Combine: "Amazing" and "Exciting"

STARKVILLE - As high school coaches, recruiting directors from, parents and media members observed Sunday's combine at Mississippi State University, the terms "excited" and "amazing" were thrown around loosely. And for good reason.

Last weekend's combine in Starkville, Mississipppi showcased the talent from Mississippi as well as Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl Game is the ultimate prize, with these wonderfully-coordinated combines giving the background on athletes it needs to recommend the top players in the nation to play in San Antonio, Texas, January, 2006.

The All-American Invitational will also serve as a tool for possible scholarship offers for kids in the Magnolia State and other states represented at the combine.

Yet, when the moving, timing and picture-taking got underway, it was hard to tell who was more excited - the curious on-lookers or the athletes.

"There is a lot of talent here," said Caledonia High School offensive lineman Derek Sherrod, a 6-5.5 and 298-pound junior-to-be and younger brother of current Bulldog fullback Dezmond Sherrod. "I see people with good size that move really quick, like they have something to show out here. It is exciting to be here and amazing to see this (much) talent in one place.

"I was excited to get invited. Nothing like this has ever happened for someone from Caledonia, except for my brother," said Sherrod, who is considered one of the top members of Mississippi's class of 2007. "Really, I was the first because Dezmond never had anything like this to attend. It's a good place to show what you got. This is not about how big your school is or anything. It's judged on your talent and your talent alone.

It's an excitement that began as soon as these players found out they would be heading to Starkville within a select group of football players.

"When I found out I was coming, I was so amazed," said Charleston High School senior-to-be linebacker Corderick Govan, a 6-1.5, 185-pounder who already has two scholarship offers from Mississippi State and Ole Miss. "God gave me a talent and I just want to use it to all my ability. I just came out here to have fun and meet people. I have been on campus one time and it really excites me to come back. It would be nice to attend school here once I am out of high school.

"There is a lot of talent and competition out here. But you want competition, to make you work harder and it will make other people work harder, seeing all this competition."

Some parents admitted they were interested in the gracious invitations from, wondering what level of athletes would show up.

After witnessing for themselves, they couldn't help but leave impressed and more intrigued.

"Chaz was real excited about coming," said Key Ramsey, father of Chaz Ramsey, a 6-3, 233-pound junior offensive lineman from Jackson Academy who, like Sherrod, is considered one of the elite members of Mississippi's class of 2007. "And there's nothing like getting an early start. We both feel honored to be there. We didn't have combines or kids with this size and speed. We didn't have any expectations when we got here. But there are a tremendous amount of talented athletes here. I think it showed Chaz the level he has to get. He now realizes the weight he has to put on, to stay in the weight room and be conditioned to compete with these guys."

And it's an opportunity that hasn't been available until the last few years. Former NFL star and NFL veteran Johnie Cooks knows that first-hand.

"It's a lot different than my day," said former Bulldog All-American Johnie Cooks, accompanied by son and Starkville High School senior-to-be tight end Johnie Cooks, Jr. "There is so much more big-time recruiting than when I came out of high school. It's amazing and I think it's great for kids to get this chance.

"This ( combine) is more like a pro thing, an NFL combine. This is exactly what the pros do. They bring you in, time you, weigh you and take pictures of you."

And not only was Cooks impressed with the combine itself, but the upgrade in facilities that were seen while on the Mississippi State campus also left him impressed.

"When I played at Mississippi State, I thought we had it the best you could get," said Cooks. "But you look at these locker rooms and new things. It's amazing how far Mississippi State football has come in 20 years."

Some parents were filling duel-roles on Sunday, serving as a coach as well as a father.

"It gives kids from Mississippi and other places the chance to get known and recognized," said Houston High School assistant coach Sleepy Robinson, a former Bulldog quarterback who brought his son Moonie Lindsey (junior-to-be receiver at Starkville High School ) and his nephew, junior-to-be offensive lineman Edward Prince. "They did a wonderful job putting this on and I'm proud these kids got this chance."

"Back during my day, it was just play football and put up numbers. Now you play football, put up numbers and get known nationwide. All the big schools, Florida State and Miami and such, they look at these websites (such as Then they can see talent they would normally not see."

Robinson, who left many fond memories in Bulldog hearts, hopes to offer guidance as a coach and a parent.

"It's a blessing to have a son so talented," said Robinson. "To his advantage, I've been through all the things he's starting to go through. I also have an edge as a football coach so I know what he needs to work on and improve. So this is another opportunity for him and I'm thankful for it."

The players on hand didn't know exactly what to expect in Starkville. But some did have a gameplan in mind once they stepped on the MSU campus.

"You have to go hard in everything they put you through," said Noxubee County senior-to-be quarterback James Patterson, 6-1 and 211 pounds. "I feel special to be invited and I'm trying to get nationally known. I really want to work on my accuracy and get that down pat. I wasn't very accurate last year and that's something I have to work on."

And other players plan to share their knowledge of the combine with teammates, in hopes of aiding their team's success in the fall.

"I hope to get a lot of training out here and learn some new techniques," said highly-touted Humphreys County High School linebacker Jamon Hughes, 6-0 and 224 pounds. "I want to take some new techniques back and show them to the rest of my team. It can only help us to learn as a team from this camp.

"When I first found out, I was at work. My dad came and told me and I was excited big-time. I mean, it is a big honor to get invited to a camp like this with all the best players in the state."

While these athletes were focused on the skills and timing workouts, they also took time to brush up on their social skills. Players attending seemed just as interested in the competition and meeting new people. And who knows, they could be meeting a future teammate at the next level.

"It feels good to meet a lot of players you didn't know from this state," said Charleston High School senior running back Marlin Meeks, 5-foot-8 and 191 pounds. "It's a chance to see the whole lot of talent in this state and make new friends. You get to see the competition out here. You never know, you might see some of these people in college and you will already know them. That's the main reason I came - to meet new people."

Some made their way to Oktibbeha County with friends, using the chance to experience something new as teammates. Such was the case with the quintet making the trip from Meridian High School.

They also used the Sunday morning to get a first glimpse of Mississippi State's campus, a possible school of choice come February, 2006.

"It's fun to be among the top competitors in the southeast," said Meridian senior linebacker Roshaad Byrd, who came with Wildcat teammates Cordera Eason, T.J. Harper, Jamie Hill and Brandon Davis. "You want to just have fun and see where you are with the rest of the squad. It is good to have teammates with you instead of not knowing anybody. You can be with them and just have fun with this the correct way.

"I have been to one of these camps in San Antonio so I wanted to come to Mississippi State. It might be the school for me," said Byrd, who has several scholarship offers. "I want to try to go to as many SEC campuses as I can and see how all the schools are. But this is the biggest campus I have been to so far."

And when all was said and done, players went back to their respective towns and schools further enriched on their skills, physically and mentally. They also learned what they have to do to improve, and what areas need more attention.

This combine was just the start of a long journey in the recruiting battles for many. But just getting here was a major accomplished, and yes, an "exciting" and "amazing" opportunity.

"Like I told my son, it doesn't matter what you do," said Cooks. "He may be the slowest out there today but it's about the opportunity to face some of the best athletes in the South. That is what's important - people giving you a chance. I always tell (Johnie, Jr.), you have to take advantage of opportunities and that's what he is getting today. I just appreciate Gene (Swindoll) and everybody (at for) giving him a chance."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at

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