What are your thoughts about the recruiting process that Derek has gone through, so far?
"The recruiting process has been ok, but I think it is a little overwhelming. Derek has been kind of bombarded because he has gotten a lot of publicly due to doing so well throughout his high school career and being selected as an (US Army) All-American. I think he is getting used to the popularity, but Derek has a very humble spirit and doesn't have the big head. I noticed in (San Antonio) Texas (at the US Army All-American Bowl game) that there were a lot of people who wanted his autograph that didn't even know him. He just smiled and did what he had to do. He just wants to play ball. He just loves the game of football."
Since you were in San Antonio, what did you think about the practices and game itself?
"I thought it was really great. It is a big thing in San Antonio. I guess it is considered the Super Bowl of high school."
I agree. Just about every senior in the nation would love to play in that game.
"Yes, I know. We met a lady from Clarksdale, Mississippi after the game. She said she was disappointed that her grandson didn't make the game. She made her way down to the bottom where we were talking to Derek. She said that she just wanted to come and meet him and shake his hand and tell him how proud she was of him."
I bet that made you proud, probably more so than anything else you heard there.
"It really did, it really did. She said her son had told her to watch number 2 (Derek's number), because he is going to be somebody one day. I told her I really appreciated that. When she shook Derek's hand, she told him that she just wanted to shake his hand, then told him that she was going to rub (her hand) on her grandson because she wanted good things to happen to him. I thought that was really sweet."
Obviously that made you proud. How did Derek handle what she said?
"I think I get more excited about his popularity than he does. He told her thank you. He has that big smile that he will give then he'll laugh. He even gave away his gloves. I purchased the equipment. There was a little boy that wanted his autograph, but he didn't have anything for Derek to sign, so Derek gave him one of his gloves as well as giving one to an older man."
Is he about ready to get the recruiting process over with?
"I think he is really ready for February 2nd (signing day) to get here, because everybody is trying to pressure him. He just wants to finish his visits and make his own selection. I told him to go where he feels most comfortable. If he gets hurts and can't play football, I want the school he goes to to be the one he would go to even if he wasn't playing ball. And more than anything, I want him to get a good education. I know his education will be paid for, so I want him to make the best of it and take advantage of it."
How much of a part will you and your husband have in his decision?
"My husband and I will guide him along and give him some good advice, but it is totally left up to him which college he decides to go to. The reason for that is I want him to stay there so that he will get a good education. I don't want him to drop out and later say that wasn't where he wanted to be. Then, he may wait like I did and get his degree when he is 40 years old. I got my degree in Office Administration from Northwest when I was 40."
I bet Derek was really proud of you for going back to college and getting your degree at 40.
"Derek, my other son and my husband all were. Derek even took off from school to come to my graduation. I was really excited about that."
Derek visits Mississippi State this weekend doesn't he?
"Yes he does."
Who else will he visit?
"He goes to Ole Miss next weekend."
Who else has he visited?
"He went to the University of Tennessee. That was his only other visit. He has been so busy with the US Army game he didn't have an opportunity to go anywhere last weekend. He was going to go to State last Friday and Saturday and come back late Saturday night, but he decided he didn't want to rush through the weekend. He wanted to give them as much time as he gave Tennessee."
Who will go on the visit to State this weekend?
"Derek, one of his uncles and I will go tomorrow (Friday). Then, my husband will come down tomorrow night for dinner."
Did you also go on the visit to Tennessee?
"No, I actually let Derek go to Tennessee by himself. I did that because Derek is very mature and nobody is going to pressure him. Derek is going to make up his own mind. Because of that, I always trust him to do the right thing."
What do you know about Mississippi State?
"Actually, my oldest son, Andrae Pegues, went to Mississippi State for a semester. I believe he went in 2002. I went down there with him and went all over the campus for orientation. I liked it. Andrae didn't end up liking it very well, so he came back home. I shouldn't actually say he didn't like it. He just wasn't ready for college."
Do you know much about Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom and his coaching staff?
"I've met Brick Haley (Derek's recruiting coach). We like him a lot. He has been here several times. He, my husband and I formed a good relationship right off. He and my husband hit it off real well. I've talked to Coach Croom and I'm looking forward to meeting him. We've had several good telephone conversations. Because of that, I'm really looking forward to meeting him tomorrow (Friday). He's talked to Derek several times. I think he has the players' best interest at heart. He and I share a lot of the same values. So, if Derek makes the decision to go there, I feel like they would look after Derek and take care of him. I told him (Coach Croom) that that is my youngest and you have to take care of him (laugh)."
What are you personally looking for when you go on the official visit to a school?
"The thing I have told each coach that I have talked to is that, although I know they are recruiting Derek for football, I also want to know that Derek will get an education. I want to make sure that if he has trouble in the classroom, they will make sure he gets the help that he needs. I don't want them to wait until it is down the road and he can't pick himself back up. I want them to make sure he does what he is supposed to do."
What are your thoughts about Ole Miss and their coaching staff?
"Nobody from Ole Miss has talked to me. Ole Miss has talked to Derek. Well, I did talk to (Ole Miss) coach Matt Luke. He was trying to get Derek to come over. So, Derek and my husband went over to one of their games. I haven't heard from him since then. Derek has got my husband and I and his dad and his family. The coach from Tennessee, when he was here, I called (Derek's) dad over so we could all be here. The only coaches that I have talked to are Tennessee, Alabama, and the University of Michigan."
How are you going to know that coaches are sincere when they talk to you on a visit?
"I'm really going to have to trust them. But what I felt from talking to Coach Croom - even though I haven't met him - and from talking to Brick is they haven't offered anything that is not doable. They haven't tried to make it seem like they are going to give Derek the world. I think they were very straight-forward and upfront with me. And another thing I like is they aren't pressuring Derek. Some (colleges) have pressured him by saying that they have this many scholarships and that he needs to make a decision. I think some of that was a turnoff to Derek because he has until February 2nd to make that decision."
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Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.