Felker was the nation's youngest collegiate head coach when he was selected to guide the Mississippi State football program in 1986. He directed the Bulldogs to a 6-5 mark in his first season at the helm, the school's first winning season in five years. Felker's team won road games at Syracuse and at defending Southeastern Conference champion Tennessee during that '86 season, and he became the first MSU head football coach to post a winning record in his initial season since the legendary Darrell Royal in 1954. Felker served as State's head football coach through the 1990 season, immediately preceding the current 11-year tenure of Sherrill.
He came back to State as the school's head coach following 11 years as an assistant coach on the college level. Immediately prior to rejoining the MSU program, he was an assistant at Alabama from 1983-85. He served as the Crimson Tide receivers coach in 1983-84 and the offensive backfield coach in '85. During his stay in Tuscaloosa, he helped Alabama to postseason bowl wins over Southern Methodist ('83 Sun Bowl) and Southern California ('85 Aloha Bowl).
Prior to returning to the SEC, Felker worked two years each at Texas Tech (1979-80) and Memphis State (1981-82) under the guidance of the late head coach Rex Dockery.
Felker began his coaching career at Mississippi State following his playing days, working for head coach Bob Tyler. He worked with the junior varsity (1975) and the varsity receivers, quarterbacks and running backs (1976-78).
A native of Jackson, Tenn., Felker was a five-sport letterman at Brownsville (Tenn.) High School, earning all-state honors in football for his father, head coach Edwin "Babe" Felker.
Felker's first association with Mississippi State came in December 1970, when he signed a football scholarship to play quarterback for the Bulldogs. After playing one year of junior varsity ball, he was under center for most of the next three seasons. In 1974, Felker led MSU to an 9-3 overall record, leading the SEC in total offense and directing the Bulldogs to a win over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. He was named the Nashville Banner SEC Player of the Year and the Birmingham Post-Herald Outstanding Senior Player for his stellar final season.
Following his five years as head coach at MSU, Felker worked nine more years as an assistant football coach. He had two terms as the offensive coordinator at the University of Tulsa (1991-92 and 1997-99) and spent four years on the coaching staff at the University of Arkansas, working three seasons (1994-96) as the school's offensive coordinator.
He helped Tulsa to a 10-2 record in 1991, coaching the quarterbacks and wide receivers. That Golden Hurricane team defeated San Diego State in the Freedom Bowl during that season. He also tutored the running backs during his stay at the Western Athletic Conference school.
While at Arkansas, Felker coached the running backs in 1993, then tutored the quarterbacks the next three years. He helped the Razorbacks win the SEC Western Division title and earn a berth in the '95 SEC Championship Game. The Razorbacks concluded that season with a bid to the Carquest Bowl in Miami, Fla.
Felker, a 1975 graduate of MSU, has worked in private business during the past two years. He is married to the former Susan Tingle of Philadelphia, Miss., and the couple has three sons: Jay, David and Stephen.
Sherrill's hiring of Hallman reunites a pair that helped make history at Texas A&M University from 1982-87. Under Sherrill's leadership, and with Hallman as his defensive secondary coach, A&M authored a transfer of power in the Southwest Conference. During those six seasons, the Aggies won three straight SWC championships (1985-87) and earned berths in three consecutive Cotton Bowls. During those six seasons in College Station, Texas, A&M defeated Texas four times.
Hallman also has seven years of collegiate head coaching experience in his nearly three decades of football experience, including three at the head of the University of Southern Mississippi program.
Hallman was the head coach at USM following his association with Sherrill at A&M (1988-1990), posting a 23-11 overall record. In just his first season as a head coach, he led the Golden Eagles to a 10-2 record and a 38-18 win over UTEP in the Independence Bowl. His 1989 squad pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season when it defeated Florida State in the season opener at Jacksonville, Fla. He culminated his stay in Hattiesburg by leading USM to an 8-3 regular season in 1990, a record that included wins over Alabama and Auburn, and ended with an All-American Bowl appearance.
His successful run at USM earned him a four-year stint as head coach at LSU from 1991-94.
Since his time in Baton Rouge, La., Hallman has served as defensive secondary coach at the University of Alabama (1996-98) and as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach of the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the XFL (2000-01). In his second tour of duty at Alabama, he helped lead the Tide to a '97 Outback Bowl win over Michigan.
