Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

From Underdog to Poke Dawg

South Panola head football coach Lance Pogue said that Kendrick Market was the straw that stirred the Tiger drink. As a high school senior in 2010, Market capped his prep career with his third state championship in four seasons. Market brought his winning ways to Starkville where he has played in three consecutive bowl games. The Bulldogs' leader in the secondary is determined to make his final season in the Maroon and White his best one.

The Bulldogs will kick off their 2015 campaign on the road in Hattiesburg as Mississippi State returns to M.M. Roberts Stadium for the first time since 1989. The second game of a two year contract has stirred up a lot of emotion around the Magnolia State.

Market reports that he and his team are simply ready to get back on the field and show the nation that the 2014 season was more than just a flash in the proverbial pan.

"I feel good about everything," Market said. "I have been in the film room a lot. They are a different team this year. They have a lot of good players. They have a new strength coach, so we know they are going to be stronger and faster than they were last year. It's definitely a different team this year."

South Panola has put several players into the college ranks. While the Tigers remain a band of brothers, there is some good natured ribbing that goes on when certain college teams square off. Market reports that he has heard a lot of "advice" from former Southern Miss player and current South Panola assistant Terrance Pope.

"I have heard from him every single day," Market said with a grin. "He hits me up every now and again to talk trash. He is always telling me how they are going to beat us. It motivates me a lot, because he is a big trash talker. He knows how to talk and he knows how to get into your head."

Not much of a trash talker on the field, Market has led the Bulldog secondary more through deed than word.  Now a fifth year senior, the man they all call Poke Dawg is the true leader of the Bulldog defensive pack.

"I learned a lot from Jay (Hughes)," Market said. "Jay taught me to be more vocal. Jay likes to talk. When I came in, I didn't talk that much. Jay taught me a lot and then I became Poke Dawg back there. 

"We have a lot of veterans back there now, so it's not just me. Everybody is going to help get everybody else lined up. It helps a lot having some guys back there with a lot of experience."

Earlier in the week, Bulldog defensive coordinator Manny Diaz spoke about the emphasis he and his staff have placed on tackling. Market reports that the entire unit has improved in that aspect of their game.

"Our tackling is a whole lot better," Market explained. "We work on tackling every single day. Even in the summer without the pads, we would work on some tackling drills. Everybody is better at tackling.

"I think this year's team is more physical than last year's team. We have a lot more guys that can really tackle and I think that makes us a lot more physical."

Market hopes to continue his playing career after his time in Starkville and the SEC is done. If a professional football opportunity does not materialize, the hard hitting safety plans to use his degree. 

"I am getting my degree in industrial technology," Market said. "I will graduate in December. If football doesn't work out, then I plan to get a job in my field and work with some type of engineering. I will be working with technology and make machines and things like that."

Before Market hangs his cleats up and readies for the workforce, there are some athletic goals he plans to reach this season including going out on a winning note.

"It's important for me to have a good senior season," Market said. "All I have ever really known is winning. I am a champion. I came in here a champion and I want to end up being a champion."

The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles are set for a 9 PM start on FoxSports1, which is available on most cable and satellite TV packages. Mississippi State is currently listed as a 21 point favorite. In last season's season opener between the two teams, Mississippi State won 49-0.

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