"I was a graduate assistant at Delta State prior to coming here. (Former MSU OL) Coach Steve Campbell, who was my head coach when I played at Delta State, gave me a call a few days before Easter. He asked me if I was interested in coming to Mississippi State as a graduate assistant. Over the holidays, I asked my uncle, (former MSU assistant coach) Glenn Davis, about Mississippi State. About two weeks later I was a GA here."
And two seasons later you are a full-time assistant coach at MSU. Did Coach Croom explained why he chose you as his new assistant after Coach Drayton left to go to Florida? I know from watching you, you are a very hard worker. Was that the main factor?
"We never really talked about why. I did work really hard for them. I not only made sure I did my duties as a GA, but I also tried to learn the offense. Although I was working with the OL, I made an effort to learn more than just the OL. I learned about the tight ends, the running backs, the offense as a whole. I guess, when the opportunity came open when Coach (Stan) Drayton left, my name came to his mind and he offered me the job."
Did you have a feeling that you might get the job?
"When Coach Drayton left, I thought I would have a chance, because I knew that Freddie (Kitchens) had coached running backs prior to when he came here. (Moving him to running backs) could be a way to keep the staff intact. As for me, I was only one class away from completing my second Masters, so I was about through at Mississippi State. I was going to be here one more football season, but, at the same time, I knew this would be my last year. When I asked a couple of our coaches what I should do, they told me to let (Coach Croom) take care of it. Then, one day, about 9 o'clock in the morning, I received a call saying that Coach Croom wanted to see me. That's when he offered me the job."
You grew up a fan of MSU. You were just offered the job at your university. A university in the SEC, the toughest conference in the country. What were your feelings when you received the offer?
"To be honest with you, it took awhile for it to sink in. This was my first job. It's in the SEC at the school that I love, a school that I have cheered for since I was probably a year old. It was a special moment for me. I called my dad that day and told him. When I saw how excited he was, it made me even more excited. But, at the same time, despite how excited I was, I realized it was a big step and I knew that I now had a lot of responsibilities on my shoulders. I had to get ready for the spring and get ready for recruiting. I tried not to get to wrapped up in the celebration, but tried to start getting my work done."
Once you started your job, did the other assistant coaches give you some helpful hints and explain the ropes?
"They really did. I asked a bunch of questions about everything from running meetings to talking at coaches clinics and alumni meetings, as well as recruiting questions. Luckily for me, I recruited at Delta State, although that was a lot different than it is here.
"Two things I knew I had to do was take care of my recruiting responsibilities and meet with my tight ends. I wanted to make sure the high school coaches knew who I was when I started recruiting in the spring. And I wanted to explain to my tight ends what kind of relationship that we would have, since they had always known me as a GA."
How different was this past spring practice, your first as a full-time assistant coach?
"During my spring practice as a GA, I had been very involved by learning how things worked and also helping coach the OL a little. But this year, I had my own position. It made it much more fun. It seemed like on every play there was something I could talk to my guys about to help them do a better job and get better. It was really exciting, because you could see the progress that they made."
This spring was also your first time to go out as a full-time recruiter. What was that like?
"I really enjoyed it, because I love recruiting. Before I went out, I was a little stressed out because everything was new. Would I be able to find all the schools ok? Would I develop good relationships with the coaches? I ended up having a really good time while on the road. I took my time by not trying to hit too many schools each day. I went to about 4 or 5 schools a day and spent a lot of time with each coach. I tried to develop relationships with each one. We talked about everything from football to the SEC, to the Big 12...really just about everything that you could think of. Of course, I had a couple of bumps while on the road. I took a few wrong turns and wound up at the wrong places. I got lost a couple times. However, I think, after a couple of days, I figured out that I will be pretty good at recruiting one of these days."
What areas did you cover, mostly Mississippi?
"No, my area in Mississippi is really small. I have a small part of north Mississippi, which starts above Tupelo and goes to Holly Springs. I also have an area in southeast Alabama. Then, all the way up the west coast of Georgia, starting at Columbus. I also had the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a few places in east Texas."
Were the areas you covered places that you were already familiar with?
"Gene, the funny thing about it is I have lived in Mississippi my entire life and you could give me the name of a high school and I could go right to it except for one area, northeast Mississippi. I had never been up there. So, everywhere I went was new to me, but I found all the schools, eventually."
You mentioned that you normally tried to visit between 4 and 5 schools per day. Were you able to visit more in the bigger cities like the Dallas-Fort Worth area?
"I was able to hit more schools in that area. When you first think about going to the bigger cities, you feel it is going to be more difficult, but it was actually easier. The reason is each school was so close to another school. I didn't have to drive 30 to 45 minutes going from school to school. In Arlington, there were probably 9 schools within a 10 mile radius."
What has been the most surprising thing to you during your first four months as an assistant coach?
"The thing that is the most surprising is the number of alumni events and clinic talks that you are asked to do. I did a clinic at Atlantic City, then went down to Lucedale in George county and Carthage. I was a little nervous. Here I was three weeks into my job, I had just turned 26 years old and I was doing my first (major) clinic. It was a big high school coaches clinic. I was nervous at first, but it went really, really well."
What has been the most fun things that you have done, so far?
"One was spring practice. I really enjoyed being on the field practicing. I enjoyed it as a GA as well, but it was different. I was able to sit in meetings when we did the installs and talked about what we were going to do each day, how we would attack the defense in scrimmages. That was fun for me. I also really enjoyed recruiting and talking to all my recruits during May. Now, I look forward to getting them to our camps this summer."
Speaking of talking to your recruits, have you given your first scholarship offer to a player that you are recruiting? If so, what was it like?
"I've offered a couple of guys. It was a lot of fun, but I was able to tell a couple of players that they had offers while I was a GA. But it's different (as a full-time recruiter). When you offer guys, they want to find out who you are. As a GA, it wasn't the same as being an assistant coach."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.