"This past spring, we were trying to bring our team together. We were trying to build team togetherness and unity. We wanted to make sure the new guys knew that going 3 and 8 wasn't fun and that we had to do a lot of work this spring. I think we moved forward this spring, on and off the field."
You are always here during the summer, so you know what is in store. What are some of the things you tried to achieve this summer?
"Summertime is when you try to get into the best shape you can before two-a-days. And this summer, you also want that team thing going on. The team hangs around with each other because you don't have many of the other students around during the summer and you don't have the season to worry about. You spend as much time with the other players as possible because they will be your family once the season starts."
Talk about this coming season. MSU was 3 and 8 this past season. And I know there is no way you want to see that happen again.
"3 and 8 wasn't a good feeling for the players or the coaches. Plus, practice is very hard to go through when you are losing. Going 3 and 8 hurt the team, but we are working on that. 3 and 8 wasn't fun. We are working hard."
What you are hoping for, individually?
"First, I'm hoping that the team can win a lot of games. Secondly, I want to go out there and perform the best that I can all 12 games. Hopefully, all 14 games. I hope I can perform good enough to get that chance to play in the NFL like all guys hope."
You are a senior this year. Are you on track to graduate this school year?
"I am going to graduate in May of next year (2003). I'm right on track."
What are you majoring in?
"I'm a teaching and coaching major."
You have always been a leader by your actions, but you are attempting to become more of a vocal leader this season. Talk a little about that.
"I'm trying to be more vocal this year. Guys already know that I work hard. Most of them also like to hear me talk sometimes. I like to holler their names out, getting on folks, making sure they all work hard. I believe if we all work hard, we will accomplish. Sometimes, when you are a leader, you have to step up and tell guys things they don't want to hear but need to hear. I'm trying to be that guy, along with other guys like Mario and a few other guys."
Do you think lack of leadership may have been a problem for last year's team?
"Yeah, there weren't enough leaders last year. We didn't have enough seniors to step up. In fact, we didn't have anybody step up. Last year, I hated that I missed most of the year due to the neck surgery. This year, I will out there the entire year and, hopefully, we won't get off-track like that this year."
Is your neck 100% now?
"Yeah, man, I'm blessed. My neck is healed and I'm ready to go."
Getting back to the leadership or lack of it, you've been here going into your fifth year. Was last year different than the other years, when MSU was so successful?
"Years before you could feel during the summertime that your team was together. Last summer, we really didn't have the team togetherness feeling. A lot of (new) guys didn't even come in until two-a-days. That kind of threw us off-track. Usually we feel it. Last year we didn't. We went through two-a-days and played our first game. We thought we were going to be good, but we lost that South Carolina game and it was downhill from there. We saw the team character after that game. We are working on getting the team chemistry and unity back on this team. Now, if we lose a game this year, we aren't going to fall apart like we did last year."
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.