MSU Legends: Mario Haggan

One of the most feared defenders to ever wear the Maroon and White is Clarksdale, Mississippi native, Mario Haggan. Haggan was a three-time All-SEC selection during his collegiate career and was named second-team All-American as a sophomore. Mario will begin his fourth season with the Buffalo Bills of the NFL this fall and was gracious enough to grant an interview about his days as a Bulldog.

SR: Mario, how did you decide on Mississippi State?

MH: I wanted to stay close to home and I thought it was a good fit for me.

SR: What other schools were recruiting you?

MH: Of course the rival was. Illinois was willing to offer. At the time, Alabama was talking like they were, but I wasn't sure if it was going to be a full or partial scholarship.

SR: When you look back over your memorable career, what games really stand out to you?

MH: The Florida game and Auburn game in 2000, when we beat them in back-to-back weeks. The battles against LSU were always awesome games.

SR: Who was the toughest player you played against in college?

MH: (laughs) Can I give you a list? (Laughs) I tell you what I can't give you a best player because I played against a lot of great ones; guys like Deuce McAllister, Jabar Gaffney and Shaun Alexander. The list goes on and on. You got Eli Manning. My hands were full during my playing days at Mississippi State.

SR: What are your best memories of being a Bulldog?

MH: It was a great school. It taught me how to be a man. The college experience itself helped shape my life into what it is now. I think it was the best choice for me. That choice was made for a reason and I don't think there could have been any better choice. The people that I met and the fans were great. If there is anything better, I want to see it.

SR: Growing up in Mississippi a lot of young men dream of playing for Mississippi State or Ole Miss. Both programs have had some up and down years. If you had the chance to do things over would you have made a different decision?

MH: Oh, I feel like I made the right decision. Coach Davis did a great job. I always watched Mississippi State and the rival school too. When it came down to recruiting the other school showed interest, but they didn't show as much interest as Mississippi State and Coach Sherrill and his staff did. At that point, I wanted to play where someone wanted me and not just because I was ready to be a college athlete.

SR: Now I notice that you won't say the name Ole Miss. You keep referring to them as the rival school or the other school. Why is that?

MH: That's the way it is. You should respect the other school. (Laughs) We're the Bulldogs and they're the Rebels.

SR: Looking back on 2000. With two games to play, MSU controlled it's own destiny and fell to Arkansas in the slop. You were injured in that ball game and carted off of the field. What can you tell us about that?

MH: I tell you what. What I remember about that game was that we controlled our own destiny. It was a tough game. I thought we had it. We didn't pull it out. I went back and saw on tape that we had a couple of opportunities on the two-yard line. We couldn't get in. It's like a dream. You don't get those chances too many times in a career and I had a couple of them and I didn't capitalize.

As far as that last play goes when I was carried out, I was trying to make a tackle and I got hit across the head after having a good day on the field.

SR: One of the things I remember was you pumping your fist as they were carting you off. Were you just trying to let everyone know you were okay?

MH: I was okay and I wanted to give my teammates hope, so they could go ahead and finish the game. I just knew we were going to win. I wasn't worried about it, but obviously I didn't get my wish.

SR: There is a question I have always wanted to ask you about the 2000 BYU game. Did you mean to knock the ball out of the QB's hands or was that an accident?

MH: I was reaching to get the sack and to grab him. I was playing hard. That's what happens when you play hard and hustle. Good things happen. That play was just a product of me doing whatever I had to do, to get to the Quarterback.

SR: You have been in the league for a few years now. What are your expectations?

MH: This is year four and my goal is to become a starter. Once I become a starter there is no limit to what can happen on the field as far as my ability. Getting on the field is the main thing. Your ability will take over once you get the opportunity.

SR: How closely do you follow the program now?

MH: I follow them closely. I don't know many of the guys, but I keep up with the wins and losses. I think we're headed in the right direction. I think the fans need to be patient. 1997 through 2000 kind of spoiled them and gave them an expectation of what the program should be like. We have had a backwards tumble for a couple of years. Things look they are coming back. What we need to do is keep recruiting in-state and get the guys to stay. We need more positive guys to come in and play.

SR: So do you have any little Bulldogs running around yet?

MH: (laughs) Yes, I have a little eighteen month old girl. We'll be looking at some women's basketball in about fifteen or sixteen years.

Mario Haggan led the Bulldog defense in tackles from 2000 through 2002. He tallied 359 total tackles which ranks him eighth all-time on the Mississippi State career list.

Steve Robertson is a staff member of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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