More Than Just A Thank You

It was barely noticed if noticed at all by most folks, but MSU head football coach Sylvester Croom and MSU athletic director Larry Templeton shared a special moment just minutes after the conclusion of one of the most emotional Egg Bowl games in the history of the series.

While most people would see it as a simple hug after a hard-fought victory, it was much more than that to these two men due to all they have been through the past four years.

"I was down underneath the dressing room because I didn't want to go out on the field since I felt it was his moment," said Templeton. "Then, when we saw each other we both went speechless. His first words were, 'thank you.' And I couldn't respond because I was choked up. He was crying and I was crying.

"Then, when we got in the dressing room, we had a moment to talk with each other. That was probably the most special moment that I've had in intercollegiate athletics."

Croom explained his reasons for offering the thank you.

"I told him thanks because I know how much criticism that I have gotten, and I know he's taken a lot of heat as he continued to support me," he said. "And I appreciated the fact that during the hiring process everything that Larry and Dr. Lee said they would do, he's done and more.

"Look at what we have done with our facilities. We were losing, yet we've gotten a new weight room, a new locker room. We've gotten all the things we needed to have a chance to recruit and compete even though we weren't winning. That's what I was appreciative of. When somebody follows through on what they tell you that they are going to do even when it puts them in harms way, you've got to be thankful for that.

"The reason I came (to Mississippi State) is because I fully trusted their word. Even after the first interview when I told them I wasn't interested in doing it, I was impressed with their honesty and how they came in and laid out everything about the probation. They didn't try to hide anything. I knew right then that these were good people."

The thank you was just the first of two things Croom did to show his appreciation. He also gave Templeton the game ball.

"I gave him the game ball because, in my mind, it's probably going to be his last Ole Miss game and I wanted him and the team to know that I wouldn't be here if this man hadn't had the courage to offer me this opportunity," said Croom. "I'll always be indebted to him."

Templeton talks about the events leading up to receiving the game ball.

"Coach (Croom) probably said the most beautiful prayer that I have ever heard after an athletic contest, and there wasn't a dry eye after that," said Templeton. "How he got his composure back to say those words and give me the game ball, I don't know. But when he said he was giving the ball to me, I couldn't respond. A couple of kids started slapping me on the back and saying some nice things, but the only thing I could say was, 'God Bless you guys.' It was truly a special moment much more due to the friendship than the working relationship."

While the Egg Bowl and the events that followed will be a special memory for all involved, the honors that have followed very well could have a lasting affect on the future of MSU football program, especially the SEC Coach of the Year award won by Coach Croom.

"While it's a terrific honor for him, I think it's just as big of an honor for our Bulldog family," said Templeton. "I haven't been anywhere in this country where he's not the talk of college football because of the job he's done. Last week, at the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, all that the national media guys wanted to talk to me about was Sylvester Croom."

And the talk will continue as the Mississippi State football program moves forward under the guidance of Sylvester Croom.


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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