Both died last Friday afternoon in a single-vehicle accident en route to watch their mutual alma mater Pascagoula High School. A week later, “Our hearts are still heavy,” University president Dr. Mark Keenum said.
“But we know this father and son made this world a better place.”
With football season reaching a SEC crescendo, the special memorial service was arranged at Humphrey Coliseum. Both caskets were arranged on the court with the lowered scoreboard screen showing photographs of both Josephs.
“Sometimes God brings people in your life as blessings,” said senior Ryan Brown about his younger, fellow defensive end. Brown spoke on behalf of the Bulldog team assembled as a group for the service. Other Bulldog sports teams and staff were in attendance, and the Southeastern Conference Office was also represented.
This is the second time Coach Dan Mullen has had a player pass during his seven seasons at Mississippi State. Joseph’s sudden and tragic departure had the Bulldog coach giving a message to the collected club and for that matter crowd.
“So often you can take people for granted. You don’t notice how they’ve impacted you until they’re gone.”
Mullen tried to joke about a ‘draft day’ in Heaven with both Josephs, each a defensive lineman, playing on the same team. The emotions still showed as the coach’s voice cracked a few times. As a 2015 redshirting freshman Joseph Jr. never got to play for Mississippi State.
He did make an impact at practices though. Mullen said Joseph Jr. could have been scout team player of the week every week for his work preparing the MSU offense each game. “We tried to share it to keep people motivated,” Mullen said. “But everybody knew it.”
Football staff member and former Bulldog quarterback Sleepy Robinson got to talk about Joseph Sr., his teammate from 1989-92. Robinson did lighten-up the mood with tales of Joseph Sr.’s shared off-field adventures.
He also urged that with Joseph Jr. now gone, these Bulldogs should play to win Saturday’s home game with Alabama in their teammate’s memory.
Coach Tony Hughes provided the Scripture reading, from Isaiah 40, and former Bulldog basketball player Tyson Cunningham sang. Defensive line Coach David Turner tried express how great a young man Joseph Jr. had proven to be.
“He got here and everything you heard and everything you wanted to believe about him was true,” Turner said, before quoting Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (KJV)
It was teammate and co-captain Brown who summed up the reality for all involved. “Even if Keith could come back, he probably wouldn’t. Everything he wants is there, in Heaven.”