Outside The Helmet, Oct 2nd

Bully BarkLine, the new radio show that is exclusively about MSU athletics that airs every Tuesday night 7-8 at The Little Dooey in Starkville, has a feature called 'Outside The Helmet' which is produced each week by Bully BarkLine insider Melissa Tomlinson. This week, Melissa and I talked with football players Michael Brown, Dezmond Sherrod and Derek Sherrod.

Melissa: How is your mom, Mike?
Michael Brown - "She is doing real good right now. She's getting better everyday. She's just taking it one day at a time. She's starting to work a little more now. And she's actually coming to the games now."

Gene: What's it like for her to actually watch her son while sitting in the stands?
Michael - "She was happy to make it to the Auburn game. She was so excited just to be there. She made it to the LSU game, too, after not making the last six games of last year."

Melissa: I asked this of Titus last week. Physically, this game takes a toll on your body, but where are you mentally after the South Carolina game?
Michael - "We still are the same. I think we had an excellent practice today (Tuesday). We fell short, but we know what we are capable of doing. We know if we had done this play or that play right maybe the game would have come out different. So, we are still up. We know we have a big game this week. Everybody is excited about the game and it's Homecoming, so it's going to be a good game for us."

Melissa: What about you guys? How about answering the same question.
Dezmond Sherrod - "To play this game you have to be mentally tough. Whether we won the game or lost it, we have to learn from our mistakes. In this case, we took the last 48 hours to learn from our mistakes. And from here on out, we are just worried about UAB."

Gene: You mentioned 48 hours, what about the 24-hour rule that Coach Croom has for each game?
Dezmond - "It's not something formal, but kind of implied. You have to move on, just like each play in the game - if you mess up you can't dwell on the last play. You just worry about the next play. And that's our motto - One Play, This Play. And that's what we pretty much go by."

Melissa: Derek is the freshman, the baby among this group ... a big baby! You have a junior and senior with you. You guys have gone through some dark periods with this football team. Now, you are getting to enjoy the good stuff, Derek.
Derek Sherrod - "Yeah, because I'm starting out when we are having success it's a real blessing. Because my brother have been here for the past four years I've watched him go through the tough times even though I haven't experienced it personally. And it's hit me pretty hard being an MSU fan."

Melissa: Dezmond and Derek, tell me what it's like to play with your brother?
Dezmond - "It's awesome! It's pretty nice because we never had the chance to play on the same team in high school. When I was leaving as a senior, he was just coming in. So, I just missed him. But with me being a fifth-year senior and he being a freshman we have gotten this chance to really bond together on the field rather than just at home. And it's really a wonderful experience to be next to my brother and show him what to do. Not to many people get to do that."

Gene: Has there been that one moment in a game that has been the best among all the moments that you have played beside each other?
Derek - "Really, I remember one certain play against Tulane when we had to go and run a zone play that required us to double up on a man. When he stayed in the middle me and Dezmond has to push him to the side, then Dezmond had to jump off onto another linebacker. That allowed us to work together."

Gene: So, he was, let's say, Sherroded....
Derek - "(All three players laughed). I don't think that defensive end knew what was coming."

Dezmond - "He got a double dose of Sherrod."

Melissa: Talk a little about the camaraderie that you guys have on the offensive line. You seem to play as one now.
Michael - "That's the most important thing as an offensive line - we have to play as one. All of us are growing together. Since the first day that Derek got here, he's changed a whole lot. He's got more confidence. Anthony Strauder has more confidence. And Royce. Really, the whole offensive line. And we have fun. That's the most important thing, we are having fun. We can run the ball and be successful in the pass. When we are out there, we all bond. It doesn't matter which five is out there, everybody is coming together."

Gene: When did you guys on the offensive line get to the point where you were playing as one? When did it become fun for you guys?
Mike - "Really, the fun time happened when we just pounded on somebody. (They all laughed and agreed). But it started happening in the summer because we went through hard times together. By us going through hard times we knew they were going to get better some day. We just had to keep working. Now, we are working harder and harder."

Gene: Dezmond, can a loss such as the South Carolina loss help a team? If so, how?
Dezmond - "Really, when you lose a game that you know deep down inside of that you could and should have won, it makes you realize that every play counts. It makes you not want to go backwards. We have seen where we have lost close games and we don't want that to happen anymore. Now, we are realizing that we have to play every snap as if that is the difference between winning and losing the game."

Melissa: Now that you have started tasting the spoils of your hard work, winning, is that putting even more pressure on you mentally?
Michael - "No, we know we are capable of playing good ball. So, it's not overbearing."

Gene: How is this team better than last year's team?
Dezmond - "We play more as a team instead of 11 individuals. And that's probably the biggest thing because you have to have all 11 players on the same page to win the game."

Gene: Did playing as a team start this year or sometime last year?
Dezmond - "It really did start last year and we are starting to realize it more this year."

Gene: Derek, the guy sitting next to you, Mike Brown, is not just a very talented offensive lineman, but also an experienced lineman. What can you learn from a guy like that?
Derek - "There are plenty of things you can learn from Mike Brown. Even though he's just a junior, I think everybody can learn from him, even Royce (Blackledge) and J.D. (Hamilton) and they are seniors. Mike Brown comes out everyday and works hard and tries to better himself so that he can go out there and give it his all on Saturday. It's really fun to practice with him as well as all my other teammates."

Gene: Mike, the thing that separates you from most offensive linemen is how quick your feet are? Does Derek have quick feet?
Michael - "Oh Derek, has excellent feet. Derek is going to be real good. Have you seen him dance yet? (Everybody laughs)"

Gene: Ok, so if you guys break dance on the floor where are you going to find a dance floor big enough to handle all of you?
Derek - "(Laugh) You would have to find a big area (laugh)."

Melissa: Don't you two (Dezmond and Derek) have family in Iraq?
Derek - "We have an older sister, Erica Humphries, who is a specialist in the Army and she's stationed in Iraq right now. And we also have an older brother who is in the Army. He's stationed in Germany."

Melissa: Do they get to watch you guys play?
Dezmond - "They haven't had a chance to see our games yet, but our sister comes home this week. So, she will be at our game this week."

Gene: When was the last time you guys saw her?
Dezmond - "(Dezmond looked at Derek and asked) Probably a year?"

Melissa: So, tell me how important family is to you guys, Mike?
Michael - "Family is very important to me. It was a big decision for me to jump back in and play SEC ball. But I always put family first and I have a big family and we are all real close. It's been like that since I was young. My mom and my sister and my two brothers are very close to me."

Gene: Mike, what happens if you make it in the NFL. What will you do?
Michael - "My mom always tells me that I don't have to get her anything, she just wants me to do it for myself. But if it happens my mom and my sister are the first people I'm going to think about because they have been there for me. When I didn't have it, they always did for me to make sure I did have it. Not everything that I wanted, but everything that I needed."

Gene: How important is family to you two guys (referring to Derek and Dezmond)?
Derek - "Family is very important. You really can't live without family. They are your rock, your heart and soul. That's what you thrive off of. Whenever you go through hard times, you depend on your family to get you through it. I'm just glad that I have a little piece of family so close to me."

Gene: What about this team as a family?
Dezmond - "I was going to say outside of my immediate family, my teammates are considered family to me, too. They are like my brothers and the coaches are like father-figures to us. They support us ... we support each other when times are good and when times are bad. That's what you have to have to have a winning team. And that's what we are striving to be ... a family-oriented team."

Gene: I want each of you to describe the guy next to you in one word or a couple of sentence as a player. Dezmond describe Mike as a player. And explain why.
Dezmond - "Determined. He never gives up. When things don't go right for him he makes sure he does things to get it right."

Gene: MIke, describe Derek as a player.
Michael - "He is a hard worker. I know it's hard for him as a freshman coming out of high school. But he was able to come in and learn the playbook, and everyday I see him out there giving it his all. Everyday he's trying to get better and better."

Gene: Derek, describe your brother as a player.
Derek - "I would probably say relentless. If you just watched some game tapes of him, you see that he's a hard worker on the field. And especially because this is his last year to play, he's definitely giving it his all each play he's out there. He's just relentless against the defensive ends and linebackers he goes off on.

Melissa: What do you guys want to do once you finish your MSU football careers?
Dezmond - "Hopefully, after this season I will get my second degree, my MBA. If I don't make it in the NFL I would like to work in the field of financial planning or perhaps be an officer in the military."

Michael - "Hopefully, God will bless me by giving me the opportunity to play on the next level. That's what I really want to do. But before I leave I want to make sure I graduate. And I would like to start my own business. I have always wanted to own my own franchise."

Gene: And you, Derek?
Derek - "Everybody on this team has aspirations to make it to the next level, but I'm really undecided what field I want to major in."

Gene: What is Coach Croom to you guys? Is he just your coach or is he more than that to you?
Derek - "He's more than a coach to us because we can go to him for anything, morning, noon or night, just anytime. If we have anything on our mind, we know he can help us as can the other coaches. Coach Croom is a motivator, a coach, a father figure to us. There are so many things you can say about him...."

Michael - "One of the most important things about Coach Croom is he has been where we are right now. Coach Croom has been through the same struggles ... two-a-days, the offseason, playing on the next level. So, he's been there. That's why I've learned so much from him. And he's so willing to do it the right way and willing to get it right. So, every time I go out there on Saturday I play my hardest. I don't want to let the team down, first, then myself down and I don't want to let Coach Croom down."

Melissa: Dezmond, when you first started you guys had to buy into what he was telling you.
Dezmond - "I wanted to say that I have been here a long time. I have been here before Coach Croom got here. I was here when he first got hired. And I know his total win-loss record doesn't indicate it, but I can honestly say that he is probably the best coach Mississippi State could have gotten for us. He has totally changed this program around and it's starting to show in our win-loss record. He really wanted to build a foundation for this team. He wanted to make men out of us on and off the field. He wanted us to do the right thing in order to be productive citizens outside of football for the rest of our lives."

Gene: Did it just take time for everybody to buy into that? And maybe some guys who are gone now just didn't buy into it?
Dezmond - "That's exactly how it is. It took time for a lot of people to realize what he was trying to implement into our program. And the ones who didn't want to do that went their separate ways. And that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. But the ones who do survive Coach Croom and what he put us through, they are going to be winners in life."

Melissa: Is there anything any of you want to tell the fans, the ones who continue to stick by you after the rough times?
Michael - "For me personally, I want to tell them to keep faith in us because we are trying hard. We make mistakes, but we are a real good team and I feel going into the stretch of the season we are going to finish it out real strong."

Dezmond - "I want every fan out there to keep faith in the Bulldogs because we are going to a bowl game. That's all I have to say."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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