"He committed to Mississippi State," said Keith's dad, Vernon Mills.
Vernon explained why MSU won out over Southern Miss.
"You are looking at the conference difference. And you are looking at the coaches, the opportunities and the academic differences," said Vernon. "They have a real strong academic support system based on what he heard during the time we were there visiting. And the tv exposure of being the SEC Conference even though the team has been losing (is important). The facilities are kind of extreme on the SEC level. He was impressed with what he saw at Mississippi State. I'm not saying he wasn't impressed with what he saw at Southern Mississippi. But at the point when he had to make a decision between the two, he chose Mississippi State."
Vernon, who comes from a family of career-minded people, placed the opportunity of a good education at the top of the list.
"(Education) is everything," he said. "My mother was a school teacher and all my uncles and aunts are education majors, law school, Rutgers, Tulane law school. My cousin was the junior governor of the state of Louisiana. When President Clinton was elected he was one of the delegates that went to the Democratic Convention. When my football career stopped, my education kicked in and I was able to have a productive life. The bottom line is when football ends what happens? So, it is extremely important that Keith gets a good college education. And both of the schools that he visited have great educational programs and support systems."
While education is very important to him, the impression the Mississippi State coaching staff left on him also is important.
"They all have outgoing personalities and they are all kind people," he said of the staff. "And they are sincere people. The first thing I noticed about all of them was that they wanted to get to know Keith. They wanted to know personal things like him such as his hobbies, other activities and sports he is involved in. That was important to me because instead of just talking about football, they wanted to know about him."
Vernon already knew one member of the MSU coaching staff from his days as a running back at Northeastern Louisiana.
"I met (J.B. Grimes) in '79 when he came in at Northeastern Louisiana and coached," said Vernon. "It's now called UL-M, the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He was there with me from '79 to '80, my last season. Even back then he was a Bulldog type, sargent type, a disciplinarian. A real go-at-it type guy."
I asked Vernon about his son's ankle injury. He expects Keith to be running within the next few months.
"It's a minor (ankle) break and it's really no problem," he said. "He's already getting ready to start rehabilitation. It will be three weeks to a month before he will actually start rehabbing. Within two to three months, he should be back to running."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.