Although he was as frustrated as everyone else, those close losses didn't catch Mario by complete surprise.
Hoing he was wrong, Mario had seen the handwriting on the wall prior to last year's 3-8 season. "The biggest thing that I saw prior to the 3 and 8 season was that we hadn't worked or practiced together as a team and didn't know each other," said Mario. "A lot of the guys didn't even come in during the summer. They came in at two-a-days and were already on the depth chart so they didn't know what it was like to pay the dues of hard work and sweat. When you get a team like that, there are always going to be problems. When the hard times come, you don't know who to turn to."
Mario has once again looked into his crystal ball, but this time he see something different for the Mississippi State football team and its faithful fans. "I know we will be better this coming season because we will have had a spring and summer together," said Mario after working out with over 50 of his fellow teammates on a hot, humid Mississippi summer day. "When the fall comes and the hard times come, we can look back and remember the hard work we put in as a team during the spring and summer."
Mario also made note of something else this team will have that last year's team didn't have. "Last year we lost a lot of close games that we could have won if someone had stepped up and made a play," explained Mario. He doesn't see that happening this year because, "this year, we have learned to work with each other and learned how to make each other go. We now know who to go to and ask to step it up."
Mario, while seeing the improvement in this year's team and knowing it is going to be a better team than last year's team, wanted to make sure his teammates knew it as well. In fact, that was one of his main objectives going into the spring. "My objectives were to get my teammates together and make them realize that we still have a good football," said Mario with confidence and determination in his eyes. "I know that if we work hard all the way up to August 31st getting prepared for Oregon, then we can turn this thing around and be a great team this season."
Mario continued by saying that, "my main focus this year is to help my team get together by helping them believe in each other and helping them understand when we tell them something it is because we want them to get better. Everybody wants to go 13 and 0, but the first priority is to develop a team and team chemistry. If we do that, there is no telling how many games we can win."
On a more personal level, Mario, now a senior, is also looking forward to doing more than helping his team become a winner again. "I want to make my mom and my university proud. And I want to thank the Good Lord for the talent that I have. I have a lot to look forward to. I want to play in the NFL and that is a goal that I can achieve."
Knowing the kind of person Mario is and watching how hard he works every minute of every workout and practice, there is no doubt in my mind that he will achieve those goals as well.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.