"I really hadn't thought about it. Things do change. My dad always told me that when you try to do things the right way and put your faith in God, then things would change. I am, in a lot of ways, the recipient of the sacrifices that other people made. I realize that it is not my doing. I'm just the one reaping the benefits."
Did you ever feel that MSU AD Larry Templeton wasn't going to let you say no to his offer?
"The more we got into this thing, the more I got the feeling that he believed I was the right man for the job. To be fair to Mississippi State, during the interview process I was never going to drag things out."
If your job offer hadn't been from an SEC school, would you have taken it?
"To be totally honest with you, if it hadn't been an SEC job, I probably wouldn't have taken it. I wanted to be in a place where I could communicate with people. I felt like I would feel at home here. This area is where I felt more comfortable. People are the same all over the country but there are certain areas of the country where my lifestyle wouldn't go over as well as it will here."
What was your perception of Mississippi State when you played for Alabama?
"When I was at Alabama, the hardest-hitting games that we ever played were against Mississippi State and LSU. Actually, the years we defeated State, it was due to numbers. We just had more players than they did. And the games were usually won late in the fourth quarter when we just outnumbered them."
What is first thing you want to do, put your staff together?
"Yes, that is the number one thing. In fact, I have been working on that even before I came down here Sunday. I checked on some people after calling the coaches to get permission to talk to them. Even though I was undecided about it, I wanted to test the waters to see if people might be interested in possibly accompanying me to State. Some of them expressed an interest. Now, that I am here, I will get back in contact with their coaches and see if we can start negotiating."
Do you think that will be difficult or easy to put a staff together?
"That is the most difficult process, putting a staff together. After talking with head coaches, I have discovered that is the most difficult process. Getting good coaches, good teachers, good recruiting coaches, and the right fit with each other, that is the most difficult thing. Once we get that done, we will be ok."
Will the current MSU staff members be considered for your new staff?
"Everyone will be considered. Other than that, I won't make any comments about staff until the final decisions are made."
Is your offense the west coast offense or a modified west coast offense? What do the (Green Bay) Packers call it?
"The west coast offense is our basis. Our running game is far more power-oriented than what the true west coast system used. When we played San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Coach Walsh, and one of the things we talked about in pre-game warmups was it was not so much the plays but the teaching that Coach Walsh developed. How you gameplan, how you practice, how you communicate things to the players. The way he did things is from the approach of a professor. People call him a genius. Coach Bryant was more in the people of it, while Bill Walsh, from an organizational standpoint, may be the true genius in football today."
What are some other things that are most important right now?
"The first thing is recruiting. I'm not worried about the football part of it. The first thing I want to do is get the recruiting done. Then, I want to get our players in an off-season program. Then, we will get our coaches on the same page. As far as the scheme, I'm not worried about that, because I know exactly what we want to do offensively."
You mentioned the system you are going to run, but you also have to have the players.
"If you have the system, you can go get the people. But, there is no question that you have to have the people. The better players we get, the better coach I am going to be, without a doubt."
Are you looking forward to getting back in recruiting after being out of it for 17 years?
"It's a lot easier when you are flying in a plane. When it is local, I will be driving. I was talking to a coach earlier today and said it is a lot easier when they bring you those top guys and you recruit those guys. You don't have to find them, they tell you who they are and you go talk to them. That makes it easier."
To have a successful football program, how high do you rate recruiting?
"Number one. No matter what you do, if you have great players, the schemes don't have to be complicated. Where you really have to have great schemes is when you don't have a lot of talent. That is when you really, really have to coach them. When you have great players, coaching is easy."
There are many new guidelines in recruiting such as academic progress. Will you have to be very selective in your recruiting when it comes to academics?
"Without a doubt. That is something that I am going to have to spend a great deal of time learning and counting on Rockey (Felker) and other members of our staff and even our faculty and academic people. The better academic person we get in, the easier it is going to be as we progress in this thing. All of them won't be great students when they first enter, but what we hope to do is do a great job of evaluating people with potential to be and a genuine desire to be. If they have that, then the mechanisms are in place to help them do that."
How involved in recruiting will you be from now on?
"Whatever I'm needed to do from a recruiting standpoint, I will be doing it everyday."
Do you think it will help or hurt recruiting to play an in-state school like Southern Mississippi?
"I haven't really thought about that. We'll play the schedule as it is played out. I think it is set for the next ten years, so I'm not interested in changing the schedule at all."
You met with your players for the first time right before the press conference. What impressions did you want to leave with them?
"That I care about them and their well-being. Another thing I wanted them to understand is the only real fun in this game is winning and caring about each other. Those are the things that I got out of football and I want them to feel the same things that I did."
Mississippi State currently has two strength coaches. Is that something that you would like to see increased?
"I'm not necessarily worried about the number of strength coaches. I think we have to get a better emphasis on it. Our weight room definitely has to be improved as far as what we have in there and the environment itself. Every area where the players are, we are committed to making them first class. We want to do so without being wasteful. I have often thought that when we bring recruits in the environment that they see are not for show but that this is what it will be like when you are here. I think we have first class facilities here (football stadium and recruiting lounge) and I want it to be where the players are (dressing room)."
What facilities would you like to see improved?
"The dressing room areas. We will make some adjustments there to improve the quality."
What do you think it will be like when you play your first game at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium?
"It will be real loud."
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 email@example.com.