"I found out on Thursday night right before we left for the airport. Coach Sherrill had just come from a meeting and addressed the team with the news. I was incredibly nervous at first, mostly because of the shock. All I could think to do was pray that God would help me to remain confident for myself and for the morale of the team."
How did the team respond to that difficult situation? How did they respond to you during the game?
"You could see disappointment in their eyes at first, simply because it was such an unexpected turn of events for us. They all picked me up, however, and expressed their belief in my ability. They supported me a lot as the game went on. We got behind quickly and never could climb back in, but my teammates did nothing but encourage me before, during, and after the game."
Did you ever imagine last summer while working out, that you were going to play as much as you did this past season?
"Honestly, no. I'm glad, however, that I placed so much importance on the 'what-ifs.' It's easy as a back-up to get lazy and become sloppy in your work ethic, but I always expected to play, even if Kevin was healthy. That attitude is what pressed me to prepare for each game like a starter."
Are you looking forward to the rematch this year since that game was your first? What about the team, have you heard any talk of revenge?
"Yes, we are all looking forward to it. Having them come down and play us in the Mississippi heat is going to be a lot of fun. Much more than revenge, we're circling that game as a new beginning for our whole program."
Alright, let's fast forward to the Egg Bowl. You are from Texas, and have probably seen some big rivalry games over there - Texas/Texas A&M, Texas/Oklahoma.... how did your first Eggbowl experience compare to those events?
"Yeah, I've been around some of the biggest rivalries in college football, but what makes the Egg Bowl special is how much state pride is involved. In Texas, there are far too many schools for one rivalry to dominate the state, and with interstate rivalries, the hatred only exists one day out of the year. MSU/Ole Miss, on the other hand, is a lifelong rivalry that doesn't cease after Thanksgiving night. It's the most emotion-filled rivalry I've ever seen, and I'm privileged to be part of it."
Well, there has been significant changes that have taken place with MSU football recently, namely the hiring of some new coaches. Have you gotten a chance to get to know any of them? If so, what are your impressions of them?
"With so much emphasis on recruiting, it's been hard for us to get to know the coaches on a personal basis, but after signing day we'll get to start learning from them in preparation for spring ball. We are all excited about them, though. They all carry a winning demeanor about them, and that's what we need."
You being a QB, I'm sure you have special interest in how Coach Watts will run the offense. What do you know about his offenses, his style, philosophy, etc.?
"I know that his Michigan State offense led the Big Ten in passing in 2001, and that his LSU teams really ran the ball well. He's a versatile coach with a great deal of winning experience, and I'm excited to get to learn from him."
I think you guys have had a team meeting with the new coaches, right? Could you get a feel for his philosophy as a coach?
"Coach Watts got to address the offense a little while back. He spoke about things like passion, toughness, and the desire to be finishers in all that we do. He spoke with a lot of confidence, and was very impressive to listen to. I think it gave everybody in the room a spark to hear about what he expects out of his players."
What about the players? You have probably had time to get to know most everyone on the team fairly well by now. Does it seem that the team is hopeful about this next year? What's the mood like?
"We're working our tails off right now, and having a great time doing it. Losing is a sour taste, and we're determined to take all the necessary steps to re-establish Mississippi State as an SEC power. I really believe that this is a team full of winners."
What about your status on the depth chart right now? Obviously, you ended the year as the #2 QB. Do you think Coach Watts will open it up and make everyone even in the spring? Or will there be a
depth chart? Are you hearing any rumblings of any of the younger QBs that may give you and Kevin some competition?
"I hope he'll open it up to competition, but Kevin's the guy to beat. That's no surprise. He's got the edge in maturity and experience, but the other QBs and I have got to press him with all we've got. It will make us all better. The younger guys have a lot of talent, and should be able to press Kevin and I both for playing time."
How about some short answer questions?
"Vertigo, an old Hitchcock movie. Everyone should see it."
"Playing the guitar, though I'm not very good."
NFL player you admire the most? And why?
"I don't watch NFL anymore, but I used to love Marino for his competitiveness, and Barry Sanders for his humility."
Former or present college QB you compare to best?
"Drew Brees for his accuracy, and Major Applewhite for his consistency. I'm not on their level yet but with hard work, it will happen."
Most impressive in the weight room?
"Same three as above, and Johnny Wadley."
Most all-around athletic player on the team?
"It's close, but Kevin Dockery."
Meanest player, on the field, of course?
Most impressive scout team player from this past year?
Next year's leader?
You mentioned Reggie Harris as the most impressive scout team player. Most of our readers are not familiar with that name. Can you elaborate on why you were impressed with him and tell us something about him?
"Reggie is a linebacker that does a lot for our team. He is probably the most outspoken person we have. He is also a very strong Christian who leads in both word and action. We recently implemented a new program here where every player on offense has a player from the defense as their 'foxhole partner'. The two hold each other accountable to work hard, be on time, and always act the right way. Reggie is my foxhole partner."
You also mentioned some linemen. Some armchair experts blamed the young offensive line and injuries for the offensive problems last year. What do you expect from the line this year, and why?
"Youth was a factor in some of our struggles last year, but that same youth is going to be a strength next season. Our linemen are very talented, hard working, and now they're experienced. I expect our line to be one of the best in the conference as a whole next season. They won't get outworked, that's for sure."
You have been speaking at a few churches lately. Is that something you see yourself doing more of in the future?
"I hope so. I know the Lord has given me a platform as a student-athlete. My goal every day is to bring glory to Him. Speaking about Jesus gives me a lot of joy, and if it's His will for me to continue doing so, then I'm going to do my best to shepherd those in need of His word."
How much of a role does your faith play in your sports life? Or college life in general?
"I believe that every single thing I have is a gift from God. Because of that, I try to approach everything I do with a focus on Him. If I don't give my best effort in something, then I'm refusing to employ a God-given gift. That mind-set is what drives me to succeed - that by my actions I can bring glory to God."
Thank you, Kyle.
Brent Bozeman is a correspondent for Gene's Page. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .