MSU's Version of Iron Man

While the actor Robert Downey, Jr. earned the lead role in the Iron Man movie, Mississippi State redshirt freshman Sylvester Hemphill has earned the lead role of Iron Man when it comes to lifting the iron in the MSU weight room.

"I came here squatting around 600 and I think I'm up to 620 to 630," said the 18-year old.

And he's about as strong in the bench press and deadlift.

"I bench 380 and I deadlift around 600, also," said the 5-8, 230-pounder.

And like Robert Downey, Jr. he loves what he is doing.

"I love the squat and I also like the deadlift," said Sylvester. "I like using my legs."

He's been lifting for a number of years, and has continued to improve his strength.

"I started lifting weights around the sixth grade and around the ninth grade my body started developing and growing stronger and stronger," said Sylvester. "And before long, after the end of my ninth grade year I was the strongest guy on the team. And that's continued into college."

He gives MSU strength coach Matt Balis and his staff credit for his continued improvement.

"Coach Balis has worked and worked with me and I have better technique," said Sylvester. "On my squats I know how to break parallel and get low. All the thanks goes to Coach Balis and his staff."

As for where he ranks among the football team when it comes to the squat, according to Sylvester, "I think I'm at the number 1 spot."

That doesn't surprise a teammate of his, Robert Elliott.

"He didn't surprise me at all because when we got our workout clothes on and he had all those muscles on him and those traps on his neck you could tell he was a strong guy," said Robert.

And his sterngth is not just for show because Sylvester sees the results of his weight lifting on the field of play.

"The strength definitely gives me a lot of explosiveness when I'm blocking," said the youngster. "And when I'm running the ball I don't go down as easy."

And those two attributes have allowed him to compete head to head with fellow fullback Patrick Hanrahan.

"When (running back) Coach (Greg) Knox put our names up on his depth chart he didn't list one of us as number 1 and the other at 2; he just put both our names up there," said Sylvester. "I don't even think they see it as a depth chart because me and Hanrahan go back and forth. He may have a good day and I have a bad day or I have a good day and he has a good day. We just go back and forth."

And on September 5th, if he has a good week of practice, MSU Iron Man Sylvester Hemphill will very likely be in a starring role in front of a national television audience on ESPNU.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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