Dogs' Gholar sees stock rise; still focused on 'W'

[Premium Article] Suddenly, after one year on the football field at the college level, Mississippi State defensive back Michael Gholar is drawing more attention than he ever anticipated.<P> A two-sport standout, actually three sports, although he's never played collegiate baseball, Gholar has seen his stock steadily rise on the gridiron. He's started the last six games on defense for the Bulldogs with two regular season games remaining.

In his last two games, he's led Mississippi State in tackles with a pair of 13-tackle outings against Alabama and Tennessee, two of the SEC's most offensive-minded elevens.

"I guess I've played okay, but I'm still learning," allows Gholar, who has moved up to fourth on the MSU tackle charts, in basically a little more than half the season. Following a quick installment in the Dogs' secondary, the Prentiss, MS product stands among the defensive leaders with 56 stops. "I guess I've held my own against some pretty good teams," he said in his unassuming manner.

In the company of the "big-hitters" like senior All-American linebacker Mario Haggan of Ckarksdale, MS, who has a team-leading 114 tackles, Gholar said he's been "letting the game come his way."

The basketball-built, jumping jack defender can wrap-up a ball carrier or defend against the pass with the best of 'em at 6-5, 200.

Gholar's hoops career has been well documented, capped by a 2002 SEC Tournament championship ring under MSU coach Rick Stansbury. The Dogs followed up the tourney title by advancing to the second round of the NCAA's last March. But it's the rapid rise on the gridiron for one of Jackie Sherrill's special players that has the NFL scouts buzzing.

"Michael is an athlete," Sherrill has said repeatedly. "If he had been with us in football all four years, he would have even been better, but he's capable of playing in the NFL."

Gholar admits he drew only passing interest after four years of basketball, although he was a clutch player, and one of the best rebounders and defenders in the rugged SEC. However, word's getting around in football circles about his prowess.

Trailing only Haggan, linebacker T.J. Mawhinney (74), and fellow DB Josh Morgan (59) in tackles on defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn's side of the ball, Gholar is fast making a believer out of SEC skeptics.

"It's been a great thing for me," Gholar said about his blossoming which has enhanced his chances of making it to the NFL after his playing days with the Dogs are over.

But for the time being, Gholar and his MSU teammates, have two games remaining, beginning with Saturday's final regular season home game with the Arkansas Razorbacks at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field.

The most pleasing thing for Gholar would be to put up a couple of "W's" in the next two outings. Quickly emerging in the limelight with several big plays like an interception return for a touchdown at Memphis to seal a win in the Bluff City, and other impact plays, it's a "W" that Gholar and his mates still have within their focus.

However, Arkansas (7-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) has a little more riding on the outcome of the Western Division duel than the Bulldogs (3-7, 0-6), but that doesn't mean the Maroon & White isn't hungry for a victory.

One of the keys will be stopping, or at least slowing down, Razorbacks' sophomore quarterback Matt Jones, a 6-5, 225-pound bundle of dynamite who the Bulldogs have already encountered in football and basketball.

"Matt (Jones) is a great quarterback," said Gholar, who'll be facing the Fort Smith, Ark., product for the first time on the gridiron, but has met the Hogs' two-sport standout beneath the backboards on numerous occasions.

Gholar and the Bulldog hoopsters turned back Jones and the Razorbacks, 89-83, in a barnburner at The Hump last February. However, Jones and his Arkansas mates rallied for a touchdown in the final two minutes to defeat Mississippi State, 24-21, last year at Fayetteville, Ark.

It was a 43-yard run by Jones that set up the game-winning TD by Cedric Cobbs with 1:20 remaining.

A deceptive long stride, Jones has accounted for 1,745 yards total offense, rushing for 548 yards while passing for 1,197 yards for Houston Nutt's Razorbacks, still in the running for the SEC West title and a berth in the league championship game.

"Jones is big and he's a great runner," said Gholar. "He's a lot faster than he looks. I think he makes the offense go."

For himself, Gholar says MSU defensive back coach Curley Hallman has been a big help in his transition from basketball to football.

It hasn't taken long for Gholar to gain respect around the league with his solid play in football something he had all along in basketball.

If you're listening Ron Polk, the Dogs' RDS, who drew his first start at FS, has played first base and third base on the diamond and has a heater for an arm!

Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer who is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News, writes a weekly article for Gene's Page.

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