Ben Pollard: Well, before last season even started, I had made the decision that it would be my last at Texas A&M. My family, we had our minds made up that we were moving back to Tuscaloosa. When we first lived in Tuscaloosa, I was two weeks away from being an elder in our church when I was released by Coach Shula. That was a very difficult time. The kids were doing so well in school and it was a great place for us to raise our family. Now College Station was a good place to for my family. But we just wanted to move back to Tuscaloosa. In fact, even if I didn't get a job, I was going to get out of the NCAA if that's what it took.
Coach Croom already had a good relationship with Terry Jones, Alabama's strength coach. Coach Croom and Terry go way back to when they played together and Terry went to church where Coach Croom's brother, Kelvin Croom, was the minister. Terry knew I had a desire to stay in coaching and wanted to move back to Tuscaloosa. So Coach Croom kinda recruited me here and asked me if I had interest in coming back to the SEC. It was a certain challenge that I was looking for and to be here is a unique opportunity. I guess you could say it was intervention by God and He led us here to Mississippi State. He led us in this direction.
Q: How did your first team meeting go?
Pollard: I thought it went well. I see the guys more than the other coaches do so I just have to tell them things over and over that those coaches would be telling them. But it's more than just about football with these guys. They have to be the right person, not just in football, but on campus and in school and outside of football. Tuesday was our first real work day and I saw the guys had plenty of energy. I liked that.
Q: What are your first impressions of Mississippi State?
Pollard: State has good facilities, especially with the new indoor facility. When I first got here, I catch myself looking around and thinking, okay, this is where we will be in the summer or bad weather or whatever. But with the indoor facility, you don't have to do that and there are no changes of plans. It is so great to have that indoor facility. At Texas A&M, they just got finished with their indoor facility and they got to use it for the bowl game. But before that, there was nothing. I went from having an indoor facility at Alabama to not having one at Texas A&M. That was rough because you can miss valuable time because of the weather. So I missed it when I was there at A&M and it's such a huge help if you have one, like we do at Mississippi State.
Q: What are your philosophies in the weight room?
Pollard: I guess you could say I am a 1-max rep person. Through my past experiences, I like players to squat and bench heavy and resolve the rest around that. Coach Fran at Texas A&M and I had the same outlook on that. That's why we matched up well together. I like the big strength numbers and so did he.
I want our offensive line to be the most powerful and best fourth-quarter line in the SEC like all coaches do. At Texas A&M, we had a good offensive line and a good run game and they played hard. I have been fortunate to be around good offensive lines, at Alabama, Texas A&M and TCU and they were good because they came to work hard and play hard.
Q: Talk about the importance of leadership in the weight room.
Pollard: Well, I don't know all the guys yet so I told them everybody has a clean slate. I will see who steps up and who the leaders are in time. They will show themselves. Our assistant coaches have an idea of who the leaders are but not me. So maybe guys that didn't step up for Coach Nowell will now for a certain type of guy. Sometimes it takes certain changes to cause guys to change. At Texas A&M, we didn't have any more talent than we did in our previous couple of years. But last year, it was a matter of leadership on that team, something that wasn't always going on with that team in the past. For seniors, it's hard to make changes and earn your reputation all over again. But I think that's good for all involved.
Q: How does it feel to be back in the Southeastern Conference?
Pollard: Man, I tell you, I have been in the SEC West and Big South in the Big 12 and there are not two tougher places to be. I mean, you look at the top schools and then look at how they all do against the so-called weaker schools. At Texas A&M, we got beat by Baylor last year, one year after they beat them 73-0. You have to be ready to play in the SEC every time out. But it's fun, period. I have been to LSU, Tennessee, Auburn and won in a great atmosphere. We all enjoy the SEC, my family, too. My son (sophomore quarterback at American Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa) loves it and wants to play in this league when he gets the chance. And it's great to see all the other SEC strength coaches, most of whom I know very well.
Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at email@example.com.