You are about to take it to another level, what are some things you want to achieve while in college?
"Coming into college, I have a lot of expectations, so I just want to meet those goals and expectations."
MSU track coach Steve Dudley recruiting you for State and he's the sprint coach there. What are some things he hopes you will be able to achieve while at State?
"He wants me to achieve every goal that I set, running in the World Games and standing in the block at the Olympics."
Do you think the Olympics are a realistic goal for you?
"Yes sir, because I work hard. And my dad pushes me and he's not going to let up because if we speak it, we are going to do it."
You are only 18 years old but you have such a great work ethic. Why do you have that kind of work ethic?
"(Laugh) I guess because I understand that the Lord has placed me on such a high level and the only way I can go is down. And the only person who can cause me to go down is myself, so I strive for the best."
Why are you so dedicated to track?
"Because it's my life, my future. And I know how the Lord has blessed me and put into me. If I don't be dedicated, then everything that He has done will have been in vain."
You had a lot of college choices. When did you realize how heavily recruited you would be?
"Last year, when I was consistent in running the 46 (seconds 400 meters), everybody was saying that I was a 46 guy and I had another year. I received a ton of letters. And, like I said in our first interview, I sat down and I filled all of them out. Not many responded but I guess that was because track season hadn't come yet because it was in the summer. But when track season came again and my times starting progressing, a lot of people started calling. That's when I started taking my visits."
You narrowed it down eventually.
"Yes sir. I kept people wondering but I kind of had my mind made up where I was going to go. I knew what schools had for me and I knew Mississippi State had it all for me."
What is all?
"Mississippi State was home, they are good people who have supported me. And there is nothing like family or being home. So, they got it all."
Your recruiting coach for Mississippi State was Steve Dudley. What are your thoughts about him not just as a coach but as a person?
"I got to know him as a person real well. Coach is a good person. He is kind of like my dad as a coach because he wants to see people excel in their life. He wants to see you go forward. He is one of those people who knows if you want it, then he wants it also and he's going to put in the time and he's going to work to make sure it happens for you.
"Even at the age of six and me practicing at Mississippi State, I would see Coach (Dudley) running up and down the field pushing his athletes. I was like, 'man, somebody really wants their athletes to run.' That's what my dad does. Coach does it. They work hand in hand."
Not only is he a great sprinter, but he's also an even better young man. That has to make you very proud as a parent.
"Truly, as a believer, I have to give all the honor and glory to The Lord because one thing I have done is appreciate his obedience in doing the things that I have asked him to do, as well as doing the things that I have told him to do. That makes me proud because being obedient brings about success. With the gift that he has, the Bible talks about how your gift will make room for you within your career. He's still a young teenage boy who has a little folly in him, but, again, we try to make sure he stays obedient.
"Another thing I always try to teach my kids is when you strive to do the right thing, the right thing will always follow. We live by the choices that we make. And I try to drill that into them everyday because everyday we have to make choices and we have to be accountable. So, we always have to acknowledge the decisions that we make and we also have to be very attentive in our decision-making. I just try to preach that. And I thank God that it has stuck with him and he has excelled. And we look forward to it going to even higher heights."
When did you know that he had a special talent?
"I will never forget when I returned back to the United State that Tavaris always use to run in the house. We were brought up knowing that you couldn't run in the house. That was outlawed. Yet, he used to run up and down the stairs all the time. I would threaten to whup him (laugh).
"I thought to myself one day that Columbus High School had a track and we lived in Columbus at the time right down the street from the high school. He was four-years old at the time. I took Tavaris and his brother to the track. I told him you want to run, here's your track. You run until you get tired. He would run. He would finish one 400 meters and keep running and get about 200 meters into the other 400 and he would stand there and looked back at me. I would tell him you better keep running because when we leave here and you go home and run in that house I am going to whup you (laugh).
"Tavaris was six when I took him to his first competition. We were introduced to AAU track. And went from AAU to USA Track. The Lord just showered him with the gift and talent. And to see that as a parent, I just thank God for even allowing me to be able to see it.
"Now, Tavaris wasn't the only one who had the speed. My oldest son, Jeremy, also had talent. It was just being I was gone servicing in the military I wasn't able to spend as much time with Jeremy that I'm able to spend with Tavaris. But he excelled just the same. But being able to train and provide him with the necessities as I have been able to, God has overwhelmed Tavaris."
What does it mean to you that you will be able to see him run track at Mississippi State, a school that is just 5 to 10 minutes away from you and the rest of his family?
"Honestly, I can cry because a part of me felt like it was leaving when all the options throughout the United States starting coming his way. They were from Stanford to UCLA, from Columbia down to Florida and throughout. I just thank God through prayer in him making his choice - and he decided, not my choice or anybody else's choice. Him deciding to stay at home was so overwhelming not only for myself but for my mother, my godmother, family, the church family, what it means to the community. Many people wondered why, with so much talent, Mississippi State? Why not Mississippi State? Whatever God has for him, nobody can hold it back from him."
What are your thoughts about the coaches at Mississippi State?
"Coach (Steve) Dudley succeed Coach Alexander, a good friend of mine. Coach Alexander gave high regards of Coach Dudley. And after meeting Coach Dudley, I know that he is an outstanding person in addition to being an outstanding coach. I couldn't have asked for another person to be a leader to Tavaris as Coach Dudley can be. We have a very close relationship and I still look forward to working with (Tavaris) to observe and train him. I'm still going to be strength training him. I was a master fitness trainer in the military and that is what I do. And if it's not broke, you don't try to fix it."
Early on, did you see the kind of talent that he is showing now?
"Not as a 10th grader. I knew that he was a great athlete. And I remember reading about him as a 6th grader when he was running AAU track. He ran track in junior high and I thought I would be glad when he got to high school because you kind of figured he would be one of the top athletes on the team. But I didn't realize he was going to be as good as he was in the 10th grade. I didn't realize he was going to be strong enough because he was just a 10th grader and I had some seniors who I didn't think he would be able to beat out. I didn't want to do anything to discourage him such as have him run against the older guys, but he wanted to. He asked for the challenge. And he did it. And from that time on, I realized he was special. I just didn't know he was going to be this special."
What makes him so special?
"One thing, it's a gift from God. And he enhances it with his work ethic. He and his dad works in the weight room at night. He works on his technique and form. The effort he puts into it makes him even better. You can be born with a gift but if you don't nourish it, you will never get better."
Really, it's very unique to find a youngster with his type work ethic.
"That's the maturity which is way beyond his years. Kids usually just don't have that. But he's focused and knows what he wants and what he has to do to get there. He knew he had to get the grades and qualify."
What are you going to miss the most when he's no longer on your team?
"I am going to miss his leadership. We usually do a half mile warmup every day. And he's the one who tells them, 'let's go.' He leads the group and they follow him. I hope some of the younger guys see what he did and imitate him next year."
How has he helped you track program at Starkville High School?
"He is one of the most popular guys in the school. What that does is brings interest in the track program. Our track (facility) is not good enough for us to have track meets here. So, kids don't get the opportunity to watch kids run track here. But they read about it in the paper. So, by them reading about Tavaris and seeing what he does that causes an interest in track."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.