"My three main objectives were to get more knowledgeable of the offense, to become more accurate as a passer and to become a better leader for the football team. Those three objectives are obviously high, especially going through my first spring training. It was big for me to get those three things accomplished. I think I definitely made strides in all three. And for the first time, the coaching and the timing with the receivers started to all come together. I think that is where I made the most progress, just becoming accustomed to football at this level. I have finally gotten to a point where I have built some confidence up and know that I can now help the team progress in the role that I play."
Speaking of football at this level, was it a little more than you expected when you first came in? Was the game faster and bigger than you expected?
"It was bigger. A lot of people talk about the speed. The speed didn't make as much difference to me. It was how big college football is."
But you came from a fairly big school in Texas.
"Yeah, but even the biggest high school in Texas is maybe 10,000 people. But when we went to Florida and played in front of 83,000, that kind of hit home."
Was that intimidating?
"It was extremely intimidating. What scared me the most about it was that I knew that I wasn't going to play and I was still scared. That is when it really sank in that college football is the real deal. But at the same time, it was a feeling of privilege to be where I am. And definitely a blessing to have the opportunity that I have here."
I kind of got off on a tangent about football at this level. Talk about what you did the first part of the summer.
"The first part of the summer I spent working a summer camp in Missouri called Camp Kanakuk. (MSU teammate) Kevin Sijansky and I were both up there. It is a Christian focused, athlete camp. There are several of them in Missouri and a few in Colorado. It is for kids of all ages. I had a cabin full of 17-year olds. I got to teach football and I got to really to do a lot to help these young kids learn more about Christ. It was a wonderful opportunity for me. It would have been great for me to be here (at State working out), but I really believe God was calling me to be somewhere else. I really feel like it benefited me, not just spiritually, but also physically and mentally getting ready to come back here."
How long were you there?
"I was there for about a month."
You pretty much spent the first part of the summer there. Now, you are back at State going through summer workouts under MSU strength coach Mike Grant. What are the things you want to accomplish the second part of the summer?
"I want to get stronger. I think I made some good strides in the spring to get a little stronger and improve my arm strength. But I've still got to do more than revive the strength that I have. I have to go beyond that. I have to get to where I can make every single throw on the field with hesitation. If I have to throw off my back foot, I want that ball to have as much zip on it as it would if I had the opportunity to follow through. The other thing I want to do is help this team build some closeness with each other. We really can't be a family if everybody is scattered. Is we can come together over the summer, then that takes a lot of pressure off of us in the fall because we will have already come together as a family. When two-a-days start, it will be nothing new, just moving into a different routine."
You mentioned making any throw on the field that you can. I've seen Kevin Fant make unorthodox throws on the field. Really, you remind me of him, not so much because of the throws but more because you and he are so determined and sort of like daredevils on the field. There were times during the spring when you were near the goal line and just ran right through would-be tacklers to score. Have you always been that type of a player?
"I think I get that from my dad. I grew up in a household where being apprehensive is not an option in any part of life. If I want to be the leader that I'm capable of being, then I have to do whatever it takes to be a great leader. If that means lowering my head and taking a shot, then that is what I'm going to do. I'm not so naive that I believe I'm going to bowl people over everytime I attempt to run. But you never know unless you go ahead and try it. If it means putting six points on the board, then I'm going to take that shot because that is for my team and is nothing about me."
You don't want to just be a vocal leader but also be a leader by example.
"Exactly. I think that actions speak louder than words. That is an old cliche, but it rings true."
Talk about your hopes for this team this upcoming season and also your hopes individually.
"We want to go out and win an SEC Championship. I can't imagine a member of our team thinking otherwise or setting a goal any lower than that. We had a disappointing year last year. Everybody realizes that. Everybody talks about that. But, as a team, we are very positive and optimistic. We are building on everything positive. Everything that was negative, we are throwing in the fire because it is behind us. If we have to come out and work twice as hard this summer and fall in order to accomplish our goal, I think we have guys on this team that are willing to make that sacrifice."
What about individual goals?
"I feel extremely confident that Kevin (Fant) is going to do some great things for us this year, but I have to prepare every day like I'm the starter. And I want to gain the confidence of my coaches and teammates to the point where I can come into the game anytime and there be no reservations on the sideline that I can get the job done. If I don't have my mind focused on that priority and that opportunity comes up and I'm not ready for it, then all I'm going to do is cripple the team. That is a huge goal of mine, not just to play, but be ready to play."
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.