It's All About Trust

When Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom first said he was going to have no curfew the first two nights in Memphis as his team prepared for the Liberty Bowl, that caught many MSU fans by surprise. Let 105 young men out on the streets of Memphis at night - what is he thinking? But unlike Croom they didn't know these kids the way he did. And they responded exactly as he expected they would.

Ok, maybe even he wouldn't have done that a year or two ago, but, according to MSU offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey, this group of Mississippi State football players is one that has earned that trust due to their actions on and off the field.

"Coach Croom talks all the time about them earning things - and they earned that," said McCorvey. "That's what has been so good about them - their business-like attitude that they have shown. They have come out everyday and worked hard. They showed this all the way back to two-a-days.

"You probably noticed while watching practice that you don't hear coaches screaming and yelling like they used to. There is a lot more teaching and learning going on. It's more of a classroom environment than it used to be. In the past, you were always having to prod guys into doing something that you knew would make them into good football players. You don't have to do that today."

Thanks in large part to a group of seniors such as Royce Blackledge, Dezmond Sherrod, Jason Husband, Titus Brown, Avery Hannibal, Eric Butler, Gabriel O'Neal and Tyler Threadgill who listened, learned and applied what they learned.

"This group of seniors provided a lot of leadership all year long because they have been in the program for four years," said McCorvey. "They have heard the same thing over and over again - it's about the little things."

Things as small as wearing a suit and tie on road trips.

"I remember when we first got there, Coach Croom said he wanted to make every trip a business trip," said McCorvey. "Whenever we left Starkville to go get on the plane we wear a suit and tie. And when we go from the hotel to the stadium we wear a suit and tie. And some of them didn't like that. Now, they don't say anything about wearing coats and ties."

And, as with most things Coach Croom does, it carries past the football field and into the field of life.

"When a young man goes out into society with a degree from Mississippi State and he goes in on a job interview he has to know how to present himself," said McCorvey. "If you don't look right and don't know how to present yourself, your prospects for employment is not going to go over very well. I've even noticed that some of them look at their suits as something they can wear in a situation like that as well as other places such as wearing it to church and other places as well."

And McCorvey sees long-term benefits for the MSU football program.

"Now, all the young guys understand what it took to get there," he said. "They also know that there will be a lot of hard work to be in the same position again. And that's what we will continue working toward every year."

Beginning in mid-January.

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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