"My emotions are going to be waaaay up there," says Chaney. "I don't think there's anybody in the country that's ready to play like I'm ready to play. It's been a while since I've been out there, and all this hard work, what we went through in the spring, the summer, in training camp. It's time to let it all loose."
For every Bulldog, Chaney was saying. The whole team has put in the work demanded by Coach Dan Mullen and staff for these past eight months. But few have labored like Chaney, who actually did not expect to be calling Scott Field home in 2009 anyway. By now he was to be in a NFL training camp. But a snapped ankle late in 2008's season opener at Louisiana Tech meant adjusting his schedule for an extra senior season in Starkville.
And, the chance to play for an entirely different coaching staff. As well as go for a 200th career tackle, which ought to come early in the first quarter as the senior starts the year at 198. While Chaney's emotions are naturally running high this week, he can see similar signs from the new Bulldog boss. And enjoy them.
"He's very excited about this first game, as you can tell," Chaney smiles. Just how excited would that be, then? "We had a meeting this morning just to let everybody know this is game week and different than any other week we've been through as a program. So they want everybody to be ready to the best of our abilities; whether working out, in meetings, in practice, everything the best you can. Because it's game week."
At last, he could easily add. These Bulldogs are about as emotionally primed to play for-real as a team could be. Certainly they're ready to do something, anything other than practice and practice and practice some more. The fact that the opening opponent plays out of a lower NCAA Division, and thus is regarded as a ‘scheduled win' by college football aficionados, matters absolutely not at all to Chaney & Co. He's gotten a first look at Jackson State's offense.
"I know they've got some pretty good running backs, I think they've got three of them that they plan on playing. Their offensive linemen look alright, and they've got some pretty good receivers, they're all big guys. So they have some real challenging skill positions."
Besides, this old Dog points out, there is the simple nature of the game itself and of a player's pride. Chaney has seen enough in his college career to know better than take anything for granted when two sides of athletes line up against each other.
"To me, if you're a football player on a football team, you're supposed to come out and play your hardest no matter who you're playing. I mean, that's what we're going out there to do no matter who we're playing." And for those fans who expect, even demand, an opening-day romp by the host team with plenty of points from this splendid new system, well…
"A win is a win today in college football," stresses Chaney. "If you win by one point it goes in the win column! As long as it goes in the in column we'll be alright, but the main thing is to play to the best of our abilities and everything else will take care of itself."
Which also means that come game day veterans like Chaney have a lot to take care of getting the entire team ready to do their jobs. He even compared Saturday to pay-day for a ballplayer, something that is still thrilling for a fifth-year senior and probably a bit overwhelming for most new kids. Having played himself as a true frosh back in 2005, Chaney can read these rookies like a playbook. They might not be showing the signs outwardly today, but "It will probably hit them once they get out on that field and see all those fans out there."
Will it hit him hard, too? Or will he be more relieved than thrilled to be back in the game, at home, after the unintended layoff? A lot of both, Chaney indicates. But then one need not be wearing the uniform to feel the fervor building for getting 2009 kicked off.
"I mean, I don't think it ever changes," says Chaney of opening-day attitudes. "But this year it is. Just the excitement that's going through campus right now."