you have control over is your effort. Coach Mullen preaches that to us all the time, effort you can control."

You are going into your fourth year. What are your thoughts about this year's team?
 
"I actually love this team. Considering my history, I feel like I have always been the underdog. And I think this program embraces the title of being the underdog. We work hard each and everyday to show to ourselves and other people that are better. I really feel this team has a lot of potential and will make a lot of things happen."

Even after being number 1 seven straight weeks last year, you are once again considered an underdog. I know you like that your team is considered an underdog but does it bother you even a little bit that you are still aren't receiving much respect? 
"We have no say-so in that. All that we can do is come out and do what the Mississippi State football program does. We have to come out and get better everyday. We know we have control over what happens on the field. What the outside media says has no influence on what we do. We know what we are. And we will prove a lot of people wrong, just like we did last year."

How do you feel like you have improved since last year? 
"I feel like I have improved a lot. Last year I was mainly on special teams. That was my role last year. This year I want to improve my special teams role but also being a better defensive player so that I can help this team win."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@maxxsouth.net.


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