By now, all of you know that Mississippi State received a commitment from one of the South's Top 100 players, Keith Fitzhugh, during their recent Junior/Senior Camp. What you probably didn't know until today is another top player committed at the same camp, Meridian High School offensive tackle Chris Spencer.
Spencer, a 6-4.5, 279-pounder who runs a 5.1 forty yard dash and registered an exceptional 31" vertical leap during MSU's camp, explained why he decided to go ahead and commit so early in the recruiting process.
"Mississippi State offered me a scholarship about 2 or 3 weeks before their camp," said Spencer, who has several cousins that attended Mississippi State. "(Coach Ellis Johnson) called me (in May) and told me that he had seen me in the spring game against Louisville and was impressed with my footwork, my speed and my technique. He said he was offering me a scholarship. I told him I didn't want to make the decision right then because I hadn't been to their campus or seen their football facilities. I didn't want to be dishonest by saying yes to him, then, possibly, backing out of it later if Ole Miss or Southern Miss offered me.
"But, I then starting thinking about it. My father has cancer and I didn't want to go too far away from him. No offense to West Virginia, but I knew then that my decision would be between Ole Miss, Mississippi State and, possibly, Southern Miss. I also realized that if I want to play (on the college level) I want to play in a big conference. I didn't want to play in Conference USA or the Sunbelt Conference. I want to play in something like the ACC or the SEC. Because of that, I decided I would go to the Ole Miss and Mississippi State camps."
Spencer explained the camp differences and how they factored into his decision.
"I went to Ole Miss' two-day camp and did relatively well there," said Spencer. "I was kind of leaning to Ole Miss at that time because Ole Miss is a really good place, it really is. However, Ole Miss is more closed door - they don't want you to know you are doing good because they want you to work hard all the time. With Mississippi State, if you are doing good and beating everybody, they are going to let you know. Although the other guys at their camp were as big as I was, they weren't as agile and as quick on their feet as I was. That was something that the (MSU) coaches noticed and mentioned to me. They even told me that the tight ends coach went to Coach Croom and told him that he was going to play me at tight end.
"Later on, I was talking to Sly Croom and he talked to me like I was his own son. I told him who I was and he said, 'hey, Chris Spencer, it's nice to meet you.' He kept on talking to me. At that time, I was about 99.99% that I might commit."
Mississippi State had another factor in their favor in addition to his experience at their camp.
"One person that always sticks in my mind is (former MSU All-American linebacker) Mario Haggan," said Spencer, who played linebacker as a 9th grader. "When I was younger, I always used to watch him play and I wanted to play linebacker.
With so much of the recruiting season still ahead, is there a chance that he may back off of his commitment?
"I am going to be a man of my word," Spencer said, with no hesitation in his voice.
[Chris told after we concluded the interview that his dad's cancer is currently in remission.-Gene]
Gene Swindoll is the publisher/owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.