Coach Croom mentioned that he felt you had picked up on the offense after seeing you in the first day of practice. How have you learned so much about it?
"I think it is really a matter of taking what you know about the game as it is and applying it to different concepts. I've had the great fortune of growing up in a football family. It seems like all football is the same. You can dress up the offense a lot of difference ways, but it's still moving the ball down the field and getting into the endzone. For a guy like me, who can't throw (due to shoulder surgery), it has allowed me to pay more attention, fundamentally, to the running game. I think that can benefit the team in a lot of ways, especially early on when we are just trying to get the simpler things down."
Did you watch the Green Bay offense on television?
"Not really, although I have watched some film of Green Bay on my own. But, for the most, part all of this is brand new for the majority of guys. Like I said, it is a matter of taking what we already know and applying it to something new."
You mentioned that you can't throw this spring. What exactly is your situation? What has happened and why can't you throw?
"I had surgery in December. They had to cut through a lot of muscle and the muscle that they had to cut through is slow to heal. There are a lot of tiny muscles that do more than we give them credit for. And, to get them back to where they used to be is a long and arduous process."
When will you be able to start seriously throwing again?
"It's really hard to say. I'm encouraged by the progress that I've made. I'm already throwing the ball. But, to take what I'm doing now - throwing is part of my rehab - and apply it to what we are doing on the field, my arm is not ready for that. The intensity of dropping back and throwing the ball down the field is something that I'm going to have to relearn."
How much will you be able to do this spring? How much will you be able to learn?
"It is hard to say. I intend on learning everything that we have to do. However, it's different between learning it and actually getting out there and doing it as far as the passing game is concerned. But, as the shoulder comes along, it is going to be a day-by-day decision. If I can go out tomorrow and throw screen passes, that is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, by the end of the spring, I will be able to start throwing a little bit in team situations. But that is one of those things where you have to trust that the shoulder itself is going to heal in time."
Coming from a football family, do you think it will be easier for you to learn the offense even though you will have miss a lot of during the spring?
"I hope that is the case. My plan right now is to spend the entire summer (at MSU) absorbing (the offense) through film study and working with the guys on our own time. I don't expect to miss a step when fall comes around, although it will certainly put me behind in terms of pure experience. I can't imagine me losing a step, because I intend to come out and put forth the effort to catch up."
What are your impressions of Coach Croom after being around him for a few months?
"I have been very impressed. He has a great attention to detail. He is very committed to what he wants to do through the things that people don't see, necessarily, that exists under the pads and under the helmet. Those things are the things that he is most committed to. That is what is going to make us a successful team."
Do you see any similarities between yourself and Coach Croom?
"He and I are committed to the same things. I value character and discipline because of the way I have been raised. I think those are two of the things that he pays a great deal of attention to. And I really respect and appreciate that."
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.