Jamaal Clayborn signed with Mississippi State over an offer from Southern Miss. The Jackson Academy product fought for four years to help the Bulldog program earn a post season bowl in each year of his college career.
"It's awesome," Clayborn said of extending a school record seven straight bowl game streak. "I haven't put too much thought into all of that. We have been working hard and trying to get ready to get a win."
While the Bulldogs earned a bowl berth in a pretty unorthodox manner, the bottom line is Mississippi State has one more game to play. Before Coach Dan Mullen's team Academic Progress Report scores would even matter in the selection process, Bulldogs would have to knock off arch-rival Ole Miss on the road in Oxford.
"The bowl game is really a bonus. It's the whipped cream and cherry on top," Clayborn said. "Getting the Egg Bowl trophy back was the dessert and sometimes the dinner. We're just adding toppings to the dessert now."
Clayborn has been a part of four bowl teams, a squad that went to #1` in the country and the first program in FBS history to be ranked #1 in the official playoff poll. Looking back on all of those accomplishments will simply have to wait. The Bulldog seniors hope to add one more win to their legacy and another bowl trophy to the Seal Complex trophy case.
"Getting a win is critical," Clayborn said. "One of the statistics that I saw was that we were like 300 yards away from the all-time record for rushing yards in a season. That's kind of been in the back of mind, that our senior O line could push forward to chase that record. That just tells you that we had to get that running game going by constantly going at it and working to get better.
"Now that we're clicking, we're planning to do big things in the bowl game."
With bowl practices transitioning into more bowl game prep, Clayborn and the team are beginning to get a feel on what they will be facing from Miami of Ohio come December 26th.
"We've seen some glimpses and cuts of them," Clayborn said. "They don't look real complex on defense. We're just trying to get ready. We've been in the development phase for the guys that are going to be back next year. The older guys have been brushing up on technique.
"I have been going some at guard, so I can get ready for different things after here."
As part of the changing of the guard or center in this case, Clayborn gave way to potential replacements during the early days of bowl preparations. Clayborn himself began to learn the nuances of that position during practice sessions for the Orange Bowl two years ago. While Clayborn is doing more teaching than snapping, he reports that those bowl practice reps helped prepare to compete for the starting position the following season.
"I really started getting the hang of it by spring," Clayborn said. "I think I had one bad snap in the spring game. It was just an on going process. The biggest thing is to have confidence in what you're doing. Everything will come. Rome wasn't built in a day."
Clayborn has earned his college degree, become engaged to be married and gone head to head with some of the best players in all of college football during his time at Mississippi State. Looking back, Clayborn is most proud of proving himself in America's toughest football league.
"I believe coming in that there were a lot of people that didn't think I could play here," Clayborn said. "There were probably even some people who thought I wouldn't even get a scholarship here. I was the lowest rated guy in my class and now look at how it turned out.
"I think the biggest thing is that if you believe in hard work, believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself, that the sky really is the limit of what you can do."
Mississippi State and Miami of Ohio will square off in the St. Petersburg Bowl on December 26th. The Bulldogs are a double digit favorite in the ball game, but the Red Hawks enter the contest on a six game winning streak.