Derek Pegues Update

South Panola High School's Derek Pegues and his family officially visited Mississippi State this past weekend. Gene's Page caught up with Derek and his mother, Candace, to find out what they thought about their visit.

Derek Pegues Profile

Derek Pegues Interview

How did your visit to State go this weekend?
"It went alright."

Talk a little more about the visit and what you learned about their facilities, the school itself and the city of Starkville?
"I know they have nice facilities. The one they are building right now (Shira Fieldhouse addition) seems like it is going to be pretty nice. It is going to be a lot more roomier than it is now. They put all the football all in one big area. They even have a room for NFL scouts for when they come in to watch a player. It all seemed pretty cool. They also talked about their new dorm. It is going to be a freshman dorm. I rode around Starkville and Mississippi State, but I've been there a lot of times."

What do you think about the State coaches now that you've had a chance to meet them all?
"All of them are cool."

What were your impressions of MSU Head Coach Sylvester Croom?
"He is a pretty cool guy, straight-forward. He'll shoot it to you straight."

Who was your player host?
"Mario Bobo."

Isn't he your former teammate?

Are you two friends?
"Yeah, we are cool."

Did State's status improve now that you've visited them?
"Yeah, I guess so."

I know you have previously visited Tennessee. Who do you visit next weekend?
"Ole Miss."

Are those three schools your favorites?
"Yeah, most likely."

Because State and Ole Miss are in Mississippi, does that give them an advantage over Tennessee?
"No, not really."

After you've visited Ole Miss, when will you make your decision?
"On the 2nd (of February), on signing day."

Candace Fondren Interview

In our earlier interview, you said you were really looking forward to taking the visit to Mississippi State with Derek. How did the visit go overall?
"The coaching staff is outstanding. I was just impressed. They all have such a good relationship. I think if I went back tomorrow, and they didn't know I was coming, I think they would have the same camaraderie with each other. I also think that they have the best interest of the kids at heart. And I know Coach Croom does. I was telling my husband that there is no way any football player should not graduate from State because the advisors, the counselors are so good. You don't have to ask any questions because they cover everything while they are giving their presentation.

"I was impressed with their facilities and the vision of what the new facilities are going to look like. I know they are going building a new dorm facility. I think (MSU assistant coach) Brick (Haley) said they were going to be like apartments. I think there is going to be a new addition to Hathorne, also. The new athletic addition is going to be awesome. I was really impressed."

When I talked to you the first time, you mentioned that you were looking forward to meeting Coach Croom in person. Now that you have, what are your thoughts about him? Was he about what you expected or was he even more than you expected?
"I feel like he was more than I expected. Like I told my husband - he didn't arrive until late, so he didn't have the chance to see him - everything he has privately talked to Derek about, he talked about again, but with me there this time. I think he has the kids best interest at heart as well as turning the program around. It's not just all about the program, but it's about what the kids need. He said he will make sure that Derek gets an education and he is going to help Derek as much as he can to get to the next level. I believe in what he says. And I really feel like that about the entire coaching staff. I feel like they are sincere and they will do what they can do to help Derek. If his goal is the NFL, they are going to make sure he gets what he needs to go to the next level as well as getting an education. I think Derek will have a father figure all the way around. He will have a good support group."

Did you also get to meet the Mississippi State strength coach, Jim Nowell? If so, what did you think about him?
"Oh, I did, I did. I like him. He has a lot of energy. He is another great guy. He told me about some of the things he has done and some of the places where he has coached. He told me that if Derek misses a class, then he is going to have to run. Derek is going to have to do what he has to do. But I trust Derek and know he will do what he is supposed to do."

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

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