One Tough Guy

When you first see redshirt freshman offensive lineman J.C. Brignone, you notice that he's got a bit of a baby face and a dazzling smile to go along with it, but when he gets on the field of play what the opposing defensive linemen see is an entirely different guy.

"He is a really strong, smart football player who has tremendous toughness," said Grimes. "And he has tremendous pride. He doesn't take no for an answer. He doesn't accept getting his tail whipped. If he gets his tail whipped it's not going to happen twice in a row because he has a lot of pride.

"He's a young man who I think will continue to flourish because he has the intangibles that you are looking for in an offensive lineman."

Two Bulldog offensive linemen, one current and one former, are a couple of guys that Brignone looks up to. And, as you would expect, both have that same toughness trait.

"I believe (senior starting center) "Royce (Blackledge) is one of the toughest guys that I have ever played football with besides (former Bulldog offensive lineman) Brian Anderson," said Brignone. "Royce and Brian, when they walked into the locker room, looked like they were about to fall apart. But when we got out on the field, no matter how much they hurt, they still went all out.

"That's the thing about the older guys - when it got too tough, they just got tougher. That's the thing that Coach Croom has brought here - these are all character guys."

Although the toughness is already there, Brignone realizes there are other aspects of his game that still need improvement.

"My steps still aren't as perfect as I want them to be, and I still could get a little bit stronger," said Brignone, who currently benches 440 and squats 615.

But learning the steps of an offensive lineman is very new to Brignone, a high school defensive lineman who didn't move over to the O-line until his redshirt season at State.

"Last year, when I redshirted, it was good for me because I was kind of thrown in the fire during the season when I was moved to offense," said Brignone, who was told by MSU head man Sylvester Croom that the move to the offensive side of the ball was because he is a natural pass-blocker.

But even guys with natural ability and toughness need that all-important thing called practice. And a spring injury kept him on the sideline watching instead of practicing.

"Going into the spring, I got hurt and that kind of hurt me a little bit because I didn't get to play as much as I wanted to at the beginning of the season," said Brignone.

But he continued to work hard and then good things happened as the season progressed.

"After I gradually started to pick up more and more, I started playing a lot about halfway through the season," said Brignone.

All of that playing time has been at offensive guard. And while that will be his main position in the upcoming spring, look for him to add a new position to his resume.

"In the spring we are probably going to look at him at center," said Grimes.

Who knows, he may wind up becoming the toughest center in the SEC before it's all said and done.

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

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