"Wanting Or Wishing To Be Great"

While he's enjoyed all those spring and summer meet-and-greets with the Mississippi State public, it's only natural Coach Dan Mullen is ready to re-introduce himself to his 2009 roster this Sunday as Bulldog players officially report for August training camp. Make that officially report since with a handful of exceptions everyone is already on campus.

Still come Sunday the head coach will do all his talking to a select group. As well as perhaps the smallest audience Mullen has spoken to for a while. Because in 2009 Mullen has taken his idea of the Mississippi State message to the public, whether in the spring Road Dawgs tour or in selected summer appearances. It was a lot of time to give up when Mullen might have been in the office working, at home with Megan enjoying being new parents, or just grabbing some precious free time.

Yet Mullen thought it important to, we can say, spread the good word. While each talk had some small tweaks, the core message remains: you fans are a part of this process by both your presence at Bulldog games and your presentation of what Mississippi State should stand for. A condensed summary of his standard stump-speech ran in the Summer issue of Dawgs' Bite, and upon request from a number of readers it is here re-published for site-subscribers as well:

"After I took over our whole team had already gone home for Christmas. Our first team meeting was January 9 and I said we're going to push you through the hardest off-season conditioning program in college football. And they went through a tremendously grueling off-season program, in the weightroom, doing matt drills, agility drills, different team competitions.

"After that they had to go through spring practice and learn a whole new defense, new defense, special teams, even how to run on and off the field, and do it with the effort level and the tempo demanded of them. All that was new to them. I told them if you commit yourself to this program you will be rewarded, get the opportunity play in your stadium, in front of your friends and family. And when they came out we had our best practice of spring by far. Because they'd gone through months of the football coaches and strength coach in their faces yelling and screaming, pushing them harder and harder and harder all the way through. And on the spring game they came out and they had 31,000 people cheering for them.

"And at that point, they gave the best effort since I've been here. And if you don't think everybody here has a role or a job to do to make us a great program, you're wrong. Because if you came that day you helped make our football team better. it allowed us to give tremendous effort. We had 31,000, we set the all-time State record. If we had a couple individuals here and there stay at home we wouldn't have set that record, and our effort level wouldn't have been as good, we wouldn't have finished as strong.

"We had a team meeting before the guys went home for summer. Now our football team, we might be terrible, we could be awful, I don't know. But I'll tell you what, they sure thought that they were really good. That team had their heads held high, their chests sticking out, and they said Coach, we are a good football team. They left with a confidence, feeling like they are a big-time football program. They left feeling there is no difference between Mississippi State and Texas, Southern Cal, Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon. Because you came out and supported them.

"So don't think for a minute every individual doesn't have a job to do to promote our program and make us better. And I have this challenge for you: if we can get 31,000 to come out for a practice there's no reason we shouldn't have 55,000 at every single home game next year. That is a challenge to you. Because if we're going to get that much effort out of a practice, imagine the effort that team is going to give when they come out and have 55,000 people cheering for them, ringing their cowbells as loud as they can. The effort and passion our players are going to play with is going to be tremendous and you have a job to do with that. If you were there you felt the excitement on campus that day; who didn't have a good time at the spring game, raise your hand? Nobody…well, maybe one or two but you can't please everybody!

"But if you feel that excitement at a SEC campus, at big-time college football going on…why aren't you bringing your friends? They don't need to have anything to do with Mississippi State, maybe they went somewhere else. But they want to go see big-time college football, why not bring them along and fill up that stadium? Because if they come and feel that excitement, that electricity on campus, that's their impression of Mississippi State. They're going to want to come back and next thing you know they are buying season tickets and then they're going to bring a couple of friends. And the next thing you know we're expanding our stadium, because you did your job.

"We had a lot of the top recruits in the state there that day and if you don't think you're involved in recruiting, everyone who showed up did a great job recruiting for us that day. There's a lot of young men that showed up that day for football, what impression did they leave with of Mississippi State? First impressions are lasting, I made my college decision on first impression. Their impression was ‘wow, there's tents everywhere, there are friendly people, there is great community, see the support for that football program. I don't have to go to Florida or Texas, I can stay right here at home in the state of Mississippi and play for the people of the state of Mississippi and be a part of big-time football'. That was those players' first impression. So don't ever think you're not doing your job when you come and how much you support.

"Next year what if I have the best player in the country happen to show up one game? I can't tell you which one it will be but he'll be there for one of those games next year. And if there are 55,000 people he's going to know Mississippi State is big-time football, this is a big-time program, I can come here and play at a championship level. You're helping us by filling that stadium, by getting more people involved. That's what we need here. We need to challenge ourselves to make ourselves great.

"What is holding Mississippi State back right now from being a national powerhouse? We just won a national championship in meteorology, I went to their celebration cookout and they said Coach thanks for coming; I said it's my pleasure to be here for this national championship, I hope this stuff rubs off! But I told them congratulations because the school up north didn't win a national championship this year; Alabama didn't win a national championship. But Mississippi State did, and meteorology is representing our University as national champions. You beat M.I.T., I'm from New England and those guys are ‘wicked smahhht' up there!

"There's nothing wrong with wanting to be the best here. Here at Mississippi State we're trying to change a lot of that culture. What's wrong with the state of Mississippi being the best in everything? Our off-season program is about breaking down mental barriers, that say I can't do something or we don't have all these things other schools do. Don't worry about that, worry about us. As a Mississippi State community, the Bulldog family, break down any barriers that says we can't be the best. That's what we're trying to get done with our football team right now.

"What we have to do is break down these things that are holding us back from being great. Show your school colors around town, in front of your house. Whose to say that the next Joe Montana, the next Jerry Rice, the next Walter Payton, doesn't live four doors down from you; he's eight years old right now but every day he goes to school he sees a big Mississippi State flag out front. You encourage his parents to come to a game, they have no affiliation with the University but they come and have a great time and see what a great atmosphere it is. They bring their son, and he starts coming to games at eight. By the time he's 17 every school in the country wants him but he knows how we represent the state of Mississippi and wants to play for our State University. Now we have this great player because you showed your school colors.

"It's a very simple deal, the better players you have the better coach you are and we win games. The more games you win the more people come to the stadium, and if more are in the stadium we can recruit better players because they see this big-time atmosphere. And if we recruit better players we win more games, then more people come to the stadium. How do you think it's built around the country? That's what the challenge is for you.

"When I first took the job I said how many of you want to go to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship? Every single hand in the room was raised. I said you need to put your hands down because if you wanted to go to Atlanta you would have done something about it, and if you had I wouldn't be here as your new coach. Everybody wishes they could go to Atlanta and have the confetti fall on their heads as champions. But do you want to? Because there is a sacrifice and commitment involved.

"Do you want Mississippi State to be great, or are you wishing? Because if you want to be great you will be there every game next year, you'll fly the school colors in front of your house, you'll bring people with no affiliation to the University with you to a game so they can see the excitement. Don't sit back and say I want to be great. Because wanters sacrifice and are committed to do something about it."

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