Mississippi State has become known for using junior college transfers to build its football program to championship heights. This year might seem to be an off-year for junior college recruiting, but not if you look at the accomplishments of MSU's one transfer, Manuel Dickson."> Mississippi State has become known for using junior college transfers to build its football program to championship heights. This year might seem to be an off-year for junior college recruiting, but not if you look at the accomplishments of MSU's one transfer, Manuel Dickson.">

The Military teaches Manuel Dickson life's lesson

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/football/2002/mdickson.jpg" align="left" width="116" height="156"> Mississippi State has become known for using junior college transfers to build its football program to championship heights. This year might seem to be an off-year for junior college recruiting, but not if you look at the accomplishments of MSU's one transfer, Manuel Dickson.

"The one thing that I will always remember about going to Georgia Military is winning the National Championship," said center-guard Manuel Dickson. "While I was there, we were like family. No matter what came our way, we were always there to back each other up."

Leaving family can be the toughest decision in any person's life, but like many of the other MSU signees, Dickson saw something special about the Bulldogs.

"I guess I saw something here that not everybody else could see," said Dickson of his decision to become a Bulldog. "When I came up here to visit, it was like I was part of the family, everybody just took me in.

"Now that I am here, that has just kept on going. I have only been here two months, but everybody treats me like I have been here the whole time. It is not just one or two players taking me in, the O-line, backs, just everybody has made me feel at home."

Dickson may have been physically ready for college football coming out of high school, but the six-foot-four center needed work on academics. But attending a military school taught him about much more than books.

"I didn't have the SAT score coming out of high school, but I still could have gone to a Div. I school. I would have had to sit out a year, but I really didn't like the schools that were recruiting me," said Dickson of Middle Tennessee, North Carolina and a few other small schools around Tennessee.

"Georgia Military is a Military school and they have a lot of rules that other junior colleges don't have. We had a mandatory two-hour study hall everyday. We had to work on something during that time, and there were always people there watching us. That really taught me to discipline myself."

5:30 a.m. physical training exercises, military formations, and study halls are not the norm for junior colleges. But to go through military exercises, classes, and football practice in one day has to teach a young man something.

"We (the football team) had to prove to everyone else that we could make it through the military stuff," said Dickson. "Most of the time all of the military guys would say stuff about us, or make us do the drills longer or faster. We just had to stick together and work as a team. That really shows you how to work with other people, not just for yourself."

Teamwork is a big part of being a great offensive lineman. The ability to know everyone else's responsibilities and taking care of your own is a sign of an elite lineman, especially in the SEC.

But not only size or teamwork will get a team through a tough game, the ability to adjust to the game speed can make the difference.

"My first game at Georgia Military, I really wasn't ready for the speed. Junior college is a lot faster than high school," said Dickson. "I know that coming into the SEC is going to be faster that junior college.

"I am hoping that coming in early will help me to adjust and be ready to help this coming season."

Now that Manuel has gotten to MSU, he has gotten into the famous workout program of coach Mike Grant.

"The workouts here are serious, but I know that they will help me on the field," said Dickson of his first months of football at MSU. "I have always had quick feet, but I have to get my strength up so that I can compete for a position this spring."

With spring practices just a few days away (March 4th), the rest of the MSU line cannot take anything for granted with Manuel pressing for a job. It would be nice to have a national champion anchoring the offensive line next fall.


Grant Alford is a free-lance correspondent for Gene's Page. He is a student at Mississippi State University and works as a sports reporter for the student newspaper, The Reflector. You can contact him by email at hammer634@hotmail.com.

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