Looking to reach that type of stardom is current Bulldog middle linebacker Marvin Byrdsong.
"I want to become one of those linebackers of the past," said Byrdsong. "You always hear about the great linebackers and I want to become that type and have people talking about me down the road."
And that journey started shortly after the conclusion of the 2003 season.
Byrdsong, a junior from Longview, Texas, has raised several eyebrows during State's off-season training program, including first-year strength coach Jim Nowell.
"We were just talking about Marvin the other day, and his performance this offseason," said Nowell. "He's having an outstanding summer. I looked over there the other day and he's doing extra things not even on the list. His body fat is down and his weight is 245 now. He goes full blast during every drill and you never see his hands on his hips. I wish we had more like him.
"I hope it carries over to the season, and with all the players. I've been impressed with most of the group since arriving here."
After earning eight career starts his first two seasons, Byrdsong will be counted on heavily to carry the load across the middle. Byrdsong, a preseason third-team All-SEC selection by the coaches, is State's leading returning tackler with 76, including two stops for a loss.
Byrdsong realizes a lot of eyes are staring in his direction for the fall.
And with that added pressure comes more of a leadership role, which Byrdsong has already displayed this summer.
"I hope everybody sees that and it rubs off on them," noted Byrdsong of his desire in the offseason. "We all need to be getting ready for the season. We have to get that unity down. It's so important to play together, like a big family, which is what we are now."
Whether through running, lifting weights or even karate, Byrdsong has been focused on one goal this summer: He wants to be as strong in the fourth quarter as he is following kickoff.
"It's going good and I'm working out everyday," said Byrdsong, younger brother of former MSU defensive back Shawn Byrdsong. "I'm trying to get my maximum (in weight lifting) as high as I can but my main emphasis has been my conditioning. I have to be ready to play all four quarters, as we all have to do."
Year after year, college football coaches crave the prototypical linebacker, owning the instincts of hard-nosed tackling and the cover skills of a safety.
Nowell believes Byrdsong fits that billing, and then some.
"I think Marvin is in that mold of the new-type linebacker," said Nowell. "He's physical enough to stop the run but also has the speed in coverage. And he's worked hard on his agility drills this summer. Marvin really seems to have it together.
"And in this league, if you're not in shape, you have no chance at all. Champions work hard every day, even when that day isn't going so well. You can't just go through the motions on your bad days. You have to keep giving that tremendous effort day in and day out. And to his credit, Marvin's done that."
As a freshman and sophomore, Byrdsong was part of an under-achieving defense, one that was accustomed to looking lost at times. Opposing offenses had a field day with the game-breaking plays while State's once-proud defense was toiling at the bottom of every league defensive statistical charts.
Along with an impressive offseason, Byrdsong is making sure all his defensive teammates are clicking with every new scheme thrown in their direction.
"You get everybody on the same page, defensively, and you can stop some people," said Byrdsong. "What we lack in size, we make up in quickness and speed. I think we will actually be better because of being faster, able to get around the linemen a whole lot better. I think we'll be pretty good."
Which is what Byrdsong has desperately wanted since arriving in Starkville three years ago. He likes what he sees so far, and admits this could be an interesting start of the Sylvester Croom Era.
"I just want to win," admitted Byrdsong. "And that's the bottom line. I want to lead this team back to championships. And since I've been here, this is the best shape this program has been in heading into the season. With everybody now on the same page and level, this will be the year Mississippi State football turns around."
Paul Jones is a writer for Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at email@example.com