Aren't you going to officially visit Mississippi State?
"I am visiting the weekend of the 16th (of January)."
What schools have you visited or are going to visit?
"Right now, the only team I have visited is the University of Tennessee. I don't have any other visits scheduled."
When did you visit them?
"When they played Georgia."
How long has Tennessee been recruiting you?
"Since about the time I broke the record."
How long has Mississippi State been recruiting you?
"Mississippi State got in touch with me about 2 and a half to 3 weeks ago. We hit it off right off the bat."
Is Coach Steve Dudley the coach recruiting you for Mississippi State?
"Yes sir. It's actually a funny story how I got in touch with him. The football coach (Jim Tompkins) came to Mays. I talked to him about myself and he took my number and said he would give it to the track coach. Ever since then, the ball has been on a roll."
You must have known a little about the Mississippi State track team.
"Yes sir, I knew a lot about Mississippi State's track team being nationally ranked."
How did you know that about them?
"I follow college track and field pretty closely. I've always had a slight interest in Mississippi State."
Exactly what happened after you gave your number to the MSU football coach?
"While Coach Dudley was in New York, he gave me a phone call. Since then, we have been talking a lot. He came out to the house last Sunday."
What is your impression of Coach Dudley?
"I love Coach Dudley. He is nice, yet he's still firm. He's not a pushover. That's a great trait to have. He's a homey type person. You wouldn't mind asking him to spend a night at your house. After five minutes of our conversation, I felt like I was talking to a real good friend of mine."
Didn't you win the 800 meters in the Nationals?
So, that means you were the national champion?
"I was the national champion in 2002, then I moved up to a different age group. I was at the bottom of the age group, now I'm moving up to the top. In 2002 I won the Nationals and broke a national record. It was a 17-year old record."
You broke the record for the 17-years old group?
"I broke the national record for the 15-16 year old group."
That's the record for the US?
"That's the record for that age group in USA Track and Field."
You have a record that is the best in the history of the USA for that age group. How do you maintain such a humble attitude when you know you are the best ever?
"My track coach told me there is always going to be a Joe out there that can beat you. You never know when he is going to come. Because of that, you never need to get the big head."
How are you doing now that you are in the 17-18 year old group?
"Last year, when I was 17, during school track, I won Georgia High School Track and Field State Meet in the 800 meters. I also got Best Performance overall. I won with a 4 to 5 second deficit."
Nationally, how did you do?
"I didn't run in many national meets because I went to Canada and competed with the USA team."
Tell me a little more about the USA team.
"Basically, every two years they take the top three from each event and put them in a pool at Youth Nationals. Later on, at the Junior Olympics Nationals, they take the top two and put them in a pool. Basically, the top two out of each event goes."
So, you were in the top two?
"Yes sir, I won both Nationals. Because of that, I was leading the pool."
What does it mean when you say you won both Nationals?
"There is a Youth Nationals that is sponsored by USA Track and Field and there is a Junior Nationals, which is a bigger event. Both are big events but you have to qualify for the Junior Nationals. You have to go through state and region. I won state and region, then I went to Nationals. With Youth Nationals, you don't have to qualify. You can just run in it."
How did you do in Canada?
"I started my race and about 300 meters in it I got tripped up and fell down."
How were you doing in the race before you got tripped up?
"I was actually leading because I wanted to get out to avoid that from happening. Then, they all just came. I am pretty sure it wasn't intentional. It was just part of the race. I just took it as a learning experience."
What did you learn from that happening?
"I learned you can run the race one of three ways. You can get out real fast and try to avoid it. Or, you can stay back, if you are more of a fit person, and let all the fighting go on ahead of you, then make your move. Or you can just try to stay in the pack and try and fight everybody off and make your move near the end of the race."
How did you wind up getting into track?
"My mother ran track when she was in school. So, I just did it to. When I was in middle school, I ran track. I wasn't the fastest but I was pretty decent in the 400 meters. I was undefeated in the 400 in middle school. One day, one of my mother's friends was at a middle school track meet and he said he wanted to see me run summer track to see if I was as good as I seemed to be. I went out to summer track and won my first-ever race.
"When I first started off, I used to be a 200 and 400 runner. I used to do the 100, 200 and 400 and the 200 and 400 hurdles. One day, at this meet, my summer track coach, Coach Bennett, said I was a little out of shape, so he put me in the 800. I won. So, he said he wanted me to continue in it to see how good I could do. I went to State for summer track and field. This was back in 2001. I switched teams to Quick Silver Track and Field. They are a pretty good track and field club that is known nationally. The coaching staff is so big, I can't name all of their names, but all of them helped me. I never though I would be the one to win Nationals, let alone break a record. Without them, I don't think I could have done it."
Do you feel the 800 meters is your natural event, the one you are best at?
"I guess the 8 is a natural race for me. I don't know if it is something in my genes or something else. I didn't like it at first because it was more of a distance race. But once I started becoming successful in it, I started taking it more seriously. Through the grace of God, I became successful in it."
Has Coach Dudley told you what he wants you to run at MSU? Obviously, you will run the 800 event. But, has he said anything about you running any other events?
"We have talked about a couple of other events. He said if I come (to State), 8 will be my primary event. I told him the same year I broke the record in the 800, I came in 4th in Nationals in the 400 hurdles."
Going back to your recruitment, it sounds like Mississippi State and Tennessee are at the top of your list. Does either one lead over the other?
"Right now, Mississippi State is number one on my list."
Why are they number one?
"Coach Dudley seems like the kind of guy who will never give up on me and see me through the end of everything. I like everything about him; his niceness, his kindness, the way he talks about his team, the confidence that he has in his team, his outlook for the future of his team. He is just a nice guy. Once I come in for the visit and see how everything goes, I will make my final decision."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.