Why did you decide to retire?
"This is something that my wife and I have been talking about for the last couple of years. Now that we have three children - our youngest is three and our oldest is eight - we have been talking about it for awhile. The hardest part of coaching for me is the time on the road, recruiting, traveling and being gone three and four nights out of the week for sometimes three weeks in a row. I know what this job requires but you also feel like you need to be home with your family, too. When you get into that situation, then it is probably time to do something else. I felt like I couldn't do my job the way that it should be done as a coach or as a father. I was so conflicted. So, it was time."
When did you talk to MSU Athletic Director John Cohen about it?
"In late January after a compliance meeting I asked John if I could have about 10 minutes of his time. I knew he had gone through something similar. He had just switched careers, going from coaching to administration. I felt like he would have some good advice for me. And he did. It was great advice for me. At that point, I told him what was on my mind."
When did you make the actual decision to retire?
"I made the decision in January. To keep it quiet for this long was something that we decided to do because I didn't feel telling our team then would help them as a team or help in recruiting. So, we wanted to wait until after the SEC Championship to make that call. It wasn't an easy decision to make but I had thought to myself if I would still be doing this five years ahead and I told myself no. So, I didn't feel it was appropriate to put off what was pretty much inevitable."
Did you tell John that you were retiring when you were talking to him in the meeting?
"No, I had pretty much made my mind up before I went into the meeting but I wasn't going to tell him yes or no right then. But once he started talking about some of his personal experiences, we were extremely honest with each other. It made it easy for me to tell him what my struggles were. He was terrific about it. And he has been ever since.
"I have had 14 wonderful years at Mississippi State. But I felt it was the appropriate time for me and my family and for Mississippi State. I never want to be doing a job where I wasn't able to give it 100%. This job requires more than it did 10 years ago before social media was around. It is a great job with great benefits but it requires for you to be on call, basically, for 24 hours a day. And that is fine but it had come to a point where I couldn't do what I needed to do at home."
What are your plans now?
"Our plans are to move back to my hometown of Fulton and learn the family business. It is an unbelievable opportunity because my father will be able to help teach me the business. It is a great opportunity for my mother and father and my wife and kids. My wife and kids won't have to be worried about me being gone so many nights at a time. I can be home every night and also take my kids to school. I can do all the things a father is supposed to do. It is a win-win situation for everybody."
Will you have any input on the hiring of a new head coach?
"I want to help make the transition as easy as possible for when they hire the new head coach. I still care an awful lot about Mississippi State. And I want to see Mississippi State continue to do well. And whatever part that I can play in that I want to do. I feel like my role is if a candidate has any questions about any things that might come up I will be there to help answer those questions. Ultimately, the hiring of a new coach will be John Cohen's decision 100%. And I don't want to interfere with that in any way."
Mississippi State will always have a place in your heart, won't it?
"There is no doubt about that. As John said yesterday (in the release), I have been part of this university for almost two decades, five years as a student-athlete and 14 years as a coach, and I was a fan before that. Mississippi State will always have a special place in my heart.
"I have nothing but special memories of Mississippi State. It was an unbelievable opportunity to come play as an athlete, then it was a privilege to coach at your alma mater for 14 years. I was the longest tenured coach at Mississippi State. For me to be able to do what I loved to do and be able to do it at my alma mater for that long, I couldn't ask for anything more.
"The things that I am most proud of are the relationships that I have had with my former and current student-athletes, the current and former administrations. Those things will stay with me forever. I am super proud of what we have been able to do with our facilities through the commitment of so many people. I have so much admiration and thankfulness of people like Mr. Bryan and so many other boosters who have taken our facilities to a totally different level. I am thankful to have been able to work for four athletic directors, Larry Templeton, Greg Byrne, Scott Stricklin and John Cohen. Man, it doesn't get much better than that."