A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., who was raised in nearby Northport, Hallman began his collegiate coaching career at his alma mater, Texas A&M University, in 1969. After two seasons at A&M, Hallman later coached four years on the staff of legendary head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant at the University of Alabama, working with the defensive backs, running backs and quarterbacks. He was a member of UA coaching staffs that led the Tide to four straight bowl games ('73 Sugar, '75 Orange, '76 Sugar and '76 Liberty). That '73 team earned Alabama's ninth national championship.
Following his initial stint in Tuscaloosa, he spent two seasons at Memphis State University (1977-78) and three seasons as defensive coordinator at Clemson University (1979-81). Those CU teams ended the '79 campaign in the Peach Bowl and in the '82 Orange Bowl. On the staff of then-head coach Danny Ford, that Orange Bowl triumph over Nebraska capped an undefeated season and earned the Tigers a national championship.
That championship season proved to be the springboard to launch Hallman to his head coaching positions. During his distinguished career, he has participated in 13 postseason bowl games (one as a player, 12 as a coach) and has been affiliated with eight conference and two national championship teams.
Hallman, who lettered three years as a defensive back for the Aggies and graduated from A&M in 1970, was an all-conference performer who played in the 1969 Cotton Bowl. He was named to the A&M 1960s all-decade team.
He has two daughters, Jennifer and Jessica, who both reside in Birmingham, Ala.
Here are quotes from the press conference.
COACH JACKIE SHERRILL:
"It is a very good day for the Mississippi State family.
"I have watched Curley (Hallman's) career. I was fortunate to hire him away from Clemson. He then coached for me for a while. There were two coaches up for the Southern Miss job. I was hoping he wouldn't get the job, but he went to Southern and did a great job.
"We all know Rockey (Felker's) background. Without a doubt, Rockey is one of the most liked players in Mississippi State history. You have to be pretty good if you are the Player of the Year, especially in the SEC, and especially if you are a little guy.
"I want to introduce Curley. He grew up about 40 miles from here. He has been all over this part of the country. He is very well respected. Curley will coach the secondary. Our players are in for a shock because they will understand what technique and learn a lot of other things as well.
COACH CURLEY HALLMAN:
"It has been a while since I have had an opportunity to stand at a podium like this. It seems like it was fifty years ago. I am very, very happy to be here. More importantly, I am very, very appreciative of the opportunity that has been presented to me by Mississippi State University and Coach Sherrill. I am happy to be in coaching. I was kidding with Rockey earlier that we would have been getting ready tomorrow for an XFL game with the Birmingham Thunderbolts. The collegiate level is the age group of young guys that I have always enjoyed coaching. I am excited about coaching and teaching them.
"My role is very simple. I am here to be loyal and totally dedicated to Mississippi State and helping with the improvements and progression of the student-athletes that I am responsible for. I am here to help them as a person and as a student-athlete. Maybe sometimes when I am a little hard on them and they don't understand I think of a little saying: My role as a defensive back coach is get these young men to 'do what they don't want to do so that they can be what they want to be' and that is to be successful.
"I look forward to meeting all of you."
Q and A with Curley Hallman:
What was your first impression of your DBs?
"I like the way they looked physically. I liked the way the way they moved around in the off-season drills. I also mentioned to them that I want them to do a little better in the program when fatigue sets in. I was being very honest with them. Making you tired is part of the off-season program. I want to see two or three of them to step forward a little bit more and became the leaders when they all get tired."
Do you consider yourself a strong disciplinarian?
"I would like to think I am, but I also think that I am fair. You can be hard on a young man, but if you don't have a little compassion mixed in there and being consistently fair with him, then you might be perceived as going beyond being a firm disciplinarian. I try to balance it and I think I have always had a gift or knack for balancing that out."
You were a defensive back in college and also coached DBs in college. How much of your football career has been involved in the secondary?
"When I went to Texas A&M and was very young, I worked with the secondary. When I first went to Alabama, before I switched over to offense, I worked with Brother Oliver over there. When I went to Clemson, I coached the secondary there. We won a National Championship there. I went to work for Jackie at Texas A&M as a defensive back coach. Later, I went back to Alabama with Coach Stallings and also worked with Mike DuBose and coached the secondary there. I finally coached the secondary with the XFL's Birmingham Thunderbolts."
Now that you are back in the college ranks, you will be getting back into recruiting. Are you looking forward to that?
