"Since I have been here for a while, it gets a little bit easier for me each go-around. This spring, I felt more comfortable. I felt at ease with myself and comfortable with my ability to get in there and make plays and make use of the opportunities that I had. My goal for the spring was to make use of every opportunity that I had to be on the field whether it be must a few times or many. I also wanted to make sure if I made a mistake to learn from that mistake and bounce back the next play and not the next day."
Do you feel you had a good spring?
"I think I did."
During the summer, do you treat each half of the summer the same or do you treat them differently?
"As far as I'm concerned, the first part of the summer is a little easier because there are not as many guys here and you are a little more laid back. It seems like to me you are getting ready for the next session of the summer when we turn up the intensity. I really didn't do a whole lot because I was expecting to mend some of my wounds and try to get ready for two-a-days as much as I could."
Talk a little about the second summer session. Based on what I saw yesterday, it really appears to be very intense.
"It is like a mental battle. The fact of the matter is in our heads we know the time is now. The time is now to work as hard as we can so we can achieve our goals. Our days are limited as far as getting ready for the season. In our minds, we turn up the intensity and try to let it carry over to two-a-days. When we have a day like we had yesterday, we try to set it up like a game situation, first through fourth quarter. You have to be prepared for anything. When you are at the end of the fourth quarter, guess what, it is going into overtime. You have to gut it out with whatever you have left. Like yesterday, at the end of the day, that is what we had to do. The team that is mentally tougher will be better prepared for the stretch."
Yesterday, you guys ran two 110's and two 220's at the end of your regular workout. What are you thinking as you run those sprints at the end of the workouts?
"For one thing, you have to pace yourself. Some people try to exert a little more effort as they run each sprint. As for me, I try to run it as hard as I can each time, because you can only get better. At the end, when that monkey is on your back, you are not running against your competition. You stop worrying about the competition and just try to finish."
So, you are, basically, just trying to finish no matter what.
"No, you don't just want to finish. You want to finish but you also want to make sure you overcome the adversity that is in your body. If a person is kicking your butt throughout the game because he is naturally faster or stronger than you, this is the time when you are even. This is the time when the person with the best mental toughness takes over. The person who has the will in win, the will to gut it out, will be the person who will be victorious at crunch time."
What do you see different about this team than last year's team?
"I see some of the older guys like Mario Haggan stepping forward. I like what he has accomplished. He accomplished what he did because he had goals for himself. People said he was too big or too slow, but he overcame that and put it aside and then became the best linebacker at Mississippi State and the SEC and one of the best in the nation."
What are you hoping to accomplish individually this season?
"I want to go out, have a good year and have fun and make the most of every opportunity that I have when I hit the field. I don't worry about the depth chart. I stopped worrying about that. Your days are limited as an athlete. I'm just going to go out and have fun and use the gifts that I have to be successful, to be a contributor."
What do you think about some of the younger guys who are already at State in the second summer session?
"Some of the young guys that I have come in contact with in a class that I have appear to be very confident in themselves. Guys like Darren Williams, Ken Topps and Aries Nelson appear to know they have the ability to play now. I like to be around guys like that, guys who won't just come in, look around and see where they are at, and then think maybe they will redshirt. These guys know that they are going to give every effort they can to contribute now. I like that."
You are a fourth-year junior athletically, but a senior academically. How close are you to graduating?
"I'm a teaching/coaching major. I'm doing well. I'll be taking my last core classes this fall, then do my student teaching in the spring. My goal is to come back next season and either finish up in sports communication as a minor or try to finish up with my Masters."
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 email@example.com.