Talk about your visit to Mississippi State.
"Everything about it was great. It was better than my (unofficial) visit to Miami and (official visit to) South Florida. I'm not even going to take my visits to Clemson and Marshall.
"The academic situation is great. They give you everything to ensure that you have the best chance of getting a degree. And that's the main thing that I want. Knowing my mom, I can't come home without an education. That's the number one thing, to make sure I go to a college that has the best academics. Just drop off the football and see who has the best academics first of all.
"They showed me the field and the stadium. The stadium was great. They also showed us the practice fields and the dressing rooms. Everything was perfect.
"Coach Croom is one of the best coaches that I have ever talked to. He got directly to the point. There was need of telling you this or that, instead he said this is how it is. What you see is what you get. That is what I wanted. I didn't want them to play with it because (what college I choose) is going to be with me the rest of my life."
It sounds like they really stressed the academics while you were on your visit.
"They stressed it very well. I got with the engineering guy. I'm either going into engineering or business. He took me to their building and sat down and talked to me thoroughly about it and the process; how engineering is, how hard it is, how to study for it."
What did you think about Starkville?
"You know, people told me it is a small town but to be honest about it, it's really not that small. I thought it was going to be like you step one foot in and the other foot you step out. Like Coach Tompkins said, it's a nice college town. Everybody knows just about everybody else."
You mentioned Coach Croom earlier. What did you think about the coaches overall?
"I got to talk to Coach Johnson, the defensive coordinator. Sunday, we sat down and he showed me on the board what he wants me to play and where I will fit into the defense. It is the same defense we played in high school. It is kind of like a 3-4 where you have one strong defensive end that is more like a linebacker. He is the size of a defensive end but he can run like a linebacker. I can come up to the line like a 50 set or I can stand 4 yards back. It is the kind of defense where the strongside linebacker can be in man or zone or can blitz. That's what I like. I don't like to just stand 4 yards back and read everything. I want to blitz, I want to cover. It's the perfect defense for me."
Who was your player host?
"(Redshirt freshman offensive lineman) David Price, the guy who came from Mandarin out of Jacksonville."
Since you are both from Jacksonville, did you already know him?
"I knew him from Mandarin but we never played them. He knew of me and I knew of him. There is something like 70 high schools in Jacksonville. It is huge here."
What did you think about the players at Mississippi State?
"I got along with everybody, but I had the most fun with the players at Mississippi State. The players were great. They were very direct, straight up. It was very cool. You have them from Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Everybody came together. This is a team, this is how it is. We are going to play as a team, we are going to fight hard for each other.
"As a matter of fact, that Saturday night everybody went to a player's house. It was one of those after parties. I was in a car with one of the defensive linemen, a redshirt freshman, and one of the other recruits, a defensive back from Georgia. He backed up and got stuck in the ditch. You would think you get stuck in the ditch and everybody would laugh at you. Instead, the whole team came out and got the car out of the ditch. That is one of the little things that makes the whole situation a good thing. No matter what, we are going to help this player. It's all about the team. No matter what the situation is, we are going to help this player out and make sure he is straight. And these guys had on good clothes. They were going to get in this mud and get this car out. That was just great. I hadn't ever seen anything like that. Even at Miami they are a team but they don't really talk to each other that much, but these guys will get dirty for each other. Whatever it takes to be a team they will do. And none of the coaches ever knew about it. It was a player thing. That is one thing that really stood out about the entire visit."
Talk about how MSU got into your recruiting picture.
"Right before Christmas was when their coach (Jim Tompkins) came by and saw my tape. He found out about me from a coach at another school where he was recruiting another guy. He saw me on film there. He then came down to Englewood the next day and got my film and left. He talked to me briefly and got the highlight tape and left. I didn't think much about it at the time because a lot of (coaches) do that. Plus, I was talking to South Florida, Miami and Clemson. Those were my top three at that time. Then, he came back later, which surprised me. He talked to me a little bit longer and got to know who I was. Then, he asked me about my visits and if I had a visit open. We then sat (my visit) up for the 16th (of January). After that, he started calling me once a week. He told me about the town, about Mississippi and everything about (Mississippi State) from top to bottom. On the 16th I went for my visit. Everything he told me was the exact truth.
"You know it's kind of funny because I had all of these colleges that had been recruiting me since the spring, but in my head there was something missing. I couldn't tell what it was but deep inside me there was something missing. I'm not just saying this because I picked Mississippi State over all of them but there was just something not right."
I know the last time we talked MSU hadn't offered a scholarship. They obviously did on the visit. Talk about how the offer came about.
"I knew in my heart that he was going to offer me after he came back for a second visit. He didn't say much about it, but I knew this guy is going to offer me a scholarship. I want to be direct. If I'm not going to get an offer from you, then I don't want to waste my time and their time going to their school and visiting. There's no point.
"Friday night, David (Price), me and a running back from Mississippi State (Jerious Norwood) were sitting together having dinner at a restaurant. Jim Tompkins was standing in front of all of them and said, 'you know we are going to offer you.' I guess Coach Croom kind of overheard what he said and looked back at me and smiled and winked his eye and shook his head. From then on, it just got better.
"When I came in to talk to (Coach Croom) on Sunday, that was when I told him straight up that I want to be a Mississippi State Bulldog. This is the place where I want to be, where I want to play football. There is no other place for me in this nation."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.