"Oh yeah, I enjoy recruiting. I have always enjoyed it. I enjoy the different personalities and the different situations. I understand recruiting and understand you have to find them. That is the first thing. Then you hope you are 100% correct that they are good players."
Have you and Joe Lee Dunn talked very much about your role?
"Briefly, we have gotten together. Joe Lee is the defensive coordinator and I have the greatest respect for him. He likes to do things the way he has always known it, but I think he is open if you have a suggestion. I like the way he coaches."
Mississippi State likes to play a lot of man coverage in the secondary. Is that your style also?
"They play a lot of zone also. I think you have to play both. I think that Joe Lee believes that also. I have been around it in some places where we were 50-50. I have done both and enjoy both."
COACH JACKIE SHERRILL:
"I have followed Rockey through his career, certainly when he was here and at Alabama. Everywhere I went in the state (of Mississippi) I never heard anybody who didn't talk good about Rockey. I tried to hire him about three times. I guess I didn't know the correct thing to say. I guess I finally figured it out. When I sat down with Rockey and asked him why he wanted to come back, he said 'I am coming home'. That was probably the best answer he could give me. I am glad to have Rockey back. The reason I hired Rockey is so he can take a lot of work off me so that I can spend some time with my grand baby (laugh)."
The crowd gave Rockey a standing ovation. - Gene
COACH ROCKEY FELKER:
"There is no one happier than I am about being back at Mississippi State and been able to come back home. Mississippi State and I go back a long way as you know. It is a special place for me. Coach Sherrill and I have talked about coming back. The timing just wasn't right. As your kids grow and they are in high school, it is sometimes tough to say we are moving somewhere. This time, I really felt like it was the right thing to and the something that I needed to do and wanted to do. I would like to thank Coach Sherrill for the opportunity to work with him. He told me that I am going to stay busy, which I am ready to do.
"It has been 12 years so a lot of time has gone by. Those years have been good to us. It was tough when we left Mississippi State. I drove out of Starkville with three kids in the back seat. We have grown a lot. It has been great watching them grow up. During that time, I have been able to reflect back on that time, particularly the five years I was here as the head football coach. It wasn't very long after that that I was very thankful, grateful and fortunate to have the opportunity to be a head football coach in the SEC at your alma mater. Sure it didn't end like we wanted it to, but the Felkers are grateful for that opportunity. Looking back, I realize I was too young for the job. I was a 33 year old youngster who came home when mama called me to (laugh).
"I left in 1991 and have seen Coach Sherrill take this program to new heights that it has never achieved in our lifetime. Living in Oklahoma and Arkansas as a Mississippi State alumnus, I sometimes had to shake my head with the bowl games and winning.
"We are not in a hurry to move. My oldest son Jay is a sophomore at Oklahoma State. David is a senior in high school. We are going to let him graduate from Fayetteville High School, then move sometime in June or July. My youngster son, Stephen, who was born here in 1989, looks like the athlete of the family even in the 6th grade. We have to keep our fingers crossed and hope he will keep working hard. They are all great kids.
"This state has grown in football, and the head coaches at the high schools have done a great job. This has really become a great state for high school football. There is a lot of talent here, and the coaches should be commended for doing such a great job.
"I am really forward to getting out and seeing all the Mississippi State folks. This week, when I was riding around with him, Larry (Templeton) and Straton (Karatassos), I couldn't believe how the campus has changed."
Q and A with Rockey Felker:
Of all the things you will be bringing to this program, what do you feel is the most important?
"I think it is the fact that I am a Mississippi State person. I played here. I coached here. I have a lot of Mississippi State ties. I know a lot of folks in the state of Mississippi. If they cut me I bleed Maroon and White."
Has Coach Sherrill told you what your job duties will be?
"In this position I will be limited in terms of coaching - I will not be doing any on the field coaching or off-campus recruiting. Everything else I will be heavily involved in, from organizing recruiting to being in charge of the budget, academics - to a smaller extent - and compliance. I'm sure I will be getting out and doing some speaking and going to see Mississippi State alumni groups. You name it, I will be involved in it. Organizing recruiting is a big deal and I know a lot of folks out there."
Do you feel like coming back to State is sort of like closure for you?
"Yes I do. Even when I left here in 1990, the though of coming back was in my mind because this is home. But I thought there needed to be some time to get over what happened when I was the head coach was here. I think the timing is perfect right now. I feel like I am home now."