Derek - "Yeah, we are best buddies off the field. You see one, you are going to see the others anywhere we go. Last year, we had a little thing where we went to Applebees all the time and ate. But now that place is overcrowded on Thursday. But everyday we go to eat together. So, most of the time, you see one, you see the others."
Gene: Keith, what is it about you guys that caused you to become best friends other than that you play together?
Keith - "I think we all have the same unique personalities and we all think the same. And it's fun that we all feel and think the same about the same things."
Gene: Although you are best friends, you all come from different backgrounds.
De'Mon - "We are country, city and suburbs. Derek is country, Keith is suburb and I'm the city."
Gene: When did you notice your relationship become such a bond?
De'Mon - "I hosted Fitzhugh's (official) visit. And I met Derek on his visit, too. We went out that night. During the summer, we got real, real close because we stayed in the same dorm."
Melissa: You come from the city of Atlanta. What brought you to Mississippi State?
De'Mon - "I wanted to be part of a rebuilding program in a big-time SEC school. And I wanted to play with the best."
Melissa: Derek, you are from the country. Another guy who made it big in football was also from the country, Jerry Rice. So, tell me how growing up in a small town in Mississippi has helped you to become a great football player. And the second part of the question is why did you choose Mississippi State?
Derek - "It taught me a lot. When I was coming up I was the smallest one out of all my people. My grandma and granddaddy had 26 kids. And all of us stayed in one little part of the country. It caused me to be closer to these boys, too, because I always had that family when I was home. And when I came away from home, Keith was the first person to come greet me. And every since them, we've been like a family. And I look at these two boys like my brothers. I believe being from the country had a lot to do with that.
"As far as me choosing Mississippi State, I think being from the country had a lot to do with that. But one of the main reasons I came to Mississippi State was because my uncle told me it's good to be part of something unique. And Mississippi State had been losing for a long time, but I felt like I would stay at home and help the home team out. And it looks like right now we are on our way to becoming one of the good teams in the SEC. Hopefully, we can finish out the season and be pretty good."
Melissa: Keith, coming from the suburbs, why Mississippi State?
Keith - "I'm from the suburbs, right on of the outskirts of Atlanta. I had seen the big sights of the city life and, although it's not too country where I'm from, I can go about 10 or 15 minutes and I'm in the country. I guess coming here was a plus for me because I had never been in Mississippi a day in my life until it was time to go to college. And Coach Croom talked to me and my family and he seemed like such a great guy. And one of the other big factors was helping to turn the program around."
Gene: De'Mon, describe Derek as a player on one or more words.
De'Mon - "Superman and showboat. The guy makes a big play all the time. When I can't make a big play or Keith can't make one, I look for Derek to make one."
Gene: Derek, describe Keith as a player.
Derek - "In one word I would describe Keith as relentless. He is real focused and wants to make every tackle. When he hits you, he tries to run straight through you. I like the physicalness that he brings to the game."
Gene: Keith, describe De'Mon as a player.
Keith - "I would say he's like the little incredible hulk. When he comes, he's bringing the whole house with him, everything that he's got. He's bound to put you on your back. Every time he comes up for a tackle, I know he's going to give it everything that he's got."
Gene: How would you guys describe Coach Croom? (All three of the guys immediately grinned right after I asked that question.)
Derek - "He's kind of real hard guy, kind of a old school coach. He trying to bring how he played back when he played, kind of trying to bring a new flavor to the game. I think he brings the toughness from playing under (former Alabama football coach) Bear Bryant and coming up from the country, being raised in Alabama. He always talks about Bear Bryant and his daddy and how he looks up to them a lot. He's real hard on us, but he just expects the best out of a player. And I think sometimes, for some players, he expects more out of them than, really, what they expect out of themselves. Playing for him, you can't help but play to the best of your ability because he's going to expect the best out of you. He always says the sky is the limit for us.
"When he came in to recruit me, he was straight forward with me, real with me. And I believe that was the biggest reason for me coming here, him been straight forward with me. From all the other recruiters, I heard the same thing. But when he came in he was real with me."
Gene: How was Coach Croom different from the other coaches?
Derek - "All the recruiters said the same thing except for him. He was straight forward with me. He's a guy that's never going to beat around the bush with you. I believe that's why a lot of players look up to him and respect him."
Gene: Ok, Derek, I've got you here and can get you on the record. Are you happy on defense? If so, why? And would you like to play on the offensive side of the ball?
Derek - "Oh yeah, I'm happy on defense. I love playing defense. I believe the only position for me to get into the NFL is on defense. I would love to get the ball in my hands, but I have to play where he wants me to play. And I had a lot of schools offer me scholarships to come in and play running back or receiver, but I didn't want to do that. I feel like defense is best to me."
Gene: Keith, your thoughts about Coach Croom.
Keith - "I would say Coach Croom is like a father to me. But he's uptight. That's not a bad term because he expects a lot out of you. He is going to get on you when it's time to get on you, but, man, when it's time for him to be laid back and smile a lot, he will do that. That's what fathers do. He will ring your neck if he's got to, but he's still going to love you like a father."
Gene: De'Mon, how do you know Coach Croom loves you?
De'Mon - "When a person gets on you, that doesn't mean you are doing bad. But when they get on you, you know they really do care about you. If they aren't getting on you and you are doing bad, then something is wrong. Him being that way will help us later on in life when we are out of college. That's why I look at him as a father-figure."
Gene: Will you guys stay in contact with him once you leave Mississippi State?
Keith - "We've got to. He's a very strong guy who is close to a lot of people. And he knows a many people out there. If football doesn't work out for us, we have to get a job."
Melissa: How will Mississippi State be different coming out against Tennessee compared to how you guys played against UAB?
Derek - "You can expect us to come out with a lot more intensity, a lot more fire. We are playing Tennessee. If you have to get a speech to get you hyped up to play Tennessee, then you don't need to be playing in the SEC. That's a big-time name in the SEC for years. We'll be playing Phil Fulmer and the big organge. We just have to come out and get our technique down. I believe a lot of things that happened in the first half against UAB had more to do with us instead of UAB."
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 email@example.com.