Outside The Helmet, November 2

Bully BarkLine, the radio show that is exclusively about Mississippi State 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 guest host Melissa Tomlinson. This past Tuesday, Melissa and I talked with football players Anthony Strauder, J.D. Hamilton, Jason Husband and Avery Hannibal.

Melissa: J.D., you have another hobby other than football. What is it?
J.D. Hamilton - "I rodeo. I team rope and calf rope. I'm both a header and a heeler."

Gene: Anthony, how special has this season been to you?
Anthony Strauder - "It's a great opportunity. And it's special being part of the team of the first black (football) coach in the SEC. And it's big because we have a chance to go to a bowl game as long as we finish these last three games."

Gene: What does the success you are having this season mean to you, especially considering you are a fourth-year junior and have been through some tough times?
Strauder - "Personally, to me and a bunch of guys like J.D. and Avery, this is their last go-around because they are all seniors. And it's important to send the seniors off on a high note and also to turn the program around and get it to the level it needs to be."

Gene: Has there been a certain point where you saw that this program was turning around? Was it this year or maybe even last year?
Strauder - "I thought that last year we were a lot more competitive, but just like in a few games this year I thought we did some things to give other people games. I still feel like there were, maybe, two games that we still should have won this year. We just have to play sound football, limit our mistakes because mistakes at critical times are detrimental."

Gene: How did you wind up playing football? To be honest with you, you look more like a professor than a football player.
Strauder - "There's nothing wrong with being an intelligent man and being able to play football. My family has a history of football. And it's something that I've always enjoyed doing. Pretty much all the sports, but football is what I became the best at."

Gene: When did you realize that you had a chance to play football on the collegiate level?
Strauder - "In high school I came along and I was pretty good. Then, I started going to college camps. I was aware of it around that time."

Gene: When you first came in you played defense. You have since moved to the offensive side of the ball. Do you like offense better?
Strauder - "At first (the move) was kind of big to me. But it's not that big to me now. They pretty much do the same thing. We (offensive linemen) just have to know more stuff. There is a lot more placed on the shoulders of the offensive line. And it's good because it will allow me to take my game to the next level. I'm happy with it."

Gene: Melissa has noticed that this team seems to be more unified. Have you also noticed that?
Strauder - "Honestly, and I heard Jason Husband say this also that he enjoys being around the players more than he ever has in the past, and I totally agree with that."

Gene: Jason, when did you get into football?
Jason Husband - "I started playing when I was little, Pee Wee football. I played quarterback, defensive line, linebacker, everything you can think of, kicker, punter. I also played everything in high school. But I mainly played because my brothers played. It was something to do."

Gene: Had you played tight end prior to coming to State?
Husband - "I played a little bit of tight end in high school when they wanted me to. I was always willing to help the team with whatever I could do. I played a little tight end, linebacker, safety, kicker, punter."

Gene: What makes this team a little more special than the other State teams you played on?
Husband - "I think it's the attitude - the want to win and do anything to win. We have it before games and before practices. It's more winning than just getting by."

Melissa: Titus (Brown) said that it's different going to a job you hate compared to going to a job that you love? Is that kind of how you look at it when you guys go to practice?
Husband - "When you leave school you are done with your books. And this is a game that you enjoy. You want to be outside with your friends. There's nothing better than playing around with your brothers or your family members. You just come out here and enjoy yourself."

Melissa: The pressure on you guys being the face of MSU, do you feel that, Jason?
Husband - "If you know what you need to do to be a true leader, there is no pressure because you know how to act and how to be responsible with your actions."

Gene: Jason, describe Avery Hannibal as a player?
Husband - "Physical. He is just pure muscle, a block of muscle. It's hard to run through him and he gets good movement on the line."

Gene: Avery, describe J.D. as a player?
Avery Hannibal - "I would have to say physical, too. He just gets after guys all the time. He makes some guys not even want to line back up against him."

Gene: J.D., describe Jason as a player?
Hamilton - "Hard worker. He always goes on and gets the job done."

Gene: Avery, why do you have A Hannibal on your uniform instead of simply Hannibal?
Hannibal - "I don't know. I really have no idea."

Melissa: Talk about the passion that you guys have for the game coming up against Alabama?
Hannibal - "We want to win. We want to go out there and give our best and win."

Melissa: Avery, what do you do outside of football? With a name like Hannibal are people a little leery of you (laugh)?
Hannibal - "I go to church, sit at home and watch tv and do school work. And hang out with friends."

Gene: What is your favorite show on tv?
Hannibal - "My favorite show is CSI. I like all the CSI shows, FBI Files, all that kind of stuff."

Melissa: You mentioned that you go to church. How important has your faith being in holding you up based on where we have been and where we are going?
Hannibal - "It has been very important because I know I can't do anything without God. Christ is first in my life no matter what. I always give God all the credit."

Melissa: Have you ever asked Him why you had to deal with all the stuff that's happened during your first four years here?
Hannibal - "Yes, I have questioned why did God let me come here. Things didn't work out like I wanted them to at first. But I just have to understand that God has a plan and a purpose, and you can't really question it because He's going to do what He wants to."

Gene: This question is to each one of you. What does Coach Croom mean to each one of you, individually?
Hannibal - "He is a good guy who wants us to do it the right way."

Husband - "Croom is a true friend and a real leader. He is going to tell you the truth and be with you until the end. And he is going to show you the right way. He even makes jokes with you. He's a comedian at times."

Hamilton - "I think Coach Croom is a great guy. He is always trying to make you a better man. And he's not just worried about making you a better football player; he wants to help you succeed in life and make you a better man in life."

Gene: What are some things that he does that causes you to believe that he truly cares about you as people?
Hamilton - "He constantly worries about the little things: how we are doing in class, how we act moreso off the field than on the field, stuff like that."

Gene: Is Coach Croom an emotional person?
Husband - "Yeah, he's very emotional."

Gene: in your opinion, is that good or bad?
Husband - "It's good, man, because you can see what a person is really like when you see the passion when they talk. Every time Croom talks you can see the passion in his eyes and hear it in his voice."

Gene: What do you guys think of the Dog Pound Rock, something MSU football used to do in the '90's?
Husband - "We need to bring it back among the fans. We need some fan-life here. We need all our fans here rocking in the Dawghouse for the next two games. We need everybody."

Melissa: J.D., I know you lost your Dad this summer. What did he mean to you?
Hamilton - "He's the main reason I'm still playing football. I wanted to quit back in high school in the 10 grade, but he's the reason I'm still here. So, I dedicate my whole season to him."

Gene: How much has Coach Croom helped you deal with the loss of your Dad?
Hamilton - "When I get down on myself, I can go talk to him and he helps me out."

Melissa: How difficult is it to stay focused after losing your Dad?
Hamilton - "It is hard because you get down on yourself and you want to talk to him. But you realize you really can't go talk to him because he's not there. You just have to sit down by yourself and just talk to his spirit."

Melissa: How important is it to you as seniors to end this season in a bowl game?
Husband - "When you signed those papers that's what you came here to accomplish, to change the whole program around. You came in knowing that Mississippi State wasn't good at the time, but your whole goal the next four or five years was to change the program around."

Hannibal - "Going to a bowl game would be our award for our hard work and winning games. It's a big deal to me because I have never been to a bowl game and I want to go."

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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