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Jackie Sherrill and MSU football.
At this moment in time when I think of Jackie Sherrill, it's hard not to think about the losses the past two seasons and this year and wonder what has happened to an MSU program that reached heights never before achieved in the annuals of MSU football.
I wish I could answer that question but I can't. And that's really not what my Monday Morning Coffee Break is about.
I'm writing about allowing a man who has brought so much happiness in my life and in yours, too, a chance to, at the very least, finish out this year with your support, patience and understanding.
I don't know what the future holds for this team or how much longer Coach Sherrill will remain at MSU. His team may continue to lose or they may turn their season around starting this weekend against LSU and begin the turnaround that we, as MSU fans, are hoping for.
No matter which of the two things happen, not only do we owe him a debt of gratitude but also our patience and understanding for the many, many happy moments that he and his teams have brought into our lives over the past 12+ years that he has coached MSU football.
I'm sure each of you have wonderful memories. I know I have.
I remember the individual things that involved my family and I.
A couple of years after I started doing my webpage I remember receiving a call from Coach Sherrill on football signing day. Other than my webpage, I doubt if he knew me from Adam, but he took time out of his day just to thank me for being a positive influence with my webpage.
I remember him introducing Mary Ann and me at several gatherings, telling folks that my page was the place on the internet if you wanted to read about MSU.
Allowing me to attend and write about practice even though I was still doing my page part-time.
After I introduced him to my mother-in-law, Evelyn Wright, I remember how nice he was to her and how she still remembers his kindness to this day.
Making it a point to tell my sister-in-law, Linda Dahlem, how highly he thinks of current MSU freshman tight end Dezmond Sherrod, a player that he knew Linda taught in high school.
The tears he shed when he got a few members of the media together in the MSU media relations office to thank us for being understanding during the time when his wife, Peggy, was going through her cancer surgery and recovery this past winter and spring.
I remember the happy moments due to the many team accomplishments on the field.
MSU defeating the 13th ranked Texas Longhorns 13-6 in 1991, Coach Sherrill's first year at State.
MSU playing in its first bowl game - the Liberty Bowl - in 9 years at the conclusion of Coach Sherrill's first year (1991) at MSU.
MSU defeating the 13th ranked Florida Gators 30-6 at home in 1992.
MSU defeating Arkansas at home and Ole Miss on the road to win the SEC Western Division Championship in 1998.
The excitement of MSU playing in its first-ever SEC Championship Game in 1998 against eventual national champion Tennessee. I remember the heartbreak of losing that game but also how proud I was of MSU playing in it.
MSU playing Texas in the 1998 Cotton Bowl, their first New Year's Day Bowl since the 1941 Orange Bowl.
The excitement of the next year - 1999 - when the never-say-die Bulldogs won their first 8 games, including the dramatic come-from-behind victory over Auburn in Auburn. Then closing out the season with a thrilling 23-20 win over arch-rival Ole Miss and a 17-7 bowl win against Clemson in the Peach Bowl.
MSU coming back the next year - 2000 - and defeating then 3rd ranked Florida and 15th ranked Auburn back to back. I remember Willie Blade intimidating the Florida center into bad snaps by just talking to him during the game.
The 2000 Independence Bowl game - affectionately called the Snow Bowl by many MSU fans - against Texas A&M where MSU came back in a driving snow to defeat the Aggies 43-41.
Coach Sherrill taking MSU to six bowl games, the same number of bowl games MSU had gone to in their previous 91 years of playing football.
I remember the players that have played under Coach Sherrill.
The non-stop chatter of cornerback Fred Smoot and how he made opposing players laugh with his smack talk and how much fun and energy he brought to each MSU practice.
An injured Pork Chop Womack playing in games his senior season despite knowing that he would have to be helped off the field at the end of the games.
The dominating presence of offensive lineman Randy Thomas and his legendary eating habits at restaurants in Starkville.
The heart of running backs Dicenzo Miller and James Johnson.
The bulldozing running style of fullback/tailback Michael Davis.
The greatness as a runner and person of the late running back Keffer McGee and the sadness the MSU community felt when he passed away in a drowning accident.
The sheer toughness that defensive linemen Willie Blade and Toby Golliday brought to each game and practice.
The leaping ability of wide receiver Eric Moulds and the electrifying catch he made between two Alabama defenders in the MSU endzone.
The confidence, dedication and likability of linebacker Mario Haggan.
The almost unhuman work ethic and determination of Justin Griffith. And the happiness I feel knowing that one of the truly good guys has made it in the NFL.
Tight end Donald Lee telling me how he was going to help his community of Maben if he made it to the NFL or even if he made it in the business world. And how, if he made it to the the NFL, he would move back to Maben and help the kids when he retired.
The quiet confidence of wide receiver Justin Jenkins who is now showing the greatness that I always knew was inside of him.
The intelligence of current tight end Aaron Lumpkin.
Defensive back Kendall Roberson calling me Mr. Gene out of respect and getting on other players when they didn't show respect by calling me the same.
I hope with ever fiber of my being that there will be many more great memories over the next few years from teams guided by Coach Sherrill. If not, I will always be eternally grateful for the memories that are a part of my life, just as I'm sure they are part of each one of your lives.
We owe him our support and understanding if for no other reason than those memories.
Have a great Bulldog week!
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org