"I am from Hollywood, Florida. I went to a junior college in Mississippi, Mississippi Delta Community College. I sent my videotape out and they just happened to need a long snapper at that particular time. They called me up and told me that they had a scholarship for me if I wanted one. I signed with them and went up there and started for two years. I did well over there. Then Larry Williams, who played (at MSU), made a phone call and set up an interview for me. They (MSU) saw my game film. I had to make a decision between Mississippi State and the University of Central Florida. I decided to come to Mississippi State because it was an SEC school, big-time football."
You were the long snapper for part of last season. Talk about first coming in during two-a-days and winning the job.
"I came in for two-a-days. The position was wide open; they didn't have a starter. I showed them what I had and won the job in two-a-days. I had the job until halfway through the season, when I started struggling for a little while."
What did you try to accomplish during the spring?
"I changed my technique and style. I tried to perfect it. My technique was sort of erratic from the fall. This spring, I worked on looking at the punter and made sure I followed through with my steps, technique and throwing. It has actually enabled me to be more accurate with placement of the ball. I am getting it right-side, hip-high everytime now."
But you won't be able to look at the punter during the game, will you?
"I look down for just a second. Once I release the ball, I'm not looking. I push back and go into my blocking style and technique."
I know during the summer you are working on your conditioning, but are you also working with punter Jared Cook to perfect your snaps?
"Jared and I pretty much practice everyday. Depending on how we work out running and lifting weights, we will work out various amount of times. Today, after we get through with our conditioning running, we are probably going to spend an hour out there. We actually do gametime situations. Things like 4th and 8 on the five-yard line with four minutes left in the 4th quarter and we need to get it past the fifty-yard line."
Do you mean you will snap the ball differently in different situations?
"What we are trying to do is put more pressure on ourselves. If we are on the three-yard line, Jared is not going to stand 15 yards, which is standard. So we are going to have to practice a thirteen-yard snap. Or it could be 12 yards as the case may be."
That is a good point. Talk about the stress of being a snapper. I know a lot of guys are sometimes able to take a play off here or there, but you can't do that because a mistake by you can cost the team to lose 40 or 50 yards due to a block punt or a poor snap.
"I try not to think about it. I try to think about getting out there and doing my job. I try to block out the crowd, block out the other team. I just try to focus on me and (punter) Jared (Cook). When the game is on the line - like some of the games last year that I played in where the games were really tight and I had to go out there and make a deep snap in our endzone and if I messed up we would have lost - I try not to think about that. I just go out there and do what I know to do; do what I have been doing for eight years.
"If I had to come in here as a true freshman, I don't know if I could have been able to handle it. You need to grow and become more mature. You have to get used to the pressures and block out the things going on in the stands. It is almost all mental. It is probably about 70% mental and 30% physical.
"The Florida game is a perfect example of needing maturity. My first away game was Florida. I am from Hollywood, Florida and my dream was to play for Florida. All my friends from high school went there. My first time in there, I couldn't hear anything. And it was very difficult to concentrate. You needed to be strong to run in while the crowd was going wild. I couldn't even hear myself think. That was when you had to be mentally strong. You just had to get the ball and complete your job. A freshman doesn't know anything and it is difficult on him."
You guys had a 3-8 season last year. There seems to be concerted effort to make sure that doesn't happen again this season. What do you see this team doing this season?
"We are actually coming together more as a team. I see the seniors taking more responsibility of getting everybody more together. Basically, they are putting events together that we take in as a team. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. We are trying to get the team unity aspect in this team. Last year, we really didn't have that. Personally, I didn't even know anybody on the team until halfway through the season. I'm out there starting with guys I didn't even really know. I have made more of an effort to get to know the players and I know everybody now. It is a much more comfortable situation now than it was last year when I didn't know anybody."
Based on your experience as a player, will knowing the other players really help the team improve on the field?
"Oh yeah, definitely. Like in the military, you don't leave a man behind. That is the same aspect that we are trying to add to this team. As an example, the Friday morning running at 6 a.m., when half the team is done, they will go out and help the rest of the team finish their run."
What do you hope for individually this season?
"I want to be more consistent. I want the punt team to be the best team out there. I want coach Sherrill to know when he sends us out on the field, the job is going to get done right. Basically, I hope not to play that much (laugh)."
(Laugh) Yeah, more touchdowns and field goals and less punts.
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.