Defensive back Kevin Dockery had one scholarship offer coming out of high school. How can so many teams overlook a guy like Kevin, a four-year SEC starter for Mississippi State?
"Why that happens is (coaches) look for certain type players. (Coaches) all do that. I only had one (D-I) offer and I was a college All-American. Bob Baumgarten only had one offer and he's a five-time pro-bowler. The list could go on and on.
"The reason for that is the guy could have one negative, his height, his weight or speed. But some of those guys (who have that one negative) find a way to make up for it. (Kevin) doesn't fit the prototype cornerback. You would like that guy to be two inches taller and 10 to 15 pounds heavier. But he doesn't let that stop him. That's what we are trying, as much as anything, to get across to our players. We definitely have limitations talent-wise, but so what, you still have to play the games and still have to find a way to win. Kevin Dockery has found a way to make himself a winner. The Kevin Dockery's of the world is what makes this game special. Everybody is not going to be born 6-4, 250 pounds and run a 4.5 forty. And it's the same way in life. Some of us don't look so good. Some of us start out low income or with nothing. Some players start out with no mamas or no daddies. That doesn't mean they can't be productive citizens or can't be winners in their personal lives. Your race, your color, where you come from; none of that matters if you want to get it down. If you truly believe in yourself and you want to get it done, you will find a way. And if you try hard enough, somebody will give you a helping hand."
You mentioned that you only had one D-I offer out of high school. Did Coach Bear Bryant ever explain to you what he saw in you that the other coaches didn't?
"No, but my high school coach used to referee (Alabama) practices. (Based on what he said) I think it was more than anything else that I was a competitor and they knew that I loved the game and that I was a team player. I went there not knowing what (position) I was going to play. I didn't even know if I was good enough to play (for Alabama). But I knew if I could play for (Bear Bryant) I could play for anybody. The only clue I ever got from (Coach Bryant) was when he wanted to move me to center and I fought it for two years. I finally went in and asked him if he thought I could be good at it. He said, 'yes, you can be good at it.' That's all that I ever asked him. So I went about making him right."
How late in the recruiting process did you receive your offer from Alabama?
"Late my senior year. I think it was about (November) during my senior year."
As far as the making of a great player, how important is having a five-star heart?
"I don't think you can be a great player without having the burning desire inside of you even if you have talent. Kevin has that. Despite being slight of stature, he not only wants to be the best he can be, but he tries to be the best corner in the country. And you know what happens because of that? He comes as close to his potential and probably beyond by taking that attitude."
Can you win with 22 guys that have five-star hearts, but none that have five-star talent?
"It's tough. You can win games and you can have a winning season, but I don't think you can win championships or win consistently with 22 like that. To win championships you have to beat teams that have those prototype guys that have the talent and the heart. I know a couple of the coaches at (2005 National Champion) Southern Cal and they said the most intense competitor on their football team is (junior All-American running back) Reggie Bush. And he's also one of the most talented players that I've ever seen. That's the kind of guy who will beat you if you put the ball in his hands.
"One of their coaches told me this story about him. He's also their backup punter. He said he told him to go over and get some punts before the game. (Reggie) said, 'ok, do you want me to go catch them, too?' And he wasn't joking, either. He was going to kick it and catch it, too. That's the attitude he has. The love of the game is what makes him so special."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.