Dawg Walk: "It was like a Sea of Maroon"

Bulldog veteran players Chris McNeil and Darnell Jones talked about Saturday's Dawg Walk, the crowd atmosphere and the influence of Sylvester Croom.

Junior center Chris McNeil

Talk about going through the Dawg Walk.
"I want to thank all the fans that came out. That was probably the most energetic crowd that I have seen here at Mississippi State. We stayed out of town the night before. While staying in our rooms, we were wondering what everything was going to be like. When we got there and pulled up, it was like a sea of maroon. We've never seen anything like that before. The band was leading us and all you could see were people everywhere. It completely floored me when I got on the field. I think we had a mental edge going into the game just from all the support of the fans."

Did you notice the crowd when you first came out of the locker room prior to the game?
"When we came out of the smoke, I looked up and there might have only been 500 seats left, if that. And it was so loud. Sometimes you might be on the field and hear the hollering and you could feel the ground shake below you. It was probably the most energetic (Mississippi State) crowd that I've heard since I was a senior in high school and attended the Florida game."

What were your thoughts prior to the game?
"We wanted to come out and win because it was a pretty big day in history. We didn't want to put too much emphasize on it, but we all wanted to do it for Coach Croom. That man represents a race and it was a huge thing for him. Plus, it was important to us just to build some confidence going into this year."

Was this game a big confidence boost for you guys? Even though it was not an SEC team, even non-SEC victories have been tough to come by the past three seasons.
"That was one thing that Coach told us going into the game, he wasn't concerned about our physical ability but he was more concerned about us staying together mentally. As you seen in the past, going into the second half if something bad happened the entire team would fall apart. It was kind of like the inadvertent whistle. That kind of got us down, then the defense had a huge stop and an interception. Then, the defense had another interception in the second half and we scored."

You came into this game knowing you were the opening-day starter. How important was that to you?
"This was actually the first year where I was the locked-in starter. When I went through the Dawg Walk, it kind of brought a tear to my eye. I was thinking about all the work and all the things that have happened the last few months where I have tried to change my life. I guess it was like the payoff for all the things that I have done to get to this point."

One player said he thought you were one of the players who threw ice on Coach Croom near the end of the Tulane game. Is that true?
"I will definitely admit this and will probably have to run detention runs for it, I was one of them and there were two others. But I'm not going to call other names, but I will definitely admit to it."

That is something that was done quite often in the NFL as a way to congratulate a coach when his team was about to earn a significant victory. Was that how you saw it also?
I felt good for the guy. I could see the excitement in his face. I have really gotten real close to that man. After we put the ice on him, I came up to him and gave him a hug and told him congratulations and that I knew it was something that he wanted. And I also wanted to tell him thank you for all that he had done for us. It was just my way of thanking him. And it's not just me that he has influenced, it's several guys. This was just our way of thanking him for what he has done for us the last eight months."

Senior fullback Darnell Jones

What did you think about the Dawg Walk?
"Oh man, it was a great experience. If you weren't up by the time you got through with the Dawg Walk, you must have been dead, because it was like electricity flowing. You could feel it. If that didn't get you going, nothing would."

What were you doing while going through the Dawg Walk?
"I was trying to stay focused because sometimes things like that can distract you from the task at hand. But I was smiling at people. I didn't want to come across as being too cocky, though."

When you got to the locker room, did you guys talk about the Dawg Walk?
"Some people mentioned it. It was a surprise even to me that we had that many people out there. All the support made you feel loved."

What were you thinking prior to the game due to the significance of it?
"Man, we had gotten way past him being the first black (head football) coach in the SEC. That was back in December. We were just focused on Tulane. We knew the talk was over."

Not just the Dawg Walk, but the entire game atmosphere appeared to be outstanding. Did you guys sense that also?
"As Ronald (Fields), Cody (Upton) and I came out on the field as the captains, I took a moment to look around. And I felt a chill go through my body because we haven't seen that in a long time at Scott Field. And it felt really good."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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