Since he was a qualifier out of Starkville High School, Brooks Crabtree left Hinds after the fall semester of his sophomore season. After punting two years within the highly competitive Mississippi junior college ranks, Crabtree received interest from Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech with a scholarship offer on the horizon.
But it never panned out.
With that door closed, Crabtree decided to return home and take a couple of classes at East Mississippi Community College in Mayhew.
"I hated it," said Crabtree of being away from the game. "But during that time, I was able to watch spring practice at State. It was neat to be outside of the game, actually watching instead of being in practice. But I wanted to be playing again somewhere. I knew that."
And eventually, Mississippi State special teams' coach Amos Jones invited Crabtree for a sit-down film session.
"I really didn't even think about walking on anywhere," said Crabtree. "At the time, that wasn't even an option. When I left Hinds, I really wanted to earn my way someplace and get a scholarship. I had a couple of schools interested in me. Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech came and talked to me when I was at Hinds. They were on me hard for about two months. But it just didn't work out.
"When I came home for Christmas, I knew I had a lot of decisions to make, if I wanted to walk-on, stay at Hinds or just see what happens. Then I came to State and watched film with Coach (Amos) Jones one day. I guess that's when I decided to just stay at home in the spring and just see how everything goes. I still left the door open for a scholarship but when the fall came, I wanted to be at Mississippi State."
Back in familiar surroundings, Crabtree is fulfilling a dream of playing for one of the schools he rooted for growing up. After witnessing the program up close, Crabtree is now a part of the program.
"It's awesome," said Crabtree. "I've been here before and seen the campus, obviously. I am good friends with Gray Silva (former State baseball player) and was around the players. I didn't get to know many of them but was always around them. Just being around the atmosphere when I was in high school was great.
"During the Tulane game and the warm-ups, I realized that I've always watched the pre-game as a fan and now I'm here on the field. It was just a great feeling. My first thought is to just catch the ball and everything else will fall into place. That's what I've always done with my approach."
During his junior season at State, Crabtree has shared the punting duties with veteran classmate Jared Cook. While Crabtree could be used more as a short-field punter, he is constantly seeking advice from Cook.
Despite the obvious differences between the pair of Bulldog punters, Crabtree is willing to aid his teammates any way possible.
"It's great just being around Jared (Cook)," said Crabtree. "I've really watched him for the past couple of years so I knew how good he is. We've worked together and helped each other with some things. He does get more distance and I get a little more hangtime.
"And that's my thing right now. I'm really over striding a little bit on my first step. After watching film with Coach Jones, we talked about it. SO my main emphasis right now is working on shortening my steps."
After not seeing action until Week 3, Crabtree has punted 14 times for an average of 36.5 yards. Cook has produced the better numbers, averaging 41.5 yards on 19 attempts.
But again, Crabtree is willing to answer the call from the coaching staff, whether it requires pinning a team deep or booting from State's own end zone.
"Whatever is best, I'm for it," said Crabtree. "I'm going to get out there if they call me to punt from our own end zone and do my best. That's where Jared and me need to work on the little things instead of trying to beat each other out. We just need to do what we both know how to do."
Crabtree also possess an uncanny knack of being calm under pressure. During his high school and junior college days, Crabtree has only had one punt blocked.
And three games into his Bulldog career, that number remains the same.
"I had one blocked my freshman year at Hinds," said Crabtree. "And that's the only one I ever had. I was a little bit gun shy after that. It didn't make me all that nervous but it was different because I had never had that happen to me before.
"We had a guy come unblocked and he was in my face right when I caught the ball. I knew he blocked it and I immediately tried to just get on the ball."
During Saturday's homecoming battle with UAB, Crabtree will not be the lone player, or punter, on the field with Oktibbeha County ties.
Former Starkville Academy standout and UAB sophomore Parker Mullins handles the punting duties for the Blazers and head coach Watson Brown.
UAB senior offensive lineman Rodney Outlaw and Bulldog junior receiver Tee Milons also played with Crabtree at Starkville High School.
While that trio was leading the Yellow Jackets, Mullins was punting and catching passes from MSU sophomore receiver Will Prosser, then a quarterback at Starkville Academy.
Although Crabtree and Mullins graduated from different high schools, they did form a friendship during the summer on the baseball field.
"We played baseball together during the summer time," said Crabtree of Mullins. "I also played with Will Prosser. But I was a year older than they were. I never even thought that we would be facing each other in college. I always wanted to in high school but they were at the (Starkville) Academy so the opportunity never happened.
"It will be neat to see him again, and great to be competing against Parker on this level."
Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at email@example.com.