Stallworth: One Part of the 1-2 Punch

It's not that often a true freshman tailback gets to have an impact in the Southeastern Conference. And now that Mississippi State has seen two rookie running backs earn starts, Arnil Stallworth has been dying to give the duo that also includes Anthony Dixon a nickname.

Stallworth started the UAB contest as he did in the Tulane game. Fellow classmate Anthony Dixon has all but started each game and ranks as State's leading rusher with 227 rushing yards on 57 carries and two touchdowns.

"We will be in meetings or whatever and I keep telling him that we need to come up with a nickname for ourselves," said Arnil Stallworth. "He said the same thing. So the first thing that came to my mind was that we would call ourselves the '1-2 Punch'. Us being just freshmen, it hasn't stopped us from taking over."

And that '1-2 Punch' has been clicking so far just four games into their collegiate careers.

Stallworth and Dixon did not know each other until they arrived on campus this past summer. They had met before, but just one time and they were on opposite sidelines.

Stallworth was a member of the Alabama squad while Dixon headlined the Mississippi team in the annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game in which Stallworth had a touchdown run.

"Anthony Dixon is a great guy," said Stallworth. "I didn't really know him before I got here to Mississippi State. I played against him in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game and got to see him play.

"When we got here, it's been an instant friendship. It's been a great experience so far and I look forward to keep playing with him."

And neither has a problem with who starts the game or who finishes it.

"We have different packages for both of us," said Dixon. "There really isn't just one guy being the starter. We do different things better than each other and on offense, we just go with what is working at the time."

Stallworth ranks third on the team with 21 carries for 86 yards and a touchdown. Stallworth has also proven valuable in the passing game. The Daphne, Ala., native led the Bulldogs with four catches for 30 yards at UAB and has hauled in seven receptions for 41 yards on the season.

Stallworth admits he didn't plan on starting in the SEC, at least not his first year on campus with the Bulldogs.

He just wanted to come in, do his part and learn his role, helping the squad anyway possible.

"I had expectations of playing but I didn't have the high expectations of starting," said Stallworth. "I came here with the mindset of you know, just playing and trying to make a contribution to the team. I wasn't expecting that big of a contribution of starting my third game out there. So I must have been doing some things right."

And doing things right is what caught the Bulldog coaching staff's attention late in the recruiting period.

Despite rushing for 2,018 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior season at Daphne High School, Stallworth didn't receive the number of offers he was expecting. In fact, there wasn't a single Division 1-A offer at first.

"It was disheartening for me at first," said Stallworth of his lack of recruitment. "I was looking for a lot more offers. I had some offers from Division II schools and one offer from a Division 1-AA school, Southern Illinois. I didn't want to go there and it was too far for me and I didn't like my visit."

So he waited and bypassed his signature on National Signing Day. But Stallworth did not have to wait that long before his golden opportunity arrived, or make that maroon and white opportunity.

"I waited and my family told me I should just wait and see what happens," said Stallworth. "I just wanted to see what offer may come. I was going to sign with Tuskegee, actually.

"Then one day I was in school, about a week after National Signing Day. My coach came to me and asked me how I would feel about going to Mississippi State. I said I would go at that minute. I talked to Coach (Freddie) Kitchens before he left and he told me how they wanted to sign me. I told them to send the paperwork right over right now and I would sign."

Stallworth's availability for this weekend's game at LSU is still in the air. He suffered a bruised and sprained ankle against the UAB Blazers but is still planning to get his first carry at Tiger Stadium on Saturday.

"I've been doing a lot of rehabbing and just trying to get back healthy," said Stallworth. "I have a high ankle sprain and a bruise. I can walk on it okay but running and cutting is a little harder. I just need to get back 100 percent and get back healthy."

Stallworth injured his ankle when he was knocked out-of-bounds at UAB. He knew right away he was in trouble, but it had nothing to do with his injury.

"I saw that on film," said Stallworth, referring to kicking MSU head man Sly Croom after going out of bounds. "I didn't know I had kicked him until I saw that on film. The dude hit me out of bounds and then I ran into somebody. I kicked Coach Croom and knew I was in trouble then."

Despite starting 1-3, Stallworth still sees big things from himself and the Bulldogs this season. He notes that the season is still young and their goals are still there for the taking.

"First, I want to get healthy," said Stallworth. "Then my goal is for us to make it to a bowl game, you know, go and win enough games so we can go to a bowl. We haven't been since 2000 and we have to rebuild our reputation at Mississippi State and not let anybody overlook us.

"We have to expand on this season and keep working to the future. We will win a lot more games and get those wins we need."

And what a way to get his first taste of college football. Yes, Stallworth is fully enjoying his rookie campaign. But you can't blame him for looking down the road just a bit, a glance at what the '1-2 Punch' can do at Mississippi State.

"That's what we keep looking at," said Stallworth about three more years after this season with him and Dixon in the backfield. "We are going to make some history here at Mississippi State and that's what we look forward to doing."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at

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