"The main thing I have seen is an improvement in attitude. I truly enjoy going to work, not just because I enjoy what I do but because I enjoy being around positive and upbeat people. And we have some guys on our football team that are fun to be around - Jerious Norwood, Rico Bennett, Clarence McDougal, Marvin Byrdsong and the list could go on and on. What they are doing is extremely hard work but it's like it is fun to them. When we get through working out and about half the team is laid out, they'll go, 'is that all you have for us.' But that's how you get better. You get better by looking foward to doing it and making it fun. And sometimes it's not fun. Like I told you once before, champions do it everyday no matter how they feel."
You mentioned several players. I've watched a few of your workouts earlier in the summer and have somewhat of a feel about the guys who are working hard and are becoming leaders. What are your feelings about how (junior OT) Richard Burch has done this summer?
"I've seen a lot of changes in him. I don't know what he was going through during the spring, but he has certainly changed both mentally and physically. Richard is now between 305 and 310, but he looks so much better and runs better. And he feels better about himself. He is a vocal leader, but he is also leading by example. Actions speak louder than words. Before people listen to what you say, they are going to watch what you do. You have to walk the walk if you are going to talk the talk and he is doing that."
Isn't (sophomore DE) Deljuan Robinson another player that has stood out this summer?
"He is a guy who just a few weeks ago had a hard time crashing through that barrier that was holding him back on the conditioning. The other day we were running and it was 101 on the turf - it was the hardest and hottest day so far - and we were on number 6 and he was running toward me looking like a champion. I patted him on the back and said, 'way to run like a warrior' and he said 'don't pat me on the back just yet' because he wasn't sure. But I am so proud of him because he made every sprint. Now it seems like he makes all of his sprints. In the past, he would make them some days and the next day he wouldn't. Now he does it everytime. Once you are successful a couple of times, you start developing the mindset that if you can do it one time, you can do it everytime. Willie Mays said it's not hard been good, it's hard been going everyday. That's what we are trying to teach these kids - winning is not a sometime thing, it's an all the time thing."
Hasn't (junior MLB) Marvin Byrdsong picked it up this summer?
"Marvin has certainly made tremendous improvements in the areas of strength and conditioning. He has bought into what we are doing. He is 243 and not fat. When he runs, he finishes near the front of his group everytime. You never see him putting his hands on his knees showing fatigue. He finished with over 500 pounds on his last set of squats the other day. Then he went out and ran sixteen 110's like a soldier in 100+ degree weather."
(Senior NG) Ronald Fields has been inconsistent in the past. How has he done this summer?
"I'm glad you asked about Ronald, because I had heard things about him. Things like he takes a play off here and there. Ronald is getting it done everyday. While he's not a vocal guy, he leads by example. Ronald came back in June weighing 333 after leaving here at 320. It disappointed me because he knew what his goal weight was. We wanted Ronald to play at 310 to 315 and he comes back at 333. When I weighed Ronald this past Monday he weighed 308 and looked the best that I have ever seen him look. He is just as strong as he has always been but is faster and runs every sprint. Ronald Fields is now getting it done. I didn't see the old Ronald Fields. The only thing I have seen is Ronald working hard everyday. And I mean I see him everyday because he is in the group I (personally) watch, a group that includes Deljuan, Richard and Devrick (Hampton) and a few other offensive linemen."
There's one guy that I have really been impressed with this summer, (redshirt freshman TE) Dezmond Sherrod.
"Have you seen Dezmond lately? I don't know where he was when we finished spring ball, maybe 235. Right now, he is about 243 and there is no fat on him. He is one muscled up man. He has kind of snuck up on me. I noticed kids that work hard. I don't know why I haven't noticed him. All I know is this summer he is getting it done. He is one of the hardest workers that we have."
Isn't (senior OG) Will Rogers having a good summer?
"He is another one that is getting it done. He is still a little heavy at 328, but it is unbelievable how well he is running. He runs hard, never shows fatigue. His footwork is so smooth going through the bags when we run our agility drills on Tuesday and Thursday. He changes directions well. His conditioning is getting to where we want it. He makes all of his times on the speed endurance days. When he gets down to 315, he is really going to be able to motor."
How close do you think the players are to your goals for them?
"We aren't there yet, but we are headed in the right direction. When will we get there? I don't know. When people ask me if we will win this number of games or that number of games, I tell them I don't know. I would like to win them all, but there is so much more than just being strong and being in shape. You also have to have that mental mindset where you play and practice like a champion. You also have to stay healthy."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher/